Feeding the Beast

We tell all our clients how important it is to stay current with your social media efforts. Current and Consistent. That lesson came home last Man Angryweek as we closed the office and went on vacation. We do that from time to time...everybody needs a break. Sure, we did our daily business news broadcast Insight on Business the News Hour from Anna Maria Island and yes we did do some Tweets and kept up (sort of) with our broadcast Facebook Page and we (sort of) fueled my LinkedIn Page and, yes, we posted "some" to Instagram.  

However...when we looked at the numbers upon our return we saw we were lagging. Not as much interaction, re-tweets, Facebook comments and loving gazes toward LinkedIn or Instagram. 

It was a great lesson in Feeding the Beast.

Once you are in that space, no matter what platform you use, you've got to be consistent. And that, my friends, is where so many businesses (product or service) fall off. It takes time. And, if you are on vacation or away to a conference and YOU are responsible for the social media activity of you or your brand...you've got to stay on your game. You've got to find the time.

If not, individuals that have come to expect a particular amount of social interaction go away or disconnect. Remember, our attention span is less than a goldfish. Staying current and being consistent is just another demand of The Beast.

And, The Beasties. (Meet my grand-daughter Jovie...pretty good huh?)

 

Thanks for coming by and your comments are always welcome!

Michael

 


Two Books - Career Altering

Those of you who know me know that I'm not much for "self-help" books. Right now some of you are thinking, "Oh, but you should be!". I get it. Most of what I write about is marketing/advertising/branding because it is what I know. Being a journalist that is focused on business has me always seeking the back-story to business and success. So, what happens when you find two books that travel in both Two Books worlds?

I share them with you.

Both of these books are in my office, at my work station, and I read them both...daily. Why? Because they are so spot on when it comes to interaction with others and they will help you create a better personal brand and elevate your value to others.

I became aware of "Your Invisible Toolbox - The Technological Ups and Interpersonal Downs of the Millennial Generation" by Rowena Crosbie and Deborah Rinner months ago. Both women have been on The Business News Hour and I'm a fan of how they dive into research to bolster their conclusions and, yes, teachings. It's no surprise research is such a big part of this book because it is what they also do at Tero International.

There are 100 chapters and each is no longer than two pages. You can start and stop anywhere and in any chapter. The headers include "Tools for Interacting with Others", "Tools for Presenting Yourself in the World", "Tools for Leaders", "Tools for Working Globally" and "Tools for Personal Growth".  Don't let the "millennial" description get in the way of buying this book and using it. Clearly it is for any and all ages. Go get is and learn.

The second book is also a first book and it is brand new. "The Exceptional Professional - What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career" by Callista Gould of the Culture and Manners Institute is equally amazing. Her life story from working in the music industry to industrial corporations is stunning enough. Her stories of interaction with others are jaw dropping. Her tips on how to navigate the mine-field of etiquette are brilliant.

From business lunches, to networking events to your email this book is full of exceptional ways to enhance your personal brand and become that person who stands out above others.  In this book you will discover the lost art of being in the moment and being defined as a person of grace and dignity. All, without being "stuffy".

There you go...now go get.  You can thank me later. 

 


You MUST Automate!

Long ago I stopped going to Walmart for maybe ten years. It wasn't a political thing. It wasn't about low pay, no benefits and a crummy, dirty store. Nope, it was all about the service. It was the worst. Employees that could care less, a return policy that drove me nuts...and away. I was absent a Walmart until last year when my local re-opened after spending about $2 million. So, I tried it. And, I've been back a numbeMcDonalds Kiosk April 2018r of times. It's been a positive experience.

Enter McDonald's and this crazy tale of automation.

I stopped in to pick up an egg and cheese biscuit. I don't eat bacon and sausage is out so...egg and cheese it is. I walk in, with little time to spare as I headed to my next meeting. The person who was to be working the counter was working at something else so I waited, patiently, until she spied me.

"I'm sorry I was doing something else. How may I help you?"

I'd like an egg and cheese biscuit please.

"Let's go over to the kiosk and place your order."

Uhm...no let's just order here.

As she comes out from behind the counter and marches toward the kiosk she said, "Oh, don't worry I'll help you."

I'm not worried. I'd just like an egg and cheese biscuit.

"Well, come over here and let's use the kiosk. I'll show you how. Is this to go or for here?"

It's to go.

"So, how has your morning been?"

It's been fine until I walked in here. I just want to order an egg and cheese biscuit and I'll be out of your way.

"Here is our kiosk.(She said it in almost a reverent tone.) Now, would you like me to help you?"

No. I think I can do this.

So it went. I ordered my egg and cheese biscuit under the watchful eye of the young lady "helping me". I'd call her by name but she was working under cover...no name badge.

Egg and Cheese Biscuit. No, I don't want to customize the order. Yes, I would like a drink. What kind? A Diet Coke. What size? A small. All the time pushing the buttons. Finally I had ordered by Egg and Cheese Biscuit with a small diet coke.

McDonalds Bisciut April 2018We went back to the counter, she gave me my ticket and within 90 seconds I was handed a bag by a smiling young lady who said, "Egg and Cheese Biscuit to go, sir."

Thank you.

I gathered my drink, headed out to the car. Got down the highway, opened the bag and...

Yes, there was a biscuit. Yes, there was egg. Yes, there was bacon... BACON? Did I ORDER WRONG from the blasted kiosk?

Uhm...nope as you can see by the receipt. 

I wonder if, when I take this back...and I will...If I'll be forced to visit with the kiosk or (heaven forbid!) a human?

What should have happened? Yep, she should have just taken the order. Weary.


Hobby Lobby - A Missed Opportunity - The Horses Mouth

There is a new, sort of, social media trend out there. It's where teens are flocking to Hobby Lobby stores across the country for the Hobby Lobby Challenge. What's going on?  Young people descend on the local craft centric store and then use everything from fake flowers to ferns Hobby Lobby Imageto other items as props to create Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat images. They then challenge friends and family to take up the challenge and do the same.  Cool?

Nope, Hobby Lobby staff and workers don't like it. In fact many store employees have used social media to rail against the trend.

They complain that they have to clean up and fix the shelves that some might disturb.

But..what it... What if Hobby Lobby embraced the trend, no matter how short lived. Think of the free publicity!  Hobby Lobby could:

  • Welcome teens to their store and encourage them to use their products as prop for social media posts;
  • The company could then actually re-tweet or share those images to connect with a youthful demographic;
  • Hobby Lobby could, in just a few weeks, ditch the "old school" label and become (sort of) cool...even for a short time.

What a missed opportunity. Any idea what some companies might pay to have their name shared across thousands, if not millions, of images sent to a demographic that may not mean anything today...but how about tomorrow.

It's a gift.

But then there is that horses mouth... 


What Your Customers Want...

Companies large and small spend lots of time and money trying to attract new customers. Heck, we help them and know what they are Woman Shopping Cartspending on everything from packaging to web-design to social media. Even for a small business it can get expensive.

But, are you doing the right thing?  Are your current customers satisfied with what you are doing/selling/providing?  Or are you scrambling to always find "new customers" because your current crop is leaving?

Tough questions and let me offer some suggestions:

  • Be Customer Friendly - This starts with communication. In a recent study from Pegasystems 69% of consumers believe “being available when I need help, in the way I need it” is critical to retaining your customer base. But how do you know if you are not being focused, along several channels, to what help your customer needs? That's why we urge our clients to use organic social media so you can BE THERE when the call comes. That is also why we abhor the use of automated phone answering systems and always suggest that a real human answer your phone. Don't make the customer wait, guess or go elsewhere;
  • Connect With Your Customer - In a recent Forbes article we read this:  "71% of consumers believe that companies should do a better job of creating more attractive loyalty and rewards programs. Unfortunately, companies have yet to receive the memo: Less than a quarter—24%—are focused on creating loyalty/rewards programs. Instead, 69% of companies are conducting outbound messaging to improve customer engagement." This isn't about "piling up points" this is about connecting in real and specific ways. Having the ability to deliver personalized service, being truly helpful, understanding and working for...them;
  • Respond Quickly - There is a reason why Facebook bumps your engagement and tells others how quickly you respond. You see, it matters to consumers. Yet we've seen businesses from restaurants to professionals who only use social media to push their message rather than engage the consumer and ignore the questions or calls for help. Responding quickly requires you to monitor your social media.

I get it...all of this takes time but retaining a customer by delivering what he or she wants when they want it matters.

Thanks for reading!   


Are You Open for Business?

Those of you who follow us know that we believe in the Business Blog for several reasons: Open Sign

  • Fresh Web Content - Each time you do a business blog you create fresh content for your website and that is important for what is called Search Engine Optimization so people can find you;
  • Owning Your Voice - When you write a business blog you are creating a voice for your business. You can explain in a short and direct manner what you do, how you do it and more. But, remember to break it up and not write "War and Peace";
  • You Are Open for Business - If you blog on a regular basis people know that you are still around and still accepting clients and still in business.

It's that last point I'd like to address. This afternoon we were searching for potential news stories and individuals we might interview for Insight on Business the News Hour. We went back into our files a couple of years to see what stories were out there that we thought might be worth a follow up. We found one on care-giving, Alzheimer Disease and aging. Two weeks ago we had a piece on the Alzheimer Tsunami from Iowa Watch we thought a follow up on an old story might make sense.

So, we went to the website for contact information. (There was none. No phone no email...just a form to be filled out if we wanted to reach out.) Next we looked at blog posts to see what might have been new and, really to check and see if this business was still in business. The most recent blog post was authored well over a year ago.

What!?

We are now led to believe this company is out of business. No contact information and an outdated blog post. We moved on...and wrote this piece.

It's critical that potential customers/clients be able to reach you and your business quickly so make sure you have contact information available. If you do a business blog and it is part of your website make sure you continue to do so. It doesn't have to be every week (if you are well established) but at least once a month let's us know you are still...open for business.

Thanks for reading! 


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.