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 No contact information and an outdated blog post.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 Power of Repeating Stuff

Who doesn't like repeat customers? Who doesn't like being told...a couple of times...that you've got a great logo or uniform or...heck a great haircut? Just as much as we enjoy repeat customers and repeated complements so too should we learn that when we repeat Repeat Customer something over and over it has real power.

In marketing and advertising it is what is called "Top of Mind Awareness". Making sure your product or service is at the top of mind when it comes to somebody buying what you are selling. In other words, "One and DONE" doesn't cut it. It takes an effort to make sure you repeat your message over and over.

Here are a couple of examples and, while they are for national brands, we think you'll get the message:

"Winston Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should" - Winston has been out of television and radio for decades...yet we remember the tag line;

"The Champagne of Bottled Beer" - Miller used this slogan for years, abandoned it and this year brought it back...for good reason;

"A Diamond is Forever" - DeBeers debuted this way back in 1948 and they are still using it because...it works;

"Breakfast of Champions" - Who doesn't know this 1930's Wheaties slogan;

"It's the Real Thing" - CocaCola hit it out of the park with this from 1970;

"Say it With Flowers" - This will surprise you, the slogan dates back to 1917!

You get the idea... True, each one of these slogans had real dollars behind them to push the idea and the brand. Maybe your business doesn't have that sort of advertising budget but you don't need all that cash to accomplish much the same thing.

Think of your value proposition and what you bring to your customers and then put that in words. Not a bunch of words but short and sweet. We know of a law firm that has the tag line, "We get things done!" because the number one complaint among legal clients is that far too often law firms don't get things done and clients have to wait...and wait. The firm went so far as to register the slogan and they use it...everywhere.

Find your value proposition and then repeat it...often and everywhere. The goal is to have your customers hear or see those words and identify you and your unique value.

It very well could bring you…repeat customers.


Do It Yourself!

The other day on our radio broadcast, Insight on Business the News Hour, we talked about DIY for social media and why that works better than hiring somebody to do the work it takes to engage consumers...your consumers. Don't get us wrong, there are lots and lots of very Keep Calm and DIYtalented people out there who will Tweet, Facebook and Blog for you but...they will never be as good as you.

The push back we get is, "I don't have time to write a 300 word post every week" or "I don't have time to Tweet ten or twelve times a day". The fact is...you do. Let me help you break it down.

If you are spending time with an outside contractor telling them your story, telling them about the impact you had on consumers last week telling them what is hot in your business then you've got time to write it down. It's not that you "don't have time" it's that you simply don't believe in the tools of social media and consumer engagement so you don't MAKE TIME.

I can share, from years of experience and collecting fees for doing social media for others, it is often painful. While we can write and communicate we are not as invested or know the details you know about your business. That is unless we have daily or weekly conversations and then we simply parrot back what you've already shared with us.

So, yes, you have the time.

So let's get started with the a simple three step process to get you to engage your customers in your business blog:

  • What is your Competitive Advantage? - Don't write stuff that doesn't matter to your customers...write down why your customers do business with you. Take fifteen minutes and think of the reasons they have built a relationship with you. Forget about "fast" and "free" focus on how you have built value into the business transaction; 
  • No Weeds - Don't get caught up in selling the steak...sell the sizzle. Far too often business wants to list out the details...all the details. You are miles ahead if you keep it simple and direct;
  • Solve Problems First - What is it that your business does to make your customers or clients life easier, less complicated more enjoyable. You, after all, are the expert in what you do. Now go and share those stories with others who have the same business or life issues. 

Three topics and fifteen to thirty minutes a week and you're in business. DIY Social Media is real and important to consumers they would love to hear from you. Once you've got this down then it is on to the tools that make organic social media work better.  That's next.

Thanks for reading...


National Small Business Week - Marketing Tips

All this week, in the United States, there is a celebration of National Small Business Week. Since 1963 the federal government has set aside a week for a Small Business Week Imagecelebration that is critical to our economy. A few Small Business Facts:

  • There are roughly 29 million small businesses in the U.S. which account for 54% of all sales in this country;
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs in the U.S. and 66% of all net new jobs;
  • There are 600,000 franchise operations here that employ over 8 million people;
  • The American small business sector occupies nearly 50% of all commercial space up to 34 billion square feet.

Astounding yes?

Many of you have a business that has under 500 employees so, this week is also your week. What can you do to take part in Small Business Week?  Some thoughts:

  • Share Your Story - Contact the local newspaper, radio or television station. Let them know this is National Small Business Week and share your small business story. Take a moment and share what your small business means to your employees and customers and how money spent with you stays in your local community. Believe us, reporters are looking for stories they can use all week long;
  • Get Social - Grab the National Small Business Logo from this post and share it on your social media channels...and tell your story there as well;
  • Say Thank You - Remember your customers...they are the people that keep your business in business. Post a note on social media, send a note to customers, enclose a note in your shipping items...let people know how important they are to your small business;
  • Email the Message - Send out a coupon or at least a thank you reminding your email list that this is National Small Business Week...many of your customers are also small businesses.

Happy National Small Business Week!


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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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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Don't Be Scared

We just started the fourth year of Insight on Business the News Hour. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept it is the only IOB_RGB web 1daily (M-F), hour long business news broadcast in the Midwest. OK, WBBM in Chicago has a business broadcast but nobody else that we could find. We're on AM-940, FM-104.5 and in HD at 103.3 HD2 out of the Des Moines Radio Group.

The format pf the broadcast is pretty simple we offer up the daily business news from the nation, region and the Greater Des Moines Metro. We do the markets and then two long-form business interviews with established businesses to startups. Each interview segment runs 12 -15 minutes.

And, nope, we don't charge these businesses to come in and tell their story. Otherwise it wouldn't be...news.

The biggest obstacle we have is not finding sponsors. It's not writing and delivering the news. The biggest obstacle is getting guests to come on the broadcast to tell their story. No kidding. We give these businesses $1,000 worth of on-air broadcast time, social media boosts and give them the photos we take in studio along with the mp3 so they can use it in their marketing effort time. You would think that business people would grab the opportunity to share their story but, sadly it's like pulling teeth.

Man Stressed
I moan about this from time to time and this week a client of our advertising agency said, "Michael, the reason they don't want to go on the air is because they are scared."

He's right. I get it that more people fear public speaking than death but really? We're offering an opportunity and so few take it.

I'm not complaining but I am hoping some of you will read this and consider that our goal is not to make you uncomfortable but to boost your brand and build awareness of what you do. It's called positive press.

So, when we call and leave a message...call us back? We would, honestly, love to help you tell your story.

 


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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