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Supermarket Prices...STILL Going Up

Amid growing unemployment, inflation fears and consumer saving vs.spending the prices you pay for food is still increasing.  But, like they say, the good news is not by as much as in 2008.Woman Child Supermarket

Nielsen Research just released their Supermarket Pricing Trends and noted the increase of 0.44 percent is much lower than last year at this same time.  They look at 45 different items that includes everything from butter to bleach and bacon to hot dog buns.  Those same 45 items today will cost you, on average, $143.65.

Contrary to what we've written for our radio show, Insight on Business, the new survey says private label products have actually lost ground in pricing.  In fact, private store brands fell by 4.7%.  We don't think that is because of panic selling on the part of the labels...we do think it's a correction in the inflated pricing we saw from last year.

The report incorrectly suggests that the price of dairy items have fallen due to the fact they were "over priced" last year.  Somebody in New York City must write this stuff.  The real reason dairy pricing has dropped is because the dairy farmers are receiving less than half of what they made last year.  In fact, times are so bad on many of the nation's dairy farms we're beginning to wonder if the commercial dairy industry might be the next thing to head "South of the Border".  Meanwhile, anti-trust issues are popping up against the handful of companies that control the US milk market. 

So, what does this mean to you...if you are in the business of selling products or services.  We think it suggests you can raise prices...slightly IF you are trying to cover for increases passed on to you.  However, be careful...consumers have more information today than just two years ago and it price adjustments are too far out of whack.  Expect a backlash.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications - Learn more about us at www.InsightCubed.comand follow us on Twitter, @MichaelLibbie.  And, of course...read us in The Des Moines Register.


Wandering Charleston

I'm in Charleston with the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association Summer Board Hotel Meeting.  My goal...as it has been for several years is to learn, contribute and perhaps field a client or two.  After all that's what we do...help folks sell more of what they make. 

Today was a short day with little in the way of "official" business.  So, I wandered the area near our hotel, The Charleston Place.  If you are coming here to check out the wisdom of marketing and advertising there isn't much today.  However something must be here for people to brave the high temps and higher humidity.  Why would folks come here in the summer??? 

Meeting Street Style Have a look around.  Each photo can be enlarged with a click.  Just around the corner from the hotel is Meeting Street.  Shop after shop after shop.  Business today seemed brisk.  People in town for Freshman Orientation for the College of Charleston.  This is Williams Sonoma (stop me before I max out the card!) a favorite in an old theater.

And, I know how boring it is to watch "somebody's" slide show or photos...but humor me a bit.Church Gate

There is a message at the end.

On the right is the entrance fo a church.  A Unitarian Church...what is interesting is that around all of the churches I saw...there are the old graveyards.  Lacking space like we do, the church just buried the folks "on site".  What a hoot come Halloween.

Church Headstones many Down in this section of Meeting Street, in the opposite direction of The Collage of Charleston, are a series of antique shops.  Now, antiques here tend to be a bit different than antiques in Iowa.  Old here dates back to the 1700's.  I was in buildings, still used along Market Street, that were built 25 years BEFORE Iowa became a state.

Market street runs into Broad Street.  This seems to be the professional section of theBroad Street Old City.  Plenty of law offices.  I had to muse a bit...wondering in which set of suites the South Carolina Governor's wife may have visited before trying to work it out...with the "wandering head of state".  (Side bar:  Just what the heck was he thinking anyway?)

Row after row of very old homes turned into offices and upscale lunch and dinner places.  Horse drawn cabs, trolleys and peddle-cabs seem to be a favorite mode of transportation in the Old City.  Horse Taxi on Broad (Side bar:  How these guys wear SUITS, dark yet, during the summer here is beyond me.  Give me flowing robes or something..yikes!) A word about the horses, I was told by one of the guys I visited with that the ASPCA or city or somebody will not let the horses work when it gets hot.  How hot does it have to be?  Don't know but I was glad I wasn't pulling around a bunch of folks!

I walked down a street off Broad and came on this cross street paved in cobble stone.  Check the private home.  All along the side streets these two and three story narrowCobblestone Street homes are bunched together.  Nobody has to worry about mowing the lawn here.  But, watch your footing.  A guy could sprain an ankle on these things.  But...charming?  You bet!

So...the marketing message here has got to be the word "charming".  We've seen that floated around in number of uses...but this place has it.  There can be NO OTHER reason to head here in the summer but...people do.  I spoke to folks from all over this country and others who were just as amazed in the character of the area.

And...the city works the "look".  Not every home is well painted and spiffy...but, you can forgive that because the look fits into the texture of the community.  Lot's of fun and thanks for indulging me just a bit.  Now...back to work!

 

 


Some Thoughts on "Amazing" Billy...

This has been a very, very weird week. 

Ed, Farah and Michael (all who were deeply involved in marketing and advertising) Billy Mays were, on Sunday morning, joined by the Uber-Pitchman, Billy Mays.  I had finished my Sunday morning radio show and went directly to the airport and jumped on a plane headed for Dallas and then on to Charleston.  Once at DFW I was checking Twitter and learned of his death, just a few hours earlier.

What was really odd is that in the June edition of the American Airlines magazine there was an article about Mays...and I had just finished reading it before arriving in Dallas.

Love him or loath him...he was truly amazing (Ah Mayzing!!)...  We liked him. 

For many advertising agency types Billy was like fingernails on a chalkboard.  He wasn't polished, wasn't hip...he just "sold stuff".  And that's why we liked him.  While others would make fun of Billy...he wasn't beyond making fun of himself.  Here is a video of him ordering McDonalds food and being...Billy.  It's a classic. And it was filmed this past April.

In an age when "pitchmen" were thought to be too...old fashioned and not hip...Billy found his mark and was ready to move on to other avenues...  But not now.  So, call us silly...but we'll miss Billy Mays the self taught, self motivated, King of the Pitch.  No more..."But there's more!!"

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications see our work or contact us at www.InsightCubed.com.  Use Twitter and follow us @MichaelLibbie.


Twitter Top Ten - "Step Away From The Computer"

On our daily radio show, Insight on Business I covered a post by Michael Brito a "community builder" at Intel.  While we've written about our Twitter Suggestions in the Computer Fear past, Michael added to our list of five and rounded it out to the "Top Ten".  During the show I mentioned I'd put my thoughts and Michael's together in one article.  So, here goes:

Before you make a grave error and think that, "Now that I have a Twitter account people will follow me to the end of the world and buy the stuff I'm selling."  Pay attention.

Do your research before engaging potential customers.

It might be a good idea to get the "lay of the land" before you start stroking your keyboard.  Let's say you are actually wanting to "sell" something and you have decided to use Twitter to engage customers.  Take a few minutes and do a search on the conversations going on that might impact your efforts.  And, if somebody is already saying something about you or your product...it might be good to know.

Determine your goals...

What is it that you want to do with social media like Twitter?  Some folks use it to do research into brands or potential products.  Some use it to support existing customers.  Some simply want to sell.  Know what you want or think you want before you start.

Should you be a "Brand" or a "Person"?

Careful here.  We believe that people still buy and communicate with people.  Rare is the company that can stand alone on their branded logo as the background photo and bio photo.  Sure, Southwest Airlines @SouthwestAir can do that.  But our company?  Nah...our advice is get personal and use a real photo.  Unless you have some burning cause or a solid remarkable trade mark.

Build Twitter Street Creds...

It's not about the number of followers, tweets or retweets it's about what you have to share.  Remember, this is a CONVERSATION.  Be interesting and trusted and the rest will happen.

Track the Conversation...

Michael Brito suggests that you invest in a paid tracking service to better track the conversations.  We're not too sure.  We think if you do this like a job and really pay attention to this and other venues you can pretty much gather the information you need.  However, if it's critical that you don't want to miss anything.  Perhaps.

Be Less Structured...

We've all seen it.  Somebody gets on Twitter and bangs out ten or twelve messages and then "goes away" for the day.  OR...all the messages are "selling something".  What a turn off.  We've long stuck to the 80/20 rule.  Communicate first and sell later.  Nobody likes to be "dogged" with every post.

Listen & Observe - Then Engage

If you just charge in and expect the Twitter Community to embrace you...  Well, you're in for a surprise.  Once again, this is a conversation.  Just like in a real person to person conversation if you spend all the time going down one "rabbit trail" while the person you are talking with goes down another..there is no communication.  It's a shouting match.  Grow the relationship.

Be Real and Believable

Don't have somebody "Tweet" in your name.  The community will smell it out quickly.  And, give it some time.  Not everybody is going to come running .  Remember what we wrote about being a trusted source of good information?

Track & Measure and Re-Tool...

If you know what your goals are (see above) it should be pretty easy to be able to track and measure your progress.  Are you hitting your goals?  If not, maybe back up and try something different.  A different tone...even a different account if you really fail.

Engage Now...

Some people go through the planning stage FOREVER.  Meanwhile as you are planning you are losing time.  Like we said, don't just dive in without a plan...but make the plan quickly and get started.  It's better, we believe, to be in the parade than standing on the sidelines and watching it go by.

Thanks for reading.  If you want to keep up with me it's @MichaelLibbie and to see some of the work we do and listen in to our radio shows head to our website, www.InsightCubed.com have a look around.

Michael Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we, like you, are always learning.  If we can help more...give us a call.

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Plum Jam AND All That!

There is always a "first" for everything.  Some of you may know that I now do a daily radio show called, Insight on Business.  For 90 minutes Monday - Friday we talk advertising, marketing, public relations, communications.  You know the "stuff" we do for our clients every day of the week.  It moves fast and, should you wish...check out our Daily Show Page where we set the topics of the day.

But...back to the first.  Ginger Plummy

On Friday my guest was Ginger Johnson of Snap Creative Works.  Not only was she full of energy and right on topic, creative communication, she brought a jar of Plum Jam.

Now, I've been doing radio since Marconi and from time to time folks bring their book, a sample of their product or sometimes a cookie.  (Once a guy brought me Kim-Che...the bottle broke and stunk the place up for a week.)

But...Plum Jam?  From a person who works at connecting people and things?

Brilliant and it shows the "out of the box" way to get positive attention and drive home your point.

So...when you make your next sales call...will you take something that is expected or do the unexpected and be remembered?

Follow us on Twitter @MichaelLibbie, find out more about our advertising agency at www.InsightCubed.com and...come on by for the show, when you can.

Michael Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

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Small Business & Customer Service - A Myth?

Early this week Todd Razor from The Des Moines Business Record was a guest on our radio show, Insight on Business.  (Here is the link from that day.)  Todd is the Online Editor for the company that produces that product and others.  He was a great interview.Closed0014

His online offering today for Iowa Biz had to do with poor customer service among small business owners.  It was written by another friend Tom Vander Well.  Good stuff.

Poor customer service is something we've written about many times.  We also get to counter those stories when we receive good service...however, those articles are few and far between.

But, poor customer service among small business owners?  Yep.  I have, over my career, spent hours in small business meetings where I hear owners moan and groan about the "Big Box Stores" or "Corporate Stores" taking away their business.  How often have I been in a Chamber meeting where this is a topic of some discussion?  They complain to their associations, legislators and just about everybody else.

Customer Number one But, the fact remains that too many small (and large) business leaders who produce poor customer service seem to be unaware of what is really hurting them.  Look, most of us, just like Tom says in his article, WANT to do business locally.  But so often it's impossible. 

So, today...quit whining and perhaps put some polish on how and what you do.  Gather your people together and remind them who they really work for.  And, if you need a shot in the arm...call us.  Shucks, it's better than letting folks walk out of the door...never to return.

Let's do business...and service who is really Number One.  The rest will follow.

Thanks for reading...you can learn more about our advertising agency by heading to our site, www.InsightCubed.com, follow us on Twitter @MichaelLibbie and join our daily radio show, Insight on BusinessHere is the link to the daily Show Page.

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It's Not The Hockey...It's The Marketing

Today the Des Moines Register announced that the AHL franchise owned by Schlegel Sports may be up for sale and out of Des Moines.  Lot's of problems with the decision and nothing is set in stone.  Hockey fans and the folks at Wells Fargo Arena are Iowa Chops Sign watching things very closely.  And, as usual there is plenty of finger pointing.  "Des Moines isn't a hockey town!" and, "Glad to see they are going hockey is a bore."

But, friends, in a market of 435 households it wasn't and isn't the hockey.  It was and is the lousy marketing of a great sport.  We watched it from the beginning and begged...honestly begged to help the Iowa Stars and then the Iowa Chops become successful.

And, I'm convinced we could have done it.  Maybe we'll still get a shot.  But I doubt it...we're "too Iowan".

Stars Faceoff Over the past three years, starting with John Pettit the former president of the Iowa Stars we've had several meetings about how to better market the team.  When the current management group showed up with the "new" Iowa Chops we again made a pitch to Steve Nitzel through several people in the sales and marketing arm.  Nothing...no phone call, no return e-mail...zip.

And, because of our love of the sport we were willing to cut them a heck of a deal.  But, they went it alone.  Oh sure they had some local help on projects but nobody to guide them through the maze of being accepted.  Now...that may never happen.

It's frustrating when a bunch of outsiders stroll into town and "think" they know the pulse of our state and city.  It's not only stupid...it's also arrogant.

Iowa and Des Moines are "hockey towns" or could be if only the marketing would have matched the skill on the ice.  If only the folks from "out there" would have listened to the folks who buy the tickets.  If only their pride had not gotten in the way.

It's not over...yet...there are lots of legal and financial hurdles to get over...in the meantime.  We're here, just in case.

Thanks for reading.  Learn more about us on our site, www.InsightCubed.com and follow us on Twitter @Michael Libbie.

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Consumer Power - Paying Attention?

If you are a regular reader you know about my adventure this past Tuesday with the folks from Elm Street Economics.  I had predicted, a day before the seminar, not only what the seminar was about (that was the easy part) but also what topics would be covered.  That took more thought and I'd say I hit about 90%.  What I could not predict were some of the jewels Mike Anderson actually said.  Remember, I'd not seen the presentation before.  Here is a line of thought we've talked about before, but not in exactly the same way:

The Consumer has MORE power today than he/she had a year ago.

Think of it like this.  A year ago, as fuel was inching toward $5.00 a gallon, consumers spent money on both "needs" and "wants".  You were, no doubt, one of those consumers.  I was.  Did we "really" need that water feature/fountain for the deck?  No...we wanted it.  And, so I spent money buying all the parts and loads of time putting it together.  Would I do that...this year?  Notice there is a question.  And, consumers are doing this every day. 

They now have a reason to exercise their power to say, "No."Cash Register No Sale

That's exactly what is going on in the minds of most consumers today.  So, the question my client (if we had a water feature/fountain client) would ask me might be:  "How can I sell more water feature/fountains and overcome consumer push back in light of the economy?"

The simple answer, based on what we know about "wants" and "needs", might be, "We must translate value to the consumer in such a way that a "want" can, for some, become a "need".

And, if you think about it, that is exactly what we are seeing as retailers embrace the concept of a "StayCation".  You know, kind of like a vacation...but you STAY at home.  We wrote about this some time ago. 

The retailer is telling the consumer what the consumer already knows, "As long as you have the power to say no to a spendy vacation we are going to find a reason for you to exercise your ability to say yes by offering you value...buy our water feature and enjoy your own backyard."

This ability can work across the board even if you are selling expensive products or services.  Remember my story about $300 shoes?  Sure they are expensive but twenty years later I'm still wearing them.  That would not have happened with a $75 pair of shoes.  The message today would be on value, lasting value.

And it will resonate with the consumer...that's our take.  Now, how do you make that happen?  We'll visit about the how later in the week.  But, be thinking about it.  I'll bet you've already got a set of ideas.

Thanks for reading.  And, a reminder:  Come by our daily radio show about business.  It's called Insight on Business were we talk about advertising, marketing, public relations...the stuff we do every day.  We're live, Monday - Friday starting at 12:30 Central and you can pick it up at www.MacsWorldLive.com.

Stay with us on Twitter, you can find us and "talk back" by logging in and following @MichaelLibbie.  If all else fails, head to our website, www.InsightCubed.com and learn more about what we do.  Thanks, again for reading!

 

 


Tuesday Morning With Elm Street

I'll be out of the office on Tuesday morning attending what is being called, by Citadel Radio Group of Des Moines a, "break through event about business".  It features a Elm Street logo group known as Elm Street and Elm Street Economics.  We are told this seminar will help us "connect with consumers". Terry Peters the head of the Des Moines radio group has been telling people this thirty-dollar, half day seminar, is about building more business and there will not be a sales pitch offered at the event.

The Urbandale Chamber of Commerce is co-sponsoring the event.  Both groups have spent considerable time and effort pushing the meeting, which will be held at the Hotel Fort Des Moines.  (Why there and not in Urbandale...we're not sure....).  And how many folks will be there?  We think plenty...after all...there is the promise of a "magic bullet".  We'll let you know the numbers.

Here is our take...and we haven't yet been to the session that runs all morning long.

We believe, based on what we've written over the years, this program will share with you several important facts.  And remember, we've not been to the show.

  • The Consumer is Changing - The public has come face to face with "needs" vs. "wants".  That means the person you are marketing to will not be moved with messages based on luxury.  The consumer today wants...value and trust.
  • The Consistent Message- When you are in the face of an economic slump it's important that you keep the message in front of the consumer and keep "on message".  There are enough "changes" in the world.  The consumer needs a friend and if you are consistent..you are nearly there.  Build trust...see above.
  • The Eyes Must be Open - You will not be able to influence today's market with yesterday's message.  It's not going to work.  You need to match your product or service to the trends.  And, those can shift...daily.
  • The Stale Message - You can not impact the market with an old message.  What may have worked yesterday will not work today or tomorrow.
  • Know your Customer - You can't take the chance and guess.  You need to know who and what your customer needs, and yes, still wants.  Then you create the message to match.  How do you learn "what"?  Pay attention to Social Media, the news, keep your eyes open.  The public is not really that hard to read.
  • Connect with New Methods - Once upon a time there was radio, television and the newspaper.  Today if you are banking on those media outlets to help you thrive and survive...pack it in.  It's over.  You need to learn new ways to communicate with your customer base..do we hear a little social media here?

Once again...I've never heard the speech, never heard of "The Center for Sales Strategy", never heard of Mike Anderson.

It's just that our advertising agency, Insight Advertising, does this for our clients...every Man Amen day.  We preach it to the masses and wherever two or more are gathered.  And, we've written about each one of these topics and more...for over three years.  Maybe they've been reading our stuff...or coming to our lectures?

Look, we're grateful they are bringing the show to Des Moines.  Honest.  More people need to be made aware of how to connect with the consumer.  But, then again...you can listen to our daily radio show, Insight on Business...for free.  We've been talking the same story...

So, we'll let you know what we find out...and pass those nuggets on to you.  In the meantime.  Keep working, learning and listening.  It could mean the difference between success and failure.  And...nobody wants that.  Failure that is...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications.  See our work at www.InsightCubed.com where you can also connect with our radio shows.  And...follow us on Twitter, @MichaelLibbie

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Southwest Airlines & Twitter - A "How to Use" Guide

On Friday I sat with business executives from several states as the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association (FEMA) - Supplier Board of Governors met here in DesFEMA DSM June 09 Moines.  It was great to have them here and give me a chance to show off our city.  (That's Vernon Schmidt, light blue shirt, from the FEMA office, go ahead click on the photo to see...we'll wait, talking business with us.  Thanks for coming by Vernon!)

Part of what we talked about centered on Social Media and why we encourage our clients to use things like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.  To a person, the folks in this meeting thought I was speaking a foreign language and, as typical of many business types, waved off social media as a waste of time.

Southwest Twitter crop That's ok...it happens.  And, it's NOT for everybody.  However, when it's done and done well, people notice.  Enter Southwest Airlines.

I've been following @SouthwestAir for sometime.  It's a pretty gutsy move to lay a company like this out to the public.  And, I'm sure they don't RT (Re-Tweet) or pass along ALL the comments.  But, from what I've seen, these folks "get it" and "use it" very well.

It starts right with their PROFILE:  "Airplanes can't type so @Christi5321 is responding/chatting with you."  Did you catch that?  A person, who is part of Southwest who also has a Twitter account is the person responsible, for this shift at least, for the conversation.  Very cool.  The 31,592 people that are following @SouthwestAir now know that a REAL person is reading and responding.

The conversation goes from, "WOW, hit the jackpot we're flying WiFi and with the Rapping Flight Attendant.  How cool!" to , hints like, "On a full SWA flight sit in row 1, row 9 or row 16 and be first for drinks."  And, no these notes are not from @SouthwestAir they are from customers!

Talk about "buy in"!

And...Southwest Air doesn't just ignore people and have a one way conversation they follow nearly 8,000 folks who "Tweet".  Now we're talking conversation.

And, that's what this is all about.  Instant feedback on your product or service.  Instant market research.  Instant attention and a "hotline" to the company.

Twitter can be used very badly...or very well.  Congrats Southwest!

Michael Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can see our work at www.InsightCubed.com and follow us on Twitter, @MichaelLibbie

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