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February 2009
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April 2009

Lighten Up Already....

I knew there would be a teachable moment on the trip from Des Moines to Phoenix for the FEMA (Farm Equipment Manufacturing Association) spring conference.  And it came really quickly...

It wasn't the surprise of the $15 "Luggage Fee" on US Airways.  (No, it was not U_S__Airways_Logo overweight...they just charge you to put luggage on the plane.)  It wasn't the $2 price tag for the Diet Coke.  (We do expect that after all..)  It wasn't the rush to the gate...

It was the "Safety Instructions" that got me.  "Donna" was doing to talking on the DSM to Phoenix flight and "Sam" was doing the demo.  We went through the exits, the O2 masks and the seat belts.  It was when we got to the part about the "floatation device" that it got fun.

"In the very, VERY unlikely event we experience a water landing between Des Moines and Phoenix your seat cushion doubles as a flotation device.  Pick up the cushion and put your arms through the straps and make your way to the exit.  Upon exiting the aircraft the seat cushion becomes complementary."

I laughed, the guy next to me fact snickers could be heard throughout the plane.  When "Donna" came buy for my water order I told her she made the trip and all the lousy stuff went away.

It's not what I expected....and I told her and said, "Thank you".  These folks often have a tough job...but this time a little lightness a very big way.  Maybe we sometimes take our jobs a little too seriously?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we hope we don't get anybody in trouble....for saying nice things.






Headed Out To Learn...

My travels this week take me to Phoenix where I'll spend five days with executives from the manufacturing industry.  To be specific, the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Jet take offAssociation (FEMA).  These are the folks that manufacture what we call, "Short Line" equipment.  Planters, wagons, cutters, post hole diggers (Note to Urban Friends: - Yes...people use this stuff all the time, honest!).  They are not mega agribusiness companies like John Deere or McCormick who make all manner of stuff from tractors to planters.

Why are we going?

Because we're engaged in the business of agriculture.  While we do work for clients outside of ag our focus, since the beginning, has been food and fiber.  The people and the products that have made our nation the envy of the world.

This trip will be interesting from the aspect of the economy, both rural and urban.  At the most recent meeting of FEMA it was a sea of happy faces.  Farm prices were up, steel prices were going down and farmers were buying product.  It will be great to listen to the stories this week...and as in the past I'll share some with you.

I also "get" to stay at a "swanky" place called, Pointe Hilton Tapatio Resort.  NOT my Tapatio cliffs choice.  (Notice they can not spell the word, "point" know you're in trouble when that happens.)  I often wonder why the the higher the price of the hotel the more it costs to hook up to the Internet.  It's something "Farm Folks" just don't get.  Looking for a nearby Super 8

Stay tuned...there will be a teachable moment here...


Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we will impress folks there by referring to the place as, "Point-tea"






Writing Better Blogs...

Yesterday two people asked the question, "How can I (or my sales force) write better blogs?"  One is my son, Aaron who just fired up his AquaFuzion of Iowa blog introducing himself, his business and his services to Central Iowa.  The other I saw on Twitter from aGirl blackboard sales and marketing professional.  Two different folks with roughly the same question. 


First off, getting a sales force to write a blog might be a mistake.  Not everybody can write.  However, if that isn't an issue let's take a look at several "must dos":

- Make it One Voice - In other words, we doubt the effectiveness of every sales person fashioning a blog.  We believe a company, product or service should speak with one voice.  It can be the President of the company, the VP of Sales & Marketing or the maintenance man/woman.  Whomever can best write and tell the story.

- Keep it Short - Blogs that run over 500 words are killers.  Just don't do it.

- Don't Sell 24/7 - OK, we know your goal is to sell more "self weasel winding torque-inducers" but you don't have to pound the sales message day after day after day.  It's  boring.  Better to insert some relevant personal stories that, in some way, come back to your message. 

- The Message - Stay on it.  If you are selling water conditioners (reading Aaron?) lay the groundwork, give rational that there is an issue that needs to be solved, and bring that back to show how your product (or service) can solve the issue.

- Eyes Open - Things go on around our lives that we can grasp and write about.  This post is an example of that.  Keep your eyes and ears open, read other blogs, reference others when you can and offer opinion.

- Set Goals - I try to write three blogs a week for each of the three blogs I'm responsible for.  Most of the time it's simple (see above - Eyes Open).  But, if I fail and have a dry spell I don't beat myself up.  I just listen harder to others.

- Write Ahead- Unless your message is time sensitive, write several blogs at one sitting.  Then set them to fire on future days of the week.  If something "comes up" you can always re-set the non-time-sensitive post for even later.

There is no doubt a ton more to share...but I'm at my word limit.  If you've got a question, drop me an e-mail.  I'll try to help.  Look, this stuff can be a nightmare for some and we get that.  Maybe they would be better off on Twitter?  More on that later.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications - Yes...really I do write three different blogs...I know, I'm a very sick man.



Advertising Costs = Advertising Depth

Daily we're asked what it might cost to take a specific product or service to market. Man deep water "We've heard we should spend 1% of our gross sales on advertising and marketing is that right?."  Or "We've got $150,000 to take this product to market is that enough?"

The correct answer, in both cases, is, "No."

The real question should be, "My target market is made up of 'X' people, households, users (you can fill in the blank) can I reach them with $150,000?"

Then the answer is, "Maybe".

Here is what I'm driving at:  One of the indicators of "how much" to spend often depends on "how deep" is the market.  Here's a great example:

Let's say I want to sell big time grain handling machinery.  I know there are 2.2 million farms in the United States.  Of those 600,000 are raising grain.  Of that 600,000 there are 400,000 farms raising corn and soybeans.  Of that 400,000 there are 150,000 that farm 2,000 acres or more.  That becomes my market depth.

Let's say I want to sell a new ATV line.  These all terrain vehicles are going to be, primarily, sold into the rural lifestyle market.  However, there are 39 million households living on 2 - 200 acres.  That becomes a much larger demographic...hence my advertising depth is deeper...and my marketing/advertising costs will increase. 

Simply put, the company selling grain handling products to 150,000 farms will usually have a lower advertising/marketing cost than the ATV folks selling to nearly 40 million households.

Now look at your product or service is it a niche item or service or is it more broad based?  That can be the start of making some budget plans.  the bottom line need to know your market, first.

Thanks to my friend Drew McLellan for the thought starter. (The Magic Marketing Bullet Does Not Exist!)  I told him I'd give him props for tickling my gray matter (or was that gray hair?).

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we realize each market is different and there, along with no "magic bullet", is no "cookie cutter" answer.  However, knowing always trumps guessing.



Big Shot Advertising Agency Guy...Yeah, That's It!

From our "we do it all" file.  This week we were doing viral videos for our client NatraTurf Mpl floor cleaning and their product that repairs pet urine spots on lawns called SpotGone! (Keep the Dog...Lose the Spots!)  And, yes, we'll post them as soon as we're done in edit.

Because we actually "show the product" coming out of its, "...easy to use, resealable Shaker-Pac" we got to "shake" some on the floor in front of the "green screen".  (Memo to self:  Even though the product is safe, natural, organic it is not meant to be shaken INSIDE!  The stuff went all over...)

Hey...SOMEBODY had to clean up the mess!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we get to have a great time...nearly everyday!   "Hey, somebody got a dust cloth?  And, yes, I'll get the trash in just a minute!"



What To Do...

It's nearly 11:30 on Wednesday night and I'm still at it.  That's kind of late for a guy known to be in the rack by 9:00PM.  But, It's been one of those frustrating days.

Now, before you get out the violin and start up with a "cry me a river" tune.  It's notMan frustration anything you can's about me.  Well, me and what we see but sometimes our clients and perspective clients...don't.  Here is an example and a lesson:

Today we presented a client with a bill for work we've done on their non-profit website.  It included a total re-design, blog, original photography, writing, new logo and lots and lots of changes.  Lots.  "Can you change the word safe to the word safely..?"  You get the idea.  And, we were at this project for nearly four months.  Because it was a non-profit we charged only for the designer and none of my time.  None.

The bill came to $2,123.46.

They were, "shocked".  "If I had any idea this would have come to over $2,000 we never would have done it."

But here's the deal.  They knew.  We're very careful in discussing our rates.  We make it a point to cover what the client wants and what they do not want.  We give examples of what $600 buys, what $6,000 buys and what $60,000 buys.  We have them look at various sites and tell us what they like and what they don't.  We log every "charge" and every "no-charge".  There is a narrative along with each days work and who did what...even if we don't charge for whatever is being done, it gets logged.

Where did we fail?  That has bothered me since this morning.  What did we do wrong?  How could we have prevented this?  And, I think I have the answer:

Perceived Value vs. Real Value 

You see, we failed in determining their perceived value of the Internet.  That's what came out during the conversation today and that is what really stings.  We had the initial meeting, we discussed design, we talked about rates, we spent hours in creative, we walked them through the reasons to blog... but we failed to see their actual distrust and low perceived value of the Internet.

They don't get it...and we missed it.  And, we learned something today.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where it's not been a total loss...we learned something.



Internet Sales - Tell Me Again Why You Are Not...

This past Sunday on our radio show, Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country we Smith Family Truck talked to Brad Smith of The Smith Family Farm out of Gainsville, Virginia.  We met through Twitter.  His family farm website looked interesting and he had a compelling story about staying in business as a fifth generation farmer in the shadow of Washington, D.C.

During our discussion I asked him about the power of the Internet and how using it has impacted his life and his farm.

Here is that brief 90 second conversation.

Now tell me again why you, as a business, are not using the Internet for sales activity?   As you heard, for the Smith Family, it's made the difference in their ability to live the life they love...and they are selling farm products for cryin' out loud!

Thanks for reading and for listening...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we can help you get more ways than one.




Going Out Of Business...

I tend to pay attention to advertising messages.  It's our business.  And, I don't want to "pile on" but it has happened again.Closed0014

I was listening to the radio Sunday afternoon when I heard a screaming man tell us all about the "gigantic - Going Out Of Business Sale" at Home Furniture of Ames.  (25 miles north of Des Moines.) We're not supposed to miss this "once in a lifetime sale".  I understand that, "...everything must go!".

Now, I don't know "why" Home Furniture of Ames is closing.  It may be a variety of reasons.  However I'd suspect that if they were rolling in sales of fine furniture...they might not be closing.  Just a guess...

But here is the problematic part:  Remember I wrote, "I tend to pay attention to advertising messages."?  Well, this is the first time I've ever heard a Home Furniture of Ames radio ad. 

And, I can't remember a print ad either.  I'm sure there have been...maybe in Ames. 

So, now we're buying all kinds of radio time in the Des Moines Market to sell furniture at a Going Out Of Business Sale.  I tried to find out more by going to their website...but guess what?  I couldn't find it.

Look, it's not that I am trying to be cute or funny or...whatever.  Nobody can take delight in "Going Out Of Business Sales".  It's just that, if only...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we help folks stay in business and build market share, every day.



Selling Hot Dogs...

My friend Julian Rose sent me the following story.  He picked it up from a jewelery wholesale house (Ivan Allen Jewels) out of Chicago.  I'd seen this story years ago...and it's worth re-telling:

There was a man who started a street vending business selling hot dogs in the Lower Street Vender East Side of Manhattan.  Business was't the best so he put up a sign, "Hot Dogs For Sale!".  His business increased and so did his orders for more hot dogs and buns from the local supplier.  As time went on, the hot dog vendor put up additional signs and flags proclaiming the "Best Hot Dogs in New York City!".

Business doubled.  So, the hot dog vendor expanded his line.  He added sodas and chili and even a fresh potato and onion knish made by his wife.

Business was very good and he soon moved from the street corner into a little shop where he doubled his offerings, had tables and chairs and even an employee to help during the busy times.

He made enough money to send his oldest son off to the university to study business.  Three years later the son sits down with the hot dog vendor and says, "Pop, what's the matter with you?  Don't you listen to the radio?  Times are tough.  The economy is tanking.  There are serious financial issues out here.  People are cutting back, closing their stores.  It's really bad."

The hot dog vendor thought about it.  "My son, he is smart.  He reads the news, listens to the radio.  He is in college.  He should know."

And so he cut back on his hot dog and bun orders.  Decided he could save if he didn't offer so much.  Ended the knish sales.  Took down his "Best Food in New York City" sign.  Stopped advertising.  Within a week sales plummeted.

He picked up the phone and called his son, "You're right this is the worst I've seen in twenty years.  We are in the middle of a depression!"

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications




Advertising & Marketing During A Recession

A couple of months ago on our radio show (Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country) I took a detour and spoke about advertising and marketing during a recession.  Not Radio Mic small about how...but about that you must!  That is...if you want to keep your business and emerge on the other side of this economic meltdown.  Here is that show.

You need to know, I've not changed my mind one bit.  And, as we slip further and further into what looks like a long tough time it becomes even more important that you keep it up and retain your market share.

During the three months since the show aired I've had dozens of requests to post the show again.  So, here it is.  No, you won't have to listen to "rural lifestyle talk" but about 25 minutes of hard core adjustments and thoughts about advertising you need to make IF you want to stay in business and not lose market share.

Thanks for the calls and e-mails.  And, we're taking this message on the road in our speaking engagements.  Hope it helps you not only to survive but also thrive, no matter what business you happen to be in .

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications.