National Small Business Week - Marketing Tips

All this week, in the United States, there is a celebration of National Small Business Week. Since 1963 the federal government has set aside a week for a Small Business Week Imagecelebration that is critical to our economy. A few Small Business Facts:

  • There are roughly 29 million small businesses in the U.S. which account for 54% of all sales in this country;
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs in the U.S. and 66% of all net new jobs;
  • There are 600,000 franchise operations here that employ over 8 million people;
  • The American small business sector occupies nearly 50% of all commercial space up to 34 billion square feet.

Astounding yes?

Many of you have a business that has under 500 employees so, this week is also your week. What can you do to take part in Small Business Week?  Some thoughts:

  • Share Your Story - Contact the local newspaper, radio or television station. Let them know this is National Small Business Week and share your small business story. Take a moment and share what your small business means to your employees and customers and how money spent with you stays in your local community. Believe us, reporters are looking for stories they can use all week long;
  • Get Social - Grab the National Small Business Logo from this post and share it on your social media channels...and tell your story there as well;
  • Say Thank You - Remember your customers...they are the people that keep your business in business. Post a note on social media, send a note to customers, enclose a note in your shipping items...let people know how important they are to your small business;
  • Email the Message - Send out a coupon or at least a thank you reminding your email list that this is National Small Business Week...many of your customers are also small businesses.

Happy National Small Business Week!


The Inside Marketing Team

There are plenty of reasons big corporations...and small businesses...use an "inside marketing team" or Marketing Department. You know, the folks who work where the product or service is being delivered also do the marketing. The common reason is "They know what we do so we don't have to train Man Shock them." or "Rather than have the expense of an outside marketing specialist we save the money and do it ourselves."

We get it...sort of.

But, when the stuff hits the fan because the "inside marketing team" was too close to the product or service and not connected with the consumer it can be a problem.

Don't believe me?  Ask Pepsi...

They rolled out this hideous piece linking Pepsi to calming civil unrest. But worse, they co-opted the Black Lives Matter Movement and were forced, by consumers, to pull the effort less than 24 hours after launch:

 

Ouch...

Then there is this which started this week from Nordstrom, "Muddy Jeans" for $425. Just how out of touch can a company be? Celebrating Muddy Jeans Nordstrom the rugged American Worker at a price...they (we) can't afford. 

Ya want some muddy jeans?  Come to Iowa...we've got the real thing.

But, on the positive side check this video clip from Heineken. 

 

While it doesn't convince me that Heineken really cares about transgender issues, feminism or climate change it's much more thought provoking than...the other two.  And, yes, it was created by an "outside agency".

So, why use an outside agency? Because we're often the folks who, perhaps, know consumers and can be much more focused on a positive outcome. Truly had Nordstrom or Pepsi come to us and asked, "So what do you think of this idea..." We would have saved them...millions in "brand hurt".

Just a thought....

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Blue Microphones Customer Service ROCKS!

Our advertising agency is what fuels and powers Insight on Business the News Hour the only daily, hour-long business news broadcast in the Midwest (Outside of our friends at WBBM in Chicago). When on the road and away from the studios of our friends at The Des Moines Radio Group we use a Yeti microphone from Blue Microphones out of Westlake Village, California. It's easy to transport, has great sound quality and works directly with a USB into the computer. We also love it that with a dial we can flip from directional (one voice facing the mic) to Yeti New 17 April 2017 an interview format where BOTH sides of the microphone are live.

It's a beautiful piece of equipment.

We like them so much that we've got three of 'em...no really!

Not long ago one of the mics refused to stay connected to the USB port. The cord...just fell out of the bottom of the mic. Don't know if it was wear or if the part was bad...it just wouldn't work. So...called Blue Microphones and their ALWAYS chipper customer service person walked us through the steps to get it back to the company for repair or replacement.

A brand new Yeti arrived in the mail this week.

No questions, no back to back emails, no calls...just replaced.

I want you to know how much we appreciate the culture of this company and for how well they took care of us. Seriously...if you're looking for a business partner and not just a retailer... go...BLUE.

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Wyndham - It's Not Nice to Lie

Our business is advertising and marketing. For years we've assisted companies large and small in creating images, messages and tools that will reach out to consumers and interest them in buying what our clients are selling.  Man Lie Dectector

Part of what we do is assist companies in creating a brand. While it is true that it is the consumer, and not the company, that actually creates the brand our job is to move that connection along, make it stick and do nothing to tarnish what has been built.

Sometimes however a brand gets sideways with business and makes a dumb mistake which can tarnish the brand. That can be a simple mistake or a bold lie. Ouch!

Want a small, real world example?

Late in 2016 I made reservations to stay at the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk for several days of client meetings with the National Tractor Parts Dealer Association. My arrival was to have been on January 18th, 2017. However, late in December it appeared that I could not make the trip and cancelled my reservation on 31 December 2016. The automation at Wyndham is pretty good. I received an email confirmation within just a few minutes. (image left)

Hotel Cancel From San AntionoHowever when my American Express bill came there was a charge for $138.93 from the Wyndham property. I made contact with AMEX, provided them the details of the reservation cancellation and the policy on "no shows" and let the dispute effort take over. I called American Express because I trust them and I've been a member for decades. 

A few days ago I received a letter from American Express saying that,, "...the merchant has explained that they have no record of cancellation."  They placed the $138.98 back on my bill. Either the property made an error or they are simply lying just to see if they get away with it.

Here is what should have happened:

Once the hotel received word from AMEX there was a dispute they should have said, "We'll take care of it." Then give the consumer (me) a call and figure out what went wrong and correct it. Simple right?  And then...can you imagine what the blog post might have been like? It would have polished the Wyndham brand rather than...well you get the idea.

Customers want to do business with people they know and trust...it's worth the effort.

Did I communicate again with AMEX and with Wyndham. Yes...we'll see where this goes.

Thanks for reading!

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Negative Branding with Food?

I want to take a few minutes and share with you a branding story that, I'll bet, nobody thinks about but it does have an impact on your brand.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a business centric event/conference for a breakfast and a speaker. Hey...food right? Now, to be sure the buffet Ham and Cheese Egg Casserole wasn't very large but it looked to have some cheesy egg something as the main offering. You could also get some fried potatoes, pastries...you know the regular stuff.

So, I put some of the egg stuff on a plate and went into the dining room. But there hiding in the eggs and cheese was some, I'll bet, really good ham...an Iowa staple.

Here is where it gets interesting. As a Jew I can't eat the egg stuff...two reasons: We don't eat milk and meat together and we, of course don't eat ham. But this has happened many times in the past and it's no big deal. Or is it?

Also in the room were a couple of Vegan folks and two of the people there were Muslim. We get it about the Vegans but you should also know the Muslims are also not permitted to eat pork.  Of the 40 people in the room I counted 7 that took a pass on breakfast but had paid the fee.

The thing meeting planners should think about is that in this increasingly diverse country we live in some folks, and the numbers are growing, have different dietary restrictions than say, a decade ago. It is a growing consumer trend.

I made no fuss nor did my other friends but it bears reminding folks that while we celebrate diversity we'd also like to celebrate breaking bread with our fellow conference attendees.

Thanks for reading and, as always, I'd love to hear your take. 


Hire Me to Roof Your House

Often when talking about our craft of advertising and marketing people nod their head as if they understand what it is that we do. And Roofing Workerssome folks do get it. But most people don't have a real good idea of what an advertising agency does or what we create. Worse yet many business owners think they already know about marketing and advertising so getting professional help isn't necessary. "I've got this." they may say and go about their business of providing a product or service while "dabbling" in marketing/advertising.

It's sort of like hiring me to roof your house.

Make no mistake I have a house with a roof. I have seen roofers in action. I have even gone so far as to go up on the roof and clear branches and clean gutters. But, I know my limits. I'd be a lousy roofer.

Let me give you an even better example. The house next door to ours is having their roof done. The place is awash with workers stripping the old roof, setting up new plywood and stacking shingles. Busy....busy.

But wait...three years ago the house next door had a roofing job. I know because I heard and saw them struggle through three weeks of work. They were not professionals at their craft and today, a scant three years later, the homeowner is paying, yet again, to have his roof singled.

Get the idea?  My neighbor figured he could save some money and hire some kids to come over and do the job. He settled on doing it himself...cheaper and in the end it cost him thousands more.

We don't roof houses, take out gall bladders or do root canals. Our craft is creating words and images that capture the attention of consumers so they will buy more of what our clients make...or provide.

Just a reminder. 

Thanks for reading and as always we're interested in your take. 

Next up: The Danger of an In House Marketing Department (no, really)

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It's Called SOCIAL Media Because...

It happens more often than not. When business people talk about social media they tend to think it's their personal broadcast station used Man Confused to push out only what THEY think is important.  And, that is exactly why so many fail to harness the true power of this media platform.

Consider this: ESPN broadcasts sports. All kinds of sports. Not just baseball or football or (my personal favorite) curling. OK, not really but you get my point. They broadcast what is in the interest of their viewers. How do they know? Because the network spends millions listening to the general public and then it spoon feeds us what we tell them we want. Which is why you don't see Monday Night Curling.

I get it, you don't have "millions" but you do know your consumer base...right? What is it that motivates them? What is it that gets your customer to nod their head in agreement? What trigger is it that, when pulled, launches engagement? If you don't know then please stop using social media because you will not be pleased with the results and you will consider it all a waste of time.

But...if you understand that your social media platform is more about THEM than YOU...you're on to something.  Let me give you a real-world example.

Mindi Sudman MPL 24 March 2017Some of you know that we are the fuel that powers the daily business news broadcast Insight on Business the News Hour. Every weekday all engines stop here at the ad agency and we go to work compiling the business news of the nation, region and the local Des Moines Metro. It's then off to the Des Moines Radio Group to deliver that news, the Wall Street Report and perform two long-form business interviews with startups to established companies. We've been doing this for nearly four years.

Each Friday we do a "Restaurant of the Week" segment and invite a locally owned restaurateur in to learn the "back-story" of their business. Once done we share with that restaurant (or business) the link to the Radio Blog, photos of our time together and a document that suggests how they might use the radio interview to engage their social media fans/customers.

We can always tell who is successful in their understanding of social media by watching the number of people who then click through to One Eleven Public House 26 March 2017listen to the interview. Last week our Restaurant of the Week was One Eleven Public House a brand new place on Main Street in Knoxville, Iowa. Within 26 hours that interview had been downloaded and listened to by over 225 people. And that is on only ONE of our metrics. You can add another 87 downloads from Podbean, our podcast page and iTunes is still growing. (Go ahead and click on the image to the right.)

Mindi Sudman, (above in studio) the owner of One Eleven Public House gets it..or whomever is doing her social media gets it. And they did not limit their sharing on just Facebook they shared across Instagram and it was trending on Twitter.

Understanding social media, what it is and what it is not, is critical to your marketing success. It has to be done often, right and targeted toward those whom you wish to reach and influence.

Otherwise...it's just a waste of time.

Love to hear your thoughts and thanks for reading! 

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Whims and Social Media

We were reading through some restaurant reviews the other day and found several that were very critical of number of restaurants in the Waiter RestaurantDes Moines Metro. There were some of the usual complaints about the lack of speedy service, bland food and the cost vs. the amount of food. Those are the things we often see. However, I've always wondered if diners take their concerns to the restaurant owner or manager at the time...or if they wait to shout about their experience on Social Media.

I've had this conversation with restaurant owners in the past and they tell me they often never hear about a complaint until it is posted online. That's like the old saying, "closing the barn door after the horse gets out". You would think the customer would say something at the time rather than wait. But there is some comfort, I guess, in being removed from the event. That way the complaint can go...unanswered and unfixed.  Which is too bad.

I took a moment and reached out to one of the more critical writers and asked her to give me, what she considered, her favorite restaurants in the Metro. Sort of let me know what she values regarding to her dining experience.  This is the answer: "Well, I don't have a favorite it all just depends on my mood and where I end up."

I understand sort of a whim...

But what happens when that "whim" turns to social media to complain about ______ fill in the blank. Restaurants are only as good as the people who staff them and sometimes they fail. I guess I'd rather deal with the issue one-on-one at the time rather than take it online. It, at least, gives the restaurant the opportunity to work toward a resolution of the issue that benefits both the diner and restaurant.

Your thoughts?

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The Crushing of Retail Sales and The Box

Online retail sales are crushing brick and mortar sales in many areas and it will only continue. I'll get to the facts on that in just a moment Amazon Box but first a story:

Several weeks ago my wife purchased a new cup for our three year-old grandson. He likes the Hawkeyes. When she presented it to him he looked her and said, "Thanks! Where's the box?" The box? She went on to explain that she purchased the cup from a store and that it didn't come with a "box". He looked at her with a serious questioning face and said, "No box?" He is three and he could not imagine that something new was brought into his house and it didn't come in a box.

Thank you Amazon and now for the facts:

Retail giant Wal-Mart reported solid fourth-quarter results last week with the U.S. business producing another quarter of comparable-sales growth. But the star of the show was e-commerce. Online U.S. sales for Wal-Mart soared 29% year-over-year, an acceleration driven by the company's investments in the acquisition of Jet.com. E-commerce is still small, relative to the brick-and-mortar operations, but that won't remain true for long.

According to the Department of Commerce, total e-commerce sales in the United States rose by 15.1% in 2016, far faster than the 2.9% Online Add to Cartgrowth in total retail sales.

The times they are a changin'.

The reality is that consumers are quickly leaving brick and mortar stores for online deals. They are shopping price as well as convenience as they have seen their wages stagnate and are left with less time to "go shopping". However, the trend isn't always the same for small business retail stores. Especially if they offer a unique shopping experience. So, what can retail, maybe your retail, do to drive traffic to your store? Here are some thoughts:

  • It Ain't About the Product - I can go to big box or online and buy a set of kitchen knives but I can not get the experience that comes with visiting, say, The Kitchen Collage in the East Village of Des Moines or La Gourmet in Valley Junction of West Des Moines. No big box or online retail center can match that experience;
  • Personalized E-Mail Offers - Because your small business is gathering emails (you are right) you can build a very active email campaign to keep your loyal shoppers in the conversation;
  • Retail Celebrations - Places like the East Village and Valley Junction hold special events all of the time...that's not done for big box stores. Getting involved with your neighborhood organization or Chamber can make a difference;
  • Be Exclusive - When going to market find stuff that can't easily be found online and then market that through social media and your email campaign.

All of this takes work...go get 'em!

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Is It The Content or Something Else?

We're now in our fourth year of reporting the business news of the nation, region and the IOB_podcastv2 Greater Des Moines Metro during Insight on Business the News Hour. Each weekday starting at 5:05pm we take to the air on AM-940, FM-104.5 and in HD at 103.3 HD2 and report the business news of the day, what the market did and why and then conduct two long-form business interviews with startups to established corporations. To date we've conducted over 1,500 of those interviews with nearly 147,000 downloads on just one of our podcast pages, Podbean. You can see that here.

That's the history.

And we've noticed something that should be of interest to those of you attempting to extend your voice with social media.  

Social media experts tell us that "content is king". If you produce good and valuable content people will notice and engage. We think that's true as long as the content is about cats or food. Business? Not so much. The vast consumer population could care less about how to grow, maintain, start and stay in business.

Or wait...might it be something else?

We watch, very carefully, the download and listening numbers as they appear on iTunes and Podbean. We also follow the data on Bitly and we've noticed that those business people and businesses who join us for an interview and then share their story along several social media Man Megaphonechannels gain a big advantage. In other words they are not keeping their story...secret or to themselves they are telling the world and it matters.

And, if those businesses or business people carry their message forward for several days/weeks their download numbers explode. Sure we're there carrying the water as well but when the organic tweets and Facebook posts and LinkedIn posts happen more than once...it extends their voice so much further.

There is a valuable lesson here: Social Media is not a "one-and-done" effort. Think of it this way, if you got a new job or you're about to get married or you've just closed a huge deal... would you tell just one person?  No. You would repeat that story several times over the life of the news.

It's the same thing here. The very same thing. Content does matter but so too does properly sharing that content.

Your turn!

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