Friday, December 11, 2009

Mind your manners, Miss Twitterer.

Don’t eat with your elbows on the table.

Use your napkin!

What do you say to Mrs. Johnson for the lovely gift, Joey? Joey!

Hey, no cutting in line!

Most kids are beat over the head with reminders about their manners on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. Yet, with age does not always come courtesy. Case in point, the car that refused to get in the long line waiting to turn right and chose, instead, to scoot up the left side and demand to be let in at the front of the line.

Hey! No cutting in line!

Most business professionals maintain a modicum of manners in their normal business dealings. Receptionists ask you to “hold please” or politely request “may I take a message?” Salespeople know to show up on time for business appointments. Bosses can usually expect employees not to whisper or pass notes in meetings… usually.

Yes, Miss Manners is still a powerful force in the business world except, it seems, in the world of social media. Business professionals who wouldn’t dream of sharing their opinions about Obama, Roe v. Wade or the war in Afghanistan over lunch with a client have no qualms about blogging or Twittering those same opinions to the world. Social Media can be a powerful way to build your business, but not if potential customers are turned off at their first experience with you.

Minding your manners when interacting in the social media world is not much different than in the real world, as Rohit Bhargava points out in his article “10 Ways to Improve Your Social Media Kharma.” Maximizing your social media impact just requires remembering a few things mom taught you.

Always tell the truth.

Make sure to say “thank you.”

Don’t talk behind people’s backs.

And for heaven’s sake, no blogging at the dinner table! Were you raised in a barn?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Calling Bullsh*t on Black Friday

Leather jackets for $25!

Complete drill set for $14.99!

Two for one hoodies!

599 doorbusters storewide!

The TV has been screaming deals out for two weeks now. At this point, who can keep track? Old Navy has the 3 for 1 turtlenecks, right? Or were they opening at three? Or was it one? I have to get to Sears by 4:00am for $5.00 cardigans. Or was it 5:00am for $4.00 neckties?

In the blur of Black Friday doorbuster deals, any good marketer has to wonder if the message is getting through. After all, there are only so many crazy consumers willing to forsake sleeping in on a day off from work for the fabulous Black Friday savings at the mall. Diamond necklaces for $49.99 just might not be worthy of a 5:00am wake up call. Exactly what type of diamonds are those anyway?

There’s a fair amount of bull… um, baloney… in Black Friday advertising. Sure, some doorbusters are worthy of their name, but others… well, you have to wonder what a $25 leather jacket is really made of.

The marketers at Jetson, a Florida-based electronics and appliance retailer, seem to be wondering the same thing. So, they decided to call out some of this year’s questionable doorbuster deals in a TV campaign that calls Bullsh*t on Black Friday.

Launched last week, the original spots got pulled because the use of an announcer saying “Bull” with a “bleep” after it was a little too risqué for wholesome, Floridian audiences. The revised version is just as good.

Enjoy watching (unless you are already out there checking out those Whatchamacallit TV deals).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ahoy! Blue Ocean ahead!

About a year ago I finished “Blue Ocean Strategy,” an interesting book penned by two esteemed academics. Unlike other marketing books full of frothy creative ideas, “Blue Ocean Strategy contends that success can be achieved through a proven systematic approach. This approach doesn’t focus on besting your competition; rather it makes your competition irrelevant. When you create your own Blue Ocean, you sail it alone on the way to success like you’ve never imagined.

The book was enlightening and, I thought, wholly achievable. After all, they outline the system for creating a blue ocean. With a little creative thinking (an abundant resource at RWA), we could create our own blue ocean. One year later, we’re still sharing the seas with our competition.

I had begun to question whether blue oceans existed anymore when I came across an article in the New York Times this week entitled “Using Marijuana Stores to Market Food.”

It appears that the Attorney General’s decision to end the Bush administration’s practice of frequency raiding marijuana dispensaries has spawned a most unexpected result – the emergence of a blue ocean. We can also credit the AG with a whole new crop of business innovators aptly dubbed “ganjapreneurs.”

One such ganjapreneur is Hapa Sushi, a Colorado sushi restaurant chain. Recognizing the obvious connection between getting high and getting the munchies, Hapa Sushi is tapping the newly liberated marijuana market with ads touting the restaurants’ proximity to dispensaries around town. So residents can now grab a baggy to roll and a California roll all in the same trip.

It’s maybe not quite what the authors had in mind, but it’s a hell of a blue ocean.

Sail on, Hapa Sushi. Sail on.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

American consumers are anything but normal.

After a decade of wondering, marketers will finally get a close-up look at today’s consumers when the decennial Census is released next year. Maybe it’s not as great a mystery as the balloon boy, though. Preliminary data has leaked out and the results are… well… predictably abnormal.

Abnormal is bad news for advertisers looking to reach the average consumer. If you are one of these, don’t despair. You are not alone. Many businesses have invested their advertising budgets in reaching that middle-of-the-road consumer, married, two kids, average house, average job, vacations once a year and buys toothpaste on a regular basis. The good news is they still buy toothpaste. The bad news is they are no longer anywhere near the middle of the road.

Ad Age’s sneak peak of the 2010 Census data reveals that the average American has been replaced by a multidimensional individual who is difficult to define under any one category.

What does your average American look like now?

Chances are he is not married with two kids. He’s more likely to have no children or be single. In fact, the census now has 14 choices Americans can select from to define their household including multigenerational and blended families.

He is likely to be a minority. While white, non-Hispanics constitute 80 percent of people 65 and older, this percentage drops to 54 among Americans 18 and younger.

He lives in the South or the West or is thinking of moving there. Over the past decade, 85 percent of the nation’s population growth has occurred in the South and West.

Marketers looking for middle America will have to start looking elsewhere. Your average consumer is nowhere to be found. Perhaps this is a good thing. Who wants to be average anyway?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Getting your plastic shoe in the door

The RWA conference room looks like a bomb hit it. Empty cans of spray mount and pieces of foam board litter the floor. A glue gun drips metallic drops of gold wax while raffia strands coil amid crumpled up tissue paper and glue dots gone bad. A cardboard box overflows with naked Ken dolls.

Um, what was that last part?

Admittedly 50 naked Ken dolls is a rather unusual item to have in a conference room (even in a creative agency like RWA), but there is a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why we have so many commando Kens in the house. We needed their clothes.

Several months ago we were approached by a company looking to catch the attention of CEOs. Their service, a method of outsourcing CFO functions, provided many great benefits to CEOs looking for better financial reporting and forecasting. However, the company had been unsuccessful getting its message past company gatekeepers and into the hands of the CEOs it wanted to talk to. Letters and phone calls weren’t getting any response. They needed something so innovative, CEOs would have to pay attention.

Their problem is not unique. Lots of companies (including RWA) know exactly who their target is and where to find them. They have names, numbers and vital statistics. They know that their target needs their company and they know how their product or service would help them and why. If they could just get a chance to talk to their target, they know they could land a new customer. But, they are getting nowhere with letters, phone calls and e-mails. They are at a crossroads. They can give up or they can try something so different, so crazy, so completely unexpected, the target will notice whether they like it or not.

Which leads us back to the 50 naked Ken dolls.

For this client, the unexpected is a garment box containing a three piece suit complete with tie and dress shoes. The suit, of course, is empty. The message simply asks “Is your CFO an empty suit?” and suggests calling if the company needs someone who can better fill it.

Will it work? The packages go out this week so we don’t know yet. How would you respond if you got an empty suit in the mail? Would you pick up the phone and call? I would. I’d want to know what happened to Ken. Wouldn’t you?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Collateral materials for the online world

Nothing ignites the spark in a creative’s eye more than a fat, juicy collateral project. Visions of pages of empty design space dance in their heads. In a daze, they head for their paper samples, dusting off the never-used books marked “mill item.” Finally, they think. This is what I’ve been dreaming of. This is why I became a designer.

Then reality sets in. Not many clients understand the need to spend $53,000 on a brochure when they can invest in the new C63 Mercedes AMG Sport Sedan instead. The design of a lifetime is doomed to existence only on a desktop, never in print.

Luckily, print isn’t all that in the electronic world. Today you can still produce your collateral piece and the client can get a new ride too thanks to new, virtual brochures. These virtual brochures give designers and clients a way to bring their collateral pieces to life with all the functionality of a printed piece.

More interactive than a PDF and less costly than a website, virtual books and brochures allow a customer to flip through your collateral materials as though they were holding them in hand. The electronic format also allows for music and narration. South Florida voice artist Bob Harper lends his considerable talent to virtual brochures for real estate companies, law firms and even haunted houses.

And, the investment is usually a lot less scary than print.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The case of a billboard campaign that works (unfortunately)

South Florida drivers are arguably the worst drivers in the country. You may debate this under the contention that New York, New Jersey or possibly Boston has far worse drivers than the Sunshine State. You’d be right, until you consider that South Florida is the retirement home for a fair number of road warriors from each of these areas. Put Joey Buttafuoco on I-95 next to Tony Soprano, merge a retired Cliff Clavin into traffic and you can see how South Florida is far more perilous for innocent commuters than the northeast.

So South Florida’s abominable drivers have only themselves to blame for the new billboard campaign that recently launched on major highways throughout the area. The message is simple and the graphics almost childlike. Even drivers careening by at 80mph (25mph over the posted limit) can easily recall the silhouette of a man slipping on a banana and the message “”

As appalling as many South Floridians have found its message, this advertising campaign illustrates perfectly the role simple creative plays in effective billboard advertising. The easy to recognize graphic, colorful lettering and text of just 14 characters (including the dot) is wholly memorable to drivers and potential plaintiffs.

Unlike other mediums, a billboard has very little time to make its message hit home. TV has the luxury of 30 seconds, radio has 60 seconds, newspaper ads can be read all day long. A billboard as two seconds or less to catch your attention.

Because of its short timeframe for impact, billboard advertising is one of the most difficult mediums to create ads for. We can, however learn a few things about effective billboard ads from our online lawyer friends.
  1. Keep text to seven words or less
  2. Use bold, simple fonts with no shadows and leave ample space between letters
  3. Use bright colors (reds, blues and greens are good choices)
  4. Graphics should be simple with one core elementAvoid using a light blue background (it blends in with the sky)
  5. Print a copy of your billboard sized to be about 2 inches wide. Hold it at arm’s length. If you can’t read it, neither can a driver.

Now that you know how to create effective billboard advertising, go out and procreate. And, let’s see something really good to replace the banana peel guy. How hard can THAT be?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

SEO/SEM Explained (in Non Geek language)

Back in the good ol' days, just having a website that worked was enough for any business. "Yes, we do have a website," business owners would say proudly. "You can visit us at"

Today, having a website is just the beginning of successfully competing in this new, confusing online world. Companies looking to gain new customers via the web are bombarded with sales pitches promising strange new things like optimization and keyword traffic.

Navigating the web world is not as confusing as it looks if you know a couple of basic terms and what they mean.

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of making your website easier for search engines (Yahoo, Google) to find. A well optimized website will appear in a higher position when a web user searches for your category of product or service. The process of SEO involves improvements to your website such as implementing keywords, tagging graphics, titling pages and putting good text content on your site. Search engines like these things and will have an easier time finding you if your website has them.

SEM or Search Engine Marketing is the process of marketing your website through paid online marketing. SEM can take a lot of different forms, but the most common are keyword searches, banner advertisements and text ads. These types of marketing are sold either on impressions or by clicks.

Keywords are simply words that people may use to search for your product. For instance, "carpet" or "rug" would be common keywords used by people searching for a flooring retailer. Keywords can also include strings of words such as

"Palm Beach carpet store." Google Adwords is one of the best known keyword marketing services.

Pay Per Click
means exactly what it sounds like, you pay for people to click on your website. Pay Per Click programs usually involve buying certain keywords. When a user searches for a keyword you purchased, your website is listed. If they click on your website, you pay a predetermined amount for that click.

Impressions are the number of people who see your ad message. An impression is not a click. It simply means your ad appeared on a page that the web user viewed.

Still confused? Stephanie Leffler from Networks Solutions gives some great tips in this four-minute You Tube video.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Discounts gone wild: why a great deal is not always great for your company

About once a month a coupon for Bed Bath and Beyond arrives in the RWA mailbox. If you’re female with even a tiny affinity for home goods, you know these coupons well. They’re big, blue and good for 20% off any one item. RWA staffers love them and universally feel dejected when we fail to redeem one on some cherished household item before the coupon’s expiration date.

The other day an avid BB&B shopper shared a little inside tip on our favorite blue coupons. “Expiration, smexpiration,” she says. You can use them anytime you like. The stores honor them even after they are expired.

Now we’re feeling even more dejected.

A coupon should generate excitement; here’s your special chance to save money on something you really want. Part of that excitement is knowing that you only have a small window of opportunity to act on this offer. If you realized that window stayed open 24/7, suddenly the excitement is gone.

Take Subway’s $5 Footlong offer. Twelve inch subs were just $5 for a limited time only. Apparently Subway has a broad definition of the term “limited” as months late $5 Footlongs are still on the menu. Now you even get a $5 concert ticket with your $5 Footlong.

Sure, everyone likes a deal, but what happens when your customers start expecting a deal all the time? If you use coupons too much or too long to promote your business, customers become conditioned to only shop when they have a coupon. Didn’t get a chance to use your coupon this month? Don’t worry, you’ll get another one next month. Suddenly your customers have adjusted the price they expect pay to a much lower level than before. A 12” sub for $5 is a great deal, but now that Subway has been running it for so long, will customers ever be willing to pay more than $5 for a sub?

Coupons and special offers work best when you use them sparingly. The “Once a Year” sale is much more enticing if you don’t have it every other month. A $5 off coupon is more valuable if your customers have to use it or lose it and if they know they won’t see another coupon for a long time.

Gotta run. Late for 2-for-1 martinis. Fridays only.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Finally! Coupons come to movie concessions.

No movie-going experience is complete without a tub of buttery popcorn nestled in the corner next to your armrest and an icy soda to wash it down. Lately, though, I’ve downgraded my tub to the economy-sized bag of puffed corn and started smuggling juice boxes and bottled water into the theatre. Shameless, I know.

I’m not alone, though. On my most recent theatre outing to see the new Ice Age movie (well worth seeing, by the way), I spied a fair number of oversized “purses” with box and bottle shaped bulges. One mother of four was a chiropractor’s dream. No woman could haul a purse that heavy without risking a herniated disk. She probably figured a visit to the spine guy was cheaper than a visit to the movie concession counter. She’d be right.

Someone at Sprint must have been listening to long-suffering movie patrons. This month Sprint put kiosks in 500 theatres nationwide (see NY Times article). Sprint users just scan in a code from their phone and the kiosk spits out coupons for free upgrades on concessions.

No more economy-sized bags. You can enjoy the big tub without spending big money. Now that’s worth going to see.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The experiential marketing experience

Over Memorial Day I enjoyed a little R&R in Tampa. After a lazy drive up the coast, our entourage stopped in at The Pier, a popular tourist destination. After stopping for a round of neon colored slurpies, we wandered outside and wandered right into an experiential marketing experience.

Washed up on shore at The Pier were giant-sized plastic bottles. Nestled in piles of sand, each bottle displayed a roomful of furniture. Weaving in between the bottles were a half dozen smiling people clad in matching t-shirts and distributing small plastic bottles with messages inside. The rolled up piece of paper cleverly stated that your home was sending you a message: “Get new furniture.” Where? At the new Ikea store, of course.

I’ve never been to an Ikea store and I don’t think my home really wants new furniture (I just gave it new kitchen appliances), but I was ready to check out the Ikea store anyway. Any store that can figure out how to put furniture in giant plastic bottles is well worth visiting. And, that is exactly what Ikea’s experiential marketing team wants you to think.

Getting prospective customers to experience a company’s brand in a non-traditional environment is the goal of this unusual type of marketing called Experiential Marketing. Like Ikea, many companies are finding that Experiential Marketing can successfully draw customers to their brands by engaging them in an unexpected manner.

Charmin discovered the power of Experiential Marketing when it put restrooms in New York’s Times Square during the holiday season. The “Charmin Experience” provided New Yorkers with clean, public restrooms courtesy of their favorite bath tissue. The “Charmin Experience” was so popular, one couple chose the restrooms as their wedding spot. The bride wore white Charmin.

You don’t have to build bathrooms in Times Square to launch an Experiential Marketing campaign for your company. The key is to determine who you want to reach and develop a way to get that person to experience your product or service first-hand. If you sell shoes, put a runway outside your store and hire people to walk the catwalk in your shoes. If you sell mattresses, take them on the road. Bring a bed to a well-attended event and offer a rest-stop to weary attendees.

Experiential Marketing is all about getting your customers to interact with your brand outside of your normal sales channels. So you just have to get out there and get creative. If Charmin can figure out a way to get New Yorkers to experience toilet paper, think what you can do with your brand.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is that a rubber chicken or are you just happy to see me?

Most companies have a nice basket of flowers in the middle of their conference room tables. At RWA, we have a basket of rubber chickens. Visitors find them irresistible. Some play with them. Some giggle. Some just stare.

The reactions change, but there’s always a reaction. And, that’s the whole reason behind having a basket of rubber chickens hanging around your conference room.

We can’t take all the credit for the rubber chickens. Most of it goes to Jon Spoelstra and a great book that he wrote called “Marketing Outrageously.”

In his book, Jon sends rubber chickens to NBA fans that had not renewed their season tickets. Guess what? A lot of them renewed. Few people can resist a rubber chicken.

The rubber chicken is just one example of how to grab the attention of a hard-to-reach prospect. If your letters, oversized postcards and brochures have not hit the mark, lumpy mail is a great way to get a foot – or a claw – in the door.

Food is also a welcome diversion during the workday. Pack up a bunch of fortune cookies with a note saying “Today could be your lucky day, but you’ll never know why unless you call me.” Or, send a case of $100,000 bars with a message of “Making money can be this sweet.” I once met a party planner who sent a watermelon to 10 large companies about their summer parties. She booked eight of them.

Over the years we have sent custom labeled steak sauce, prescription bottles, helium balloons, pinwheels, miniature spaceships, foam fingers and even a sports locker to potential customers. They don’t always lead to a sale, but they are always remembered. And who knows… two years down the road your prospect may pick up the phone and call that guy who sent him that Eiffel tower made out of paperclips that’s still sitting on his desk.

You could be that guy.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What's in your website?

Not so long ago we used to encounter a fair number of clients without websites. Yes, hard to believe, but these companies didn’t even have a registered domain name. Today, finding companies without a presence in cyberspace is rare. Even mom and pop shops have websites thanks to do-it-yourself software and tech savvy teenage relatives.

RWA applauds this movement toward more online marketing. Now, if we could just get this movement moving in the right direction.

As more and more companies get websites, fewer and fewer of them get what they should from their website company. Sadly, most companies don’t know that a large part of their website is missing. They’re just excited that they’re out there in the worldwide web and what a pretty site they have!

I confess that I too was once easily misled by websites. I was only attracted to the flashy ones, the ones with pretty moving pictures, cool graphics and lots of neat sound effects. I shunned the sites with too much text and boring, static pictures. Over the years I’ve discovered that websites are like dates – a lot of the attractive ones don’t have much substance once you get to know them.

So how do you know if your website is just another pretty face? Take a quick look under the hood with this easy tip. The only tool you need is an online connection. Go online and go to your website. At the menu bar at the top of your screen select View, then select View Source or just Source

What you see may look like a language out of Star Trek, but you’re actually looking at the coding for your website. A lot of it you won’t be able to decipher, but in plain English you can see some interesting things.

  • Page titles: These begin with TITLE followed by a description of the page. Page titles are good things.
  • Keywords: These should begin with “keywords” followed by a list of words or word groupings separated by commas. Keywords are also good things.
  • Text: The content or text on your website should be readable even in this strange Vulcan language. Text is a very good thing.

If your website is lacking any of these things, your website may need a makeover. The good news is that unlike many people, websites can change.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Finding the advertising medium that works for you.

I was asked to be part of a focus group conducted by a local newspaper last week. Like most newspapers, this local newspaper is looking for new footholds in the crumbling landscape of print publications. So, they invited a group of regular advertisers to share our opinions on advertising in general and newspaper advertising specifically.

After we all introduced ourselves, the moderator lobbed her first question.

“What advertising medium works most effectively for your business?”

As the only advertising agency in the room, I decided to keep my mouth shut. In my business, we use all different mediums. In general, I don’t have a preference for one over another. My fellow panelists certainly did, though.

Of the nine other advertisers in the room, no two had the same answer. The top media choices ranged from television advertising to search engine marketing to direct mail with newspaper, radio and outdoor advertising thrown in for good measure. The Yellow Pages even had a fan. Go figure.

Which just goes to show, there’s some medium for everyone. Unfortunately, you may go broke before you find it. So, allow us to lend a few key points we’ve learned about some mediums along the way.

Cable Television: Cable is an affordable way to get your business on television, but it is most effective in small areas or targeted by content. A local restaurant can buy one cable zone and effectively reach its target market of a few miles surrounding its location. A golf retailer can effectively target golfers by advertising in golf tournaments on cable.

Outdoor Advertising: Billboards, bus shelters and bus benches provide great navigators to your business. Turn here, left at the light or 1.5 miles ahead can make new customers from regular passersby. Outdoor ads are also effective for promoting short, repetitive messages. How many times have you seen a 1-800-INJURY or message while driving around town?

Direct Mail: Yes, a lot of direct mail winds up in their garbage, but not if your message is something they need and there’s something in it for them. We recently sent register boaters an innovative mailer offering a discount on polarized sunglasses at a local store. It worked swimmingly.

Search Engine Marketing: Paid online marketing options like pay-per-click offer fabulous tracking so you can see who’s clicking and who’s calling. They first have to be looking for what you are selling, though. SEM is great for getting driving people searching for chocolate chip cookies to your website, but sugar cookie buyers may never know you exist.

Obviously we can’t cover every advertising medium in just one blog, so stay tuned for future media reviews posted here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I’ll take “Sand Art” for $9.86 please.

A few months ago we launched a new campaign for an agency client. We bought TV spots in Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, ad space in the local newspapers, strategically located billboards, in-theatre ads at the local Muvico and a handful of Google AdWords.

The costs looked something like this:
One 30 second spot in Jeopardy $600
One ¼ page ad in daily newspaper $1,400
One month on billboard $1,200
One week in theatre ad $525
One week Google AdWords $77.16

No, that last one is not a typo. And yes, that is a decimal point, not a comma. In a world where even the smallest ad campaign can quickly run into comma territory, it’s nice to see the decimal point making a comeback.

Through keyword campaigns with companies like Google, businesses can now attract qualified prospects online without spending a fortune. You simply determine what keywords make sense for your business. You might pick “Sixties Dresses” if you own a vintage clothing store or “Birthday Parties” if you’re a professional clown.

Then you set a budget of how much you are willing to pay for someone to click on your ad. Is a mom surfing the web for “Birthday Parties” worth $3.25 if she clicks on your ad? Or would you be willing to pay closer to $6.50 for every desperate mom you can convert to a clown customer?

Once you’re up and running, you can track the results online. You’ll know how many people are seeing your ad, how many are clicking on it, and what you are paying for each one. If only every advertising medium had this kind of tracking.

And, if you don’t think anyone’s out there looking for your services, you can find that out too. One to three people in West Palm Beach click on ads related to Cat Sunglasses, Harmonica Music or Sand Art. Your customers are bound to be out there too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What’s everyone Twittering about?

Everyone’s abuzz about social networking lately. Last year I got LinkedIn and now my 132 contacts and I are all part of the human daisy chain of “who do you know who knows someone who knows somebody I want to meet?” I figure if I add enough contacts eventually I will indeed find that Kevin Bacon is just six degrees away.

I joined Facebook and last month a friend from elementary school dropped in to chat online. She’s a physicist now. No wonder she always beat me at Parchesi.

Once of my colleagues recommended Jigsaw last week. The service is aptly named. If you can put the pieces together and figure out what they do, you’ve earned the right to be on Jigsaw.

Even the bars are getting into the game. Harry’s Banana Farm in Lake Worth has someone on staff who should be in the copywriting business. Last week their sign read “You Twitter My Space and I’ll Google your Yahoo.”

Signing up for social networking sites is easy enough, but once you’re there, then what? Can social networking really benefit your business?

The answer is yes. To be successful at it, though, you’re going to have to change the way you think.

The best example of a successful marketing effort using social networking came from a colleague in another market. His firm had been hired by a company that was launching a new product. This product was purported to age wine through the use of magnets embedded in a round base surrounding the bottle of wine. Skeptical? So were a lot of potential customers.

My colleague, an avid Twitter user, put a Tweet out to his network talking about the product and questioning whether or not it really worked. Before long, he was receiving lots of Tweets telling him how wonderful the product really was. He rebroadcast the positive responses and news of this new product has now spread far and wide in the Twitter community and beyond. The product is getting huge publicity and it all started with one little Tweet.

That’s just one example of how social networking can be a powerful tool in promoting your business. You just have to figure out how to best use it. Keep trying. Kevin Bacon is closer than you think.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Try it, you might like it... or not.

Our agency recently received a referral from an existing client. The new client, a retail store, is next door to our existing client. The new client, Jane had seen the success our marketing efforts had achieved for her neighbor. She wanted what he was having.

After an initial meeting of fact-finding, we returned with a strategic marketing proposal in hand. In it, were the keys to her success: goals, challenges, target markets, competitive research, and a marketing strategy with specific initiatives.

Jane was impressed and, after we fielded several questions, she nodded her head. We were sure Jane was sold. Then, just as we were getting ready to present her with our contract, she delivered those deflating words every agency dreads.

"We'll give it a try," she said with a smile. Back into the briefcase went the contract.

With the possible exception of "fine," I doubt you can find a word packed with more underlying connotations than "try."

Let's face it, when a friend says, "I'll try to swing by your party later," he knows right then he's not coming. Or, when a co-worker says "I'll try to get to that paperwork today," you can bet your job is being shuffled to the bottom of her inbox without a second thought.

"Try" provides the universal excuse for failing to do something without incurring any personal responsibility for whatever is left undone. "I tried to make it to work on time, but all the inconsiderate drivers on I-95 wouldn't let me by." Who can blame me?

Giving advertising a "try" is sort of like giving marriage a "try." Promising to "try to love, honor and cherish 'til death do us part" isn't quite the same as committing to it. Either you're in it for the long haul, or you might as well get off at the next exit.

Jane's neighbor, a client of 12 years, is in it for the long haul. For 12 years we have been consistently marketing his business through local radio advertising and it has paid off. New customers regularly come into his store saying they heard him on the radio. People who have never shopped there know the name nonetheless. The success that Jane was seeing next door was the result of a long-term commitment to advertising. She wasn't going to achieve the same success by giving advertising a "try."

Jane did sign the contract and we're moving forward, albeit tentatively. She's trying hard to keep the word"try" from sneaking its way into our marketing strategies. The honeymoon stage is going well. With any luck, we won't be serving divorce papers before our first anniversary.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Is your media rep seeing your clients behind your back?

I called a client the other day about some updates on his website and he casually mentioned that he just signed an annual deal to advertise on a local television station.

"Really?" I say, thinking it was only a couple months ago that I proposed TV advertising to this very client only to be shot down by the budget torpedo.

"Yeah," he says happily. "The station gave me a really good deal. There's even free production."

"Why didn't you ask me about it?" I inquired, trying hard to keep the petulance out of my voice.

He pauses, then reluctantly says,"They told me it would cost more if I went through an agency."

I don't recall exactly how the rest of the conversation went although I did successfully convey the fact that a) free production is normally part of an annual deal, b) the fact that the station says it is "#1" doesn't mean it is "#1" among the people you want to reach, and c) a prime rotator usually means your spot will rotate into a show that gets fewer rating points than daytime soaps.

I must confess that I feel a bit a jilted. I just had lunch with my rep from this station and over arugula and penne pasta she told me how much she loved working with my agency. How could she? I thought our relationship meant something.

In the past, I have tried to cut media reps some slack. After all, I was one of them for five years so I know the importance sales managers place on direct business. But, lately I've begun to question the cost this "sell direct" mentality has on agency relationships with the media.

No doubt the media would rather keep their 15% instead of doling it out to agencies, but they more than make up for it by cutting their reps' commissions on agency business. No harm, no foul (unless you're the media rep with the puny paycheck).

I just can't figure the rationale for this system. Let's see... the media pays their reps bigger commissions on direct business. This encourages them to sell more direct business. By and large, direct business represents substantially fewer dollars than the business that comes through agencies. So, by focusing on direct business rather than agency business, media reps can actually make more money by selling less.


Economics was never my strong subject, but you don't have to be Warren Buffet to figure out that this is probably not the best plan. It's the only plan they've got though and darned it they're not going to keep using it.

As for my adulterous media rep, I'm completely over her now. Next time, I'll know better. I'll order dessert with my penne pasta. She can pay for it with all those direct commissions she's earned.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

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