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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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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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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Never Mind We've Got This...

I recently attended a meeting of about 20 volunteers who had gathered to discuss Man Head in Handscommunication efforts. The communication they desire is to build brand awareness and to share information critical to their brand and interested consumers. From what I could gather, from the brief introductions, I was the only professional marketer in the room.

In that two hour meeting there was plenty of discussion about social media, particularly Facebook. An hour into the meeting I asked a question about their existing website, "As with any brand the company website is often the first point of contact among consumers seeking more information about the product or service. It would seem to me that your first consideration would be to put up a website that is mobile friendly, easy to maintain and simple to navigate." I should note here their existing website has none of those qualities.

The response was, "The people we are attempting to reach do not go to websites they would much rather get their information from Facebook." In other words, "Shut up. We've got this."

I spent the next hour listening to minutia about Facebook. From posting to monitoring to limiting access of comments. It was an interesting insight on "group think" with the group having no clear understanding of marketing their message.

For those of you who are in business, and have an interest, allow me offer some simple marketing and advertising thoughts when it comes to building your brand. Ready?

Websites - In my professional opinion your website should be the foundation of your brand. It is your website that is accessible to the world. It is the repository of your brand message, contact information, blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter links. It must be mobile friendly. It must be updated on a regular basis and it must contain information of value to consumers. Ignoring that simple truth is putting your brand at jeopardy.

Blogging - Second only to your website should be your business blog. It is here where your "voice" can be shared in well thought out posts. For folks who want to know more about your business or non-profit your blog can be that gateway. Then use Social Media to share that message with a wider audience. Finally, when your blog becomes part of your Website Home Page you are updating content each time you post. And that is critical to Google Ranking and SEO.

Facebook - The potential universe for this particular non-profit would be roughly 300,000 people of various ages, ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles. Their existing public Facebook page has about 800 followers yet they believe this should be their main branding tool. They are talking to themselves. There is a place for Facebook but it should never be your primary marketing tool. Never.

Twitter -There seemed to be some confusion about how to best use Twitter. We find it to be an amazing news gathering and sharing tool that should, in our opinion, never be linked to your Facebook stream. They are two very different forms of communication and when your Twitter feed has a few words and then that Facebook link it tells those of us who use Twitter on a daily basis you're not really putting in the work to share your brand. We've got a blog post on that from several years ago. It will offer you "why".

YouTube - The world loves video. Here is a post from 2012 that speaks to the power of video for business THEN. Today the numbers are even more staggering. However, to gain traction the video that is produced must be well done, share valuable information and have the ability to capture the attention of the consumer in the first five seconds. This is a project best done by professionals otherwise it can be a waste of time.

Instagram - There was little talk about this social media tool that we've found to be fun, informative and growing in popularity. However, Instagram does have some limitations such as linking and we believe you must post to the platform at least three times a day to gain traction.

Just some of the things I would have shared with my friends however...they were not really interested. They've got this covered...

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It's Here and We Warned You

The First Quarter is here. For many businesses it's a sobering reality for others it is full of First Quarteropportunity. Those businesses who remain aggressive in their marketing efforts will continue to build on past success. They know now is not to disappear from the consumer radar. So, how about some tips on how to better stay "top of mind" and turn the First Quarter positive:

Stay in the Game - I was visiting with a radio media professional last week who told me advertisers are starting to understand that taking the First Quarter "off" is a self fulfilling prophecy of doom. "I think the recession taught advertisers a lesson", he said. "Those advertisers who stayed in the game and continued to market their goods and services picked up market share from their competition. It used to be that, in our business, I could take a couple of weeks off in January. Today I'm at the office scheduling advertising and filling our radio inventory for January and February. These advertisers have learned that it's now a 12 month season."

Use Video - We are strong believers in video, always have been. Consumers eat it up like crazy and today there are dozens of ways to create and use video content. Studies have shown that consumers who view video are 1.81 times more likely to purchase than non viewers. And, because of social media your video can be viewed and shared across a wide range of channels. If you are doing email marketing you should also be aware of the fact that when the word "video" is posted in the subject line there is a massive increase in the open rate.

Visual Content Wins - We've said it for years, "Less is More" when it comes to marketing. Consumers don't have the time (or interest) in reading long pages of copy in your print ads, on your website, in your newsletter. Use images as often as possible to drive home the point of your message. And, if you can, use organic visuals rather than stock photos. It shows you have taken the time to tell your story rather than "buying" it.

Stay Connected - You already have a firm client/customer base. Stay connected to them through your blog, newsletter and an occasional hand written note of appreciation. Staying "top of mind" means that you need to stay connected to your best customers.

Start Your Referral Marketing Campaign - I recently wrote about how to get started in referral marketing. Once again, you already have "brand warriors" out there. Now is the time to weaponize them and allow them to help influence consumers who may not know how your product/service can benefit them.

While it may be the first month of the New Year it does not mean you are too late to capture more market share in the First Quarter but...you better get started.

Thanks for reading and for more on business check out our long-form business interviews from Insight on Business the News Hour our Monday - Friday 5:00 PM broadcast.

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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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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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