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January 2007
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March 2007

Good for Farmers...Good For You?

Tractor_disk This is a post about the economy and what some shortline farm equipment manufacturers have to say about it.  You might ask, "So, what's farm stuff have to do with me?" on.

Our business is centered on making good products great through marketing and advertising.  We spend a lot of time reflecting on trends, forecasts and consumer demand.  (If you read our posts you already know that.)  We tend to pay attention to manufacturing...especially agricultural manufacturing. That's why a recent newsletter caught our attention.

Fema_2_2 The Farm Equipment Manufacturing Association (The other FEMA) recently posted, via their newsletter, some pretty optimistic news.  Even if you're not in the agriculture arena you might want to pay attention.  Here's the basic bullet points:

  • Several member manufacturers have already reported robust sales well in excess of projected numbers.
  • Of 500 agricultural dealers polled in a recent published survey 51% responded they expect sales to be up significantly over 2006.
  • Farmland is selling for record high prices.  For example, here in Iowa at 230-acre tract of farmland with no commercial development potential was sold last week at auction for $6,010 per acre.  The previous record price for similar land was $5,350.

What's going on?  Clearly the boost in ethanol production is the new "Gold Rush".  However other row crop products like soybeans with high concentrations of alpha-linolenic acid (good for you!) are clearly making gains.  Add to that the rush toward organic and specialty crops you've got a pretty robust economy  bubbling in ag.

Why should you pay attention when less than 2% of the US population is involved in production agriculture?  It's a driver.  A driver that can create opportunities.  Are you paying attention and attempting to capture your share of the market?

Who Is The Face of Your Company?

Woman_face_mask I rarely blog twice in one day...we don't want to overkill our welcome.  (too late?)  However, as I was driving across town from an appointment this hit me and I have to share!

Who is the "face" of your business and are you hiding it?  The old saying that people still buy from people exists but for some reason more and more companies brand themselves with everything but a person.  That can be a huge mistake...especially if you make the decision to blog.

Right in Des Moines...I can rattle off the names of people AND their business because they successfully made themselves the face of the company.  And...this was with traditional advertising.  They didn't hide behind a brand...they became the brand.  In a flash, here is a quick list:

Don Politte - Stivers Lincoln Mercury

Carl Moyer - Karl Chevorlet

Bill Reichardt - Reichardt's Clothing (Note...New Site This Summer!)

While this doesn't mean much to you folks outside the "Golden Circle" of Iowa.  Nearly everybody around here knows these people and the business name.  And, as an extra bonus I'll bet many know their "tag lines" as well. "Where price sells cars."  "...because I'm here and I own the store..."  "A customer for life."  Can your customers say the same about your product or service?

While it's not for everybody...if you can personalize what you'll be remembered.  Don't hide...come on out!

Marketing to Closed Trade Shows

Closed_woman Tis the "Trade Show Season" where many of our clients and perspective clients are heading out to show off their products.  While many of us are familiar with "Open" trade shows...those events where the public is welcome...Closed Trade Shows offer a unique and powerful opportunity to pre-sell your product or service and booth.

Here is the set up:  Your company is going to a trade show event where your perspective customers will be.  The public is NOT invited so it may be a small show with no more than 50 - 60 booth spaces and the potential of 300 - 500 visitors.  How do you pre-sell to this client base get some quality "face time"? Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • If there are 500 people coming to the event but you know only 50 of them are your key prospects.  Send them a handwritten note a week prior to the event.  Don't send them a goofy e-mail...make it personal.
  • can ratchet it up a notch.  Send them an empty ink pen box (or any empty box) with a handwritten note explaining their gift is in the booth.  All they need to do is come by and pick it up.
  • Do a room drop.  If many of the attendees are at the same hotel you can arrange for a room drop to everybody...or just your key clients.  But, don't drop your key clients a simple printed letter...again make it personal.  Remind them to come by for their gift. 
  • Make your booth unique, inviting and (if you can) get rid of the "front table".  Here is a great post from our friends at Smash Hit Displays says it all.
  • Do a show in a show. Invite your key prospects to a smaller (or larger) version of your product line in another room or suite where you'll have "one-on-one" time.

Bottom line:  Do something to make the return on investment real and tangible.  You're not going to the show just to have fun...right?  OK..maybe a little.  But, make the investment pay a little personal marketing and get some quality face time.  It works.

Out of the Office - Into the Light

People_door "Let's leave the confines of the office and the safety of our business blogs and have a conference!" 

Gosh...a conference of BLOGGERS!  Is the blogging industry attempting to get legitimate?  You think they need to? 

Over the past three days I've had conversations with at least eight people about the power of Business Blogging.  Some refuse to see the power, others are curious, one made the commitment to give it a try.

Once confined to "geeks" and overly active "social commentators" the Business Blog is quickly becoming a tool for marketing and advertising.  Is it the BEST tool.  No...because there is no "best".  It is, however, one of the basic tools if you hope folks will find you.  "Find-ability"...that is what it's all about. 

I have been wrong before: 

Urbandale_library Wrong Prediction #1:  I once said that libraries would become a thing of the past once the Internet took hold. WRONG!  They are getting bigger with more choice then ever before.  This is the Urbandale Library just blocks from our office.  Impressive huh?

Wrong Prediction #2:  I said, at a big time meeting, that magazines would be replaced by Internet reading.  WRONG!  In the past five years there have been hundreds of new titles (52 in 2006 alone!)...some make it...while others...

But...I've also had moments of clarity...and got stuff right.  I believe this is one.

Sobcon_button So..let's have a conference to say will be held in Chicago in May.  Check it just might legitimize what I've been telling you.  Oh... S.O.B. means "Successful and Outstanding Blogs" coined by Liz Strauss.

Thanks for coming by!

Sunday Morning Thoughts

Img_0199_t_4 Grab a cup of coffee and let's visit a little bit.  It's Sunday morning, a great time to catch up with each other...I promise a nugget of Marketing & Advertising that may help you transform your business...

Saturday night my Iowa Stars (AHL farm club to the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers) won!  BIG.  6 - 2 over the Milwaukee Admirals.  It was their first home game win since February 3.  Over 6,700 people were on hand to watch the game.  Stars_crowd By my count a record number of folks in the seats.  So, how did this happen?  I asked my friends in the front office, Ed Chamberlain and Steve Cypher, to explain.  Of course they said, "It's hockey and it is catching on."  OK...I'll give them that but it was also a reduced ticket night for kids, free hot dogs and a huge sports show less than 100 yards from the arena.  Got to give it to them...they packed the house with a promotion and then the team came out and won in an exciting game.  The "promise and the "delivery".  Both critical to success in any business.  Have you put a gage on your promise and delivery lately?

Phone_booth_g How are you communicating...with the tools of yesterday or today?  I had breakfast this morning with two friends.  Both Jerry and Michael asked me about blogging.  Actually they asked "Why?".  Which is a good question.  My answer:  I am communicating with my existing and potential clients.  They are learning from me and I am learning from them.  It's another tool in communication and marketing.  And it works. 

Dsc02341_1  For you folks in the Des Moines area...we had an interesting radio show this morning. (If you would like to read about it just click through.)  Imagine making a living on 10 acres of land!  That is exactly what Rick and Stacey Hartmann do.  And...guess what?  Rick points to "relationship marketing" as a big part of the success.  So, the question comes back to you:  What are you doing to build relationships in your marketing effort?

The message remains the same:  If you knew how well your marketing is working...would you continue to do the same thing?  Think about it.  If you don't us.  If you do know...but want to us.  If everything is us anyway.  We want to learn your secret!

Have a great day and let's strap in for Monday!

"Sorry For The Inconvenience"

Sorry I spent some time this morning reading the Seth Godin Blog and ran across (at least twice) the dreaded phrase:  "Sorry for the inconvenience."  Tell you what...let's make a pact to NEVER use that phrase again...

If there is one sentence in the language of business that I've come to hate it is that phrase.  Want to know why?  Because, in reality we know that "they" are not.  They are not really sorry for mine or your inconvenience.  In fact, I'll wager they really don't care at all if we are "inconvenienced".  (OK...maybe Seth is.)

I know, " is a message of comfort designed to show compassion to a customer who, somehow, is less than thrilled because we have failed to meet his/her expectations."  Bull! 

"I came here for gasoline because you sell it.  I don't need a car wash so I frankly don't care if your equipment is broken and you "are sorry for my inconvenience" because...I ain't inconvenienced." 

Yesterday I traveled to meet a was took me an additional hour to get to my destination.  "So, God...are you sorry for my inconvenience?"

Enough...just stop...please.

Wal-Mart & Farm Bill Marketing

Man_frustrated Anxiety...can be stressful.  Last night, at a wine tasting done by The Wine and Spirits Company in Urbandale, in just one hour I heard from two Des Moines companies that are very anxious about their image, brand, website, staffing, getting found and marketing outside their "comfort zone".  To them these issues seem way out of control and is it any wonder?  Let's look at two issues where the "big boys" are getting their lunch handed to them.

It's becoming almost comical the way Wal-Mart is attempting to re-invent themselves.  Wal_mart_logo Oh...for the simpler times of Sam Walton!  In case you had not heard Wal-Mart is doing (yet another) makeover.  (You can read the MSNBC story here.)  Bottom line is that Wal-Mart is going to attempt to re-vamp 1,800 stores in 18 months to entice a higher end shopper away from major competitors such as Target. Target_logo Target is growing in market share while Wal-Mart is not.  So, there's a bullseye (pun intended) on the back of their major competition.

The big question:  Will it work?  I don't think so.  It is going to be very difficult to turn decades of "fast and cheap" into "chic and trendy" with new flooring and a little paint. The other problem?  A move like this may offend the Wal-Mart base.  And, what might that be?  Read my earlier blog, "What Happened to Wal-Mart" 

Is it any wonder then why small business looks at this and says, "Gosh, I don't even come close to their marketing level.  How can I ever get it right?"

Case Study #2:  The 2007 Farm Bill

Sec_of_ag This is brought to you by the same government that can't seem to market the War in Iraq.  (Yep, we blogged about that as well.)  As America moves further and further away from its agricultural roots there is a huge disconnect between urban and rural.  The urban people are turning up the heat on farmers and the Farm Bill.  The most recent example I found in a most unlikely place:  Readers Digest.  Sacha Zimmerman in the March edition takes the conservation reserve program (a major part of the farm bill) on with an essay, "You Sow, They Reap".

Readers_digest_logo Why is this such a deal?  It's "Readers Digest" people!  No this magazine is not as "cool" as "People" or "Us" or "Them" or whatever magazine has a photo of Anna Nichole on the cover.  But...folks that subscribe to "Readers Digest" tend to be older and THEY VOTE!  Unlike many of the individuals who have their nose buried in the pages of "Star".

Sure there will be a rebuttal and other articles...but this is sort of major. 

Is it any wonder small business folks who do or do not have a marketing department look toward the sky and mumble, "If they screw it up so bad...what are my chances?"

Take a pill...sit back and think.  Look outside of your existing limits and market.  Think...and don't "do" all the time.  If we can help in the process...we're here.

Rural Lifestyle & Chrysler

Bottle_12 Put down the bottle...there is some sobering news about American Manufacturing that even the Germans can't seem to fix.

We'll also visit, briefly, our rural lifestyle radio show - Highway 6 - Your Road to the Country.

Say it ain't so...many of us were skeptical but also hopeful when German auto maker Daimler purchased Chrysler several years ago.  Logo_nwa_chrysler And for those of us who watched the company roll out many impressive new looks it seemed like the company was making serious headway.  We even enjoyed the quirky TV ads featuring Dr. Dieter Zetsche.  Yes, they were a bit strange...but interesting.

Well, now it seems interesting advertising was not enough.  Even though Daimler Chrysler posted a significant profit in 2006 it was not enough to save 13,000 of the 94,792 US jobs when the company announced cuts yesterday.  The company gave lots of reasons but for the sake of this post on advertising and marketing one clear message is that nobody in Detroit seems to be able to actually know their customers and gage the marketplace.  "Barefoot Bob" from the hills (and not Auburn Hills) could have told them that a focus on trucks and gas hungry vehicles was a problem TWO YEARS AGO!  Bottom line, know your customers, think, gage the attention...not higher salaries.

Chrysler300crwdsedanv8 Maybe we're just overly sensitive...This is Millie...yes, she loves the fuel but ain't she cute?  Great vehicle, quiet, roomy and a pleasure to drive.  But at 18mpg...well...

The new post about our radio show that centers on the Rural Lifestyle is up.  You get a chance...take a look!

For The Love Of.....

Candy_box_2 It's Valentines Day so if you will permit me a little latitude in the post I'm gong to visit about a number of things near and dear to my heart.  I promise you...we'll not leave without a marketing nugget!

As if Valentines Day isn't already enough of a mystery for most men: Today in the Des Moines Register I read a letter to the editor that says we should not be celebrating this holiday at all because its roots are in pagan religion. Stonehenge1 And, this holiday once was celebrated with orgy's that included sacrificing goats!  The writer quoted the Bible saying, "...thou shall not know the way of the heathen."  I can't wait to spring this one on my wife!

Valentines_day_1 Speaking of brides...  My wife has asked a couple of times when she would make "The Blog".  Tah - Dah!   We were at a conference where I was speaking on web design and blogging when the camera caught us.  Being married is pretty neat especially if you get lucky and "marry up".  By the way do you know that today over one billion Valentines Day cards will be given out?  Talk about pagans!

Kosherexpresslogo_1 This is a logo we created for a friends new business here in Des Moines.  Mayeer Schwarzbaum, who is 19, opened Kosher Express a restaurant and dairy deli at 2687 86th Street. (You can read about it in this DSM Register article.)  I have been trying to get him to hook up his Wi-Fi, get a website, start blogging and market in a number of different ways.  He ain't listening.  So, maybe he will listen to you:  515-331-0544  I'm serious, give him a call and if you are in the area, you might order too.

Colorful_candy_hearts_1 Candy Kisses to our readers:  I am constantly amazed by the reach of this project.  This week we received a number of responses to our post about "Trust" and a new TV ad from Pedigree Dog Food.  People whom I've never met send us e-mails asking for more information and often during conversation I'll start a story from The Blog and the other person says, "Oh, I know it on your blog."  I'm telling you...if you are reading this and in any kind of business and not blogging...we need to talk.

Closed0014_2 Finally, our offices will be closed at 2pm Central Time today February 14 in honor of Valentines Day.  For the love of...I'm cooking tonight (hey, it's a start!) and I need to make sure I have the right stuff.  In addition, do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a goat?

Thanks for stopping by...enjoy the day!

How To Follow Up Your Leads

Dsc02404 It's "Trade Show Season" and business leaders will spend thousands of dollars to attend these events all over the country. The problem is...much of the investment is wasted.

This photograph is something we've all seen.  A container with business cards gathered at a trade show.  What happens with these leads at your shop?  If you are like the majority of businesses the answer is a resounding, "NOTHING!" and that is sad.

It doesn't seem to matter how you do it (collecting cards, doing a sign up sheet, writting down the contact names) the raw data says that 79% of trade show leads receive zero follow up.  So, let's see, you spend $5,000 on a three day show (travel, lodging, meals, booth rental, staff time, etc.) and you don't follow up on the generated leads?  Amazing....let's fix it today!

Rule One:  Put somebody in charge.  The old saying, "what gets watched, gets done" is so true.  One person needs to be in charge of making sure these leads get a follow up.  The person doing this does not have to be a sales person.  You are wanting contact.  Sales will follow.  The job is to create a plan (well in advance of the show) and then follow through.  Leaving it up to chance is what creates a lousy return on your investment.

Rule Two:  Make it easy.  Trade shows are not so much about quantity as they are about quality.  Not everybody who leaves a card or a name is really interested...but you don't know that.  So make sure you have follow up materials ready to go right after the show.  Don't wait until the crew comes back to design the follow up piece.  Be prompt...

Final Rule:  Evaluate the progress.  Expect the person you put in charge of this effort to report back with results.  Engage this person to stick to it for at least two weeks.  Explain to the sales people how important this is...after all your not sending staff to a show just to party.

Picture_872_1 The best we've seen at this would be our client from Country Vet Pet Foods.  Gary Kubicek, their Marketing Manager, has follow up down to a science and makes sure there is contact made after the show.  Great job Gary!

Don't leave money on the've spent too much to cheat yourself out of the sale.  Trade shows can be budget busters and some companies quit...don't let it happen to you.

Nfmspicture You folks in Louisville...make sense?