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. 


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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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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Valentine's Day Marketing

Tis the Season! Soon, right after the Super Bowl, young (and old) men will be boosting retail sales as they scramble to prove their love Valentines Day gifts for Himand affection to their Valentine. If you are in retail and directing your marketing message to men...you are not alone but you may be missing an opportunity.

Let's face it, the vast majority of Valentine Marketing Messages are directed to men. Print, radio, television, digital tend to target guys who, by the way, spend nearly twice what women spend on Valentine's Day gifts. Last year the National Retail Federation said the "average person" spent about $143 to honor their Valentine. Men, however, spent $191 to the average of $97 spent by women.

So, marketing to men would seem to be paying off.

But, why not start a campaign targeting women as well? It would seem, just by looking at the numbers, there is room to improve on that demographic. After all, women love too. How about some ideas that might boost your retail sales to females this year?  And, while it may be too late for a full blown radio and TV buy...you can focus on digital and point of purchase.

Call Them Out - You might try any number of cute and sexy ways to catch the eye of the ladies. "Ladies, DO IT, with your Valentine!", "Women Love Too", "Remind him how HOT you really are..." Have fun, be creative and use your digital outlets;

Gifts for Him - Try an in-store display with a valentine vibe but with stuff for...him. Sometimes it's difficult to know what to get that male valentine...make it easy;

Video - Get some female friends together and do a sixty-second bit about buying gifts for the guys...and then share, share, share;

Play to the Super Bowl - "Part of my Valentines Day gift was watching the big game with you. That's just the beginning...";

The point is if you call attention to the fact that women too can play the Valentines Day game you may just move the needle and who in retail doesn't want that?

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Referral Marketing - Just Ask

This week Mike Colwell, a guest on the Business News Hour, and I had a conversation about Mike Colwell MPL 14 Dec 2016referral marketing. If you want to check out that podcast, here is a link. Referral marketing works really, really well and to get there you don't have to buy fancy software or a third party platform. Much, if not all, can be done on your own. But there are some critical steps to help you get there.

  • Know Your Best Customers - Small and large businesses know who their best customers are, or you should. The first step in referral marketing is to identify who these people are. Who has made your business their favorite? Who is already a brand warrior for you? You may have five or five hundred, it doesn't matter...just know who they are;
  • Ask Them - Once you've identified who your best customer is simply ask them why they love doing business with you. Is it service, selection, price, location??? What? Reach out with a phone call or in person the next time you see them and just ask.  You are already halfway there;
  • Share the Love - The next step is to ask them to share, what they have already told you, with their friends and family. And, if they really do love your business they will not feel put upon to do so. After all they have already told you they love doing business with you now all they have to do is share it.

Because we live in a sharing world (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram...) there are plenty of ways for your best customers to share why they love doing business with you. Imagine the impact of a customer doing a thirty second video on their phone telling the world why they love you. You can then post that to your website and share across several of your social media channels. Other ways to share the love:

  • Remind them to rate you on Google or Yelp or Facebook;
  • Ask them to do a selfie with your logo or your product then post it and tag your business;
  • Ask them to re-tweet a message or two each week;
  • Share the love on Instagram;
  • Have them write a recommendation on Facebook, LinkedIn or just have them send you the email and use part of that...with their permission.

Remember, people do business with people they know and trust...your best customers can be your best marketing asset if if you do just two things: Identify and Ask

Thanks for reading...

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Six Retail Marketing Tips - Small Business Saturday

Coming up on Saturday November 26th is National Small Business Saturday. If you own Small-Business-Saturday-Header-Undated that brick and mortar business allow me to offer up some marketing tips that will help you beat out the Big Box.

First, let’s consider what the impact of Small Business Saturday is for business. Check these numbers! According to a recent Sales Fuel survey last year 23 percent of U.S. adults shopped at a locally owned business on Small Business Saturday. While that is lower than the 33 percent of adults who shopped online during Cyber Monday more than half of those online shoppers said they would rather shop at small, locally owned businesses if the price and product quality is similar. And get this… Millennials aged 25 to 34 make up the single largest segment of Small Business Saturday shoppers at nearly 25 percent…  So quit worrying that all this demographic does is shop online…they don’t. 

So, how can you grab their attention from Millennials to Boomers?  Let’s go!

Start now. More than half of last year’s Small Business Saturday shoppers also shopped at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday. This behavior means they might be tapped out and less motivated to shop on Small Business Saturday. To avoid this, create a marketing plan that includes consistent outreach from now until Small Business Saturday. What should that plan include?

  • In-Store Signage – Reminding shoppers that Saturday is Small Business Saturday and you’ve got even more deals coming.
  • Social Media Outreach – Do the same here remind folks that dollars spent locally stay local…it matters;
  • Photo Op – Take a section of your store and decorate with fun stuff so folks can take selfies of their shopping experience…they will share and you can also share on Instagram and Snapchat;
  • Traditional Marketing – If you’re buying ads to promote Black Friday also mention Small Business Saturday.

Make it mobile - Small Business Saturday shoppers will be turning to their smartphones to locate local stores, find product information and reviews, and compare prices. If you have free Wi-Fi let customers know. If you are doing email marketing make sure those messages are mobile friendly and any links go to mobile friendly landing pages that speak to shopping opportunities in your store. If you are doing text message marketing because nearly 36 percent of Millennials in the study say they took action base on such advertising.

Give your business website and local search presence a going-over - Your store should be listed on local search directories; check to be sure that the information listed there and on your business website is complete and accurate. In particular, your store’s address, hours and phone number should be easy to find. If you have special holiday hours, keep them updated or post a list of daily hours throughout the holiday season.

So…does it matter?  Just this past week I was looking for a phone number of a small business in the Des Moines Metro…on the business website. Not only was the website not mobile friendly but I could not find a way to connect by phone…no phone listed!  ACK…

Be social - Millennials are 57 percent more likely than the average shopper to take action based on an ad on a social network. Getting attention with organic Facebook posts has become more difficult, but Facebook advertising is quite affordable and effective. You can set a budget, monitor results and target your advertising very narrowly to people within your local community. Pair your Facebook advertising with a strong presence on Instagram and maybe even Snapchat.

Send the right message - Savvy shoppers crave the unique and individual. Your marketing messages should emphasize what makes your store stand out from big-box retailers. In addition to personal service and a friendly greeting, one-of-a-kind products, a carefully curated selection of items and gifts that people will find not only appealing but also priced right. Entice shoppers into your store with the back-story of why your business exists…

If you do a google search for Small Business Saturday you’ll find a page dedicated to specific free printable items you can use to help market your small business. If you are reading this piece on our blog here is that link.

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Snap Out of It...We Have Business to Do

Let me share with you that there are not many people who are as interested in the world of politics more than I. Not the emotional side of politics (though I am) I'm talking about what makes the political world tick and how to better market those issue messages. We have been thorough a bruising primary season and general election season and emotions have been running high. I get that however, we've got work to do, business to accomplish and consumers to satisfy. Men Transfixed

Snap out of it...

Since the election social media has been alive with political nasty. Turn on any talk radio station from NPR to your local News/Talk outlet and it is politics 24/7.  It is hard to focus on business, sales, marketing, advertising and a host of issues that truly impact our daily business life. Hard to focus is we get caught up in the messy business of gloating, blaming and anger management.

But we must move forward because so many people are counting on it.  How do I know you are not? I get to do this daily business news broadcast, Insight on Business the News Hour, and each day we feature two long-form business interviews. That's right, we don't do politics. I've watched the numbers, since the election, on the number of people who are downloading our podcast versions of those interviews and I can share with you they are minimal.

Prior to the election we were humming along with solid numbers of listeners who may have missed the live interview during the broadcast but catch up on them in the podcast. Those numbers are way down.  Because?

Because we are not focused on business. That is troubling. It's not to say that you can't be interested in politics but come on...let's do business. Let's get back to creating opportunity for our employees and our customers.

We've got business to do... 

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Marketing Banks - What You Need To Do

If I were running the marketing department at my locally owned bank or savings and loan I Bank Imagewould crush "Big Bank Competition" and it would be so easy they would write books about it. 

Let me set the stage for you.

Since the Great Recession banks had been trying to rebuild their reputation among consumers and some had turned the corner. But then the Wells Fargo scandal erupted and it's been a Big Bank Nightmare. Case in point, Wells Fargo, last week, said that in September the number of checking accounts opened fell by 25 percent and the number of credit card openings have dropped by 20 percent compared to a year ago.

But, Wells Fargo is not alone. An Accenture survey found that only 30 percent of bank customers say they're loyal to their bank, and about a quarter were shopping around for another institution.

A Gallup poll conducted in June, before the Wells Fargo scandal broke, found that Americans' trust in banks plunged 22 percentage points from 10 years earlier. While nearly half of respondents said before the recession that they trust banks, just over one in four say the same now.

Take a moment and review those numbers.

Now, let's steal Big Bank Customers...ready?

  • Meet The Decision Makers - Tomorrow I would scrap all the glitzy ad stuff and focus on having consumers meet the people who make banking decisions. We'd do this with video, blogs, social media...get out from behind the desk and get in front of the consumer;
  • Mr. President You're On - The bank president might have the corner office but it's time to get out and head to where the people are. If you were our client the bank president would be out of the office twice a week visiting with consumers at everything from Chamber Functions to High School Football games;
  • Record the Action - If your bank or savings and loan were my client we'd send a staffer with you to record video and still images of you being with consumers and potential customers and then share that in your Bank Blog;
  • Ramp Up Cause Marketing - Pick a charity...better yet...pick three and then make some serious donations of time and money to those local charities...and don't pick the "fancy" charities that EVERYBODY gives to...match the community need to the target consumer. BTW critters and kids always work best;
  • Forget About Yield - Please don't tell me that I'll get zip on my savings or that I am insured by FDIC (OK ya gotta do that) talk to ME..recognize that we need to build a relationship outside of earnings;
  • Formal Listening Posts - Get focus groups together, hold listening posts on a number of hot topics from credit repair to student loans to saving for college to business start-ups and then hold public meetings to offer solid advice. And, don't sent the marketing department...you Mr. President...go!

I promise you that you'll make a significant impact in your community and in your bottom line. But, more importantly you will become part of the community who is searching for...integrity.

You are welcome!   

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