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February 2007
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April 2007

Blogging Issues for Saturday!

Woman_geek "Pssst....hey Big Boy are you making some critical Blogging Mistakes?

Folks who write Business Blogs do so, I believe, because we honestly want to share information and ideas with other people.  I know we sure haven't made much money offering "Blogging Advice" to the masses. But it is fun to watch folks grow.

We have, I know, made an impact on a couple of our clients such as the National Tractor Parts Dealer Association (NTPDA) as they ramp up their efforts and have made their Blog part of their website.

We're impressed that our friends from Worthington Ag Parts and Mike Winter have understood the importance of using the Business Blog as a tool to communicate within a company.  Which, by the way, was the Genesis of the Blog.

This brings us to a recent post by our friend and Central Iowa Blogger Mike Sansone.  Mike often gives us material to read, digest and then use it...or toss it.  The other day he directed our attention to Blogger Christine Kane and her 18 Stupid Mistakes Bloggers Make in their First Year.  It is worth a read...for everybody.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can contact us by....clicking here!

The Saga Continues - Closed Mouths?

Rat There may be more headaches in the pet food world now that MSNBC has announced that rat poison may be the factor linked with recalled pet foods produced by Menu Foods for a host of private label companies.

By the time you read this Blog it may be old news and no, we're not pretending to be a news agency that is delivering you information you can't get elsewhere.  This however, is another major setback with regard to the public relations issues we raised yesterday. 

Closed_mouth Now for something different:  When is it appropriate to issue the words, "No Comment"?

  • When you are guilty and trying to buy time.
  • When you know the answer but can't say.
  • When you know, but just want "it" to go away?

I'm really interested in your take on this.  Usually we tell our clients, from the public relations position, that it is always best NEVER to say, "No Comment" because that simply allows all kinds of speculation.  Better, we think to take charge of the issue and respond in a way that does no further damage but can answer the questions by putting the issue out on your terms.

What say you?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing and Communications where you can always make contact with us by clicking here.

Rodney Miller & Dog Food

Man_stupid Two public relations nightmares happened during the past couple of days.  One involves millions of people and their pets as veterinary medical experts continue to seek answers as to why cats and dogs are dying.  The other involves dealers of Montana Tractors compact tractors.  How are they related?

I'd not want to be the ad agency that works for Iams, Eukanuba or any one of the "higher end" dog or cat food companies.  You see, their "premium brands" have been recalled along with Price Chopper and Save-a-Lot.  Seems the same company, Menu Foods makes them all.  No matter if there are different formulas the "cat is out of the bag" in the mind of the consumer.  They have got to be asking themselves, "So, you mean I've been paying premium prices for Fluffy's food and I could have been buying Ol' Roy from Wal-Mart?"  Ouch...this should be interesting to watch.

Rodney_miller Meanwhile in Arkansas, compact tractor company Montana Tractor will have some (in the words of Desi Arnaz), "Splainin' to do" when they come face to face with their expanding dealer network.  Yesterday Rodney Miller the, well respected and admired, CEO of Montana Tractor tendered his unexpected resignation.  Montana Tractor, with deep money from the empire of J B Hunt Trucking was on a roll and racking up a solid dealer network along with solid sales.  Rodney, the passion and fire of the company, was well liked and admired by even the competition.

So...what is the connection?  Damage control.  So both cases we're not seeing many positive moves.  Pet food companies are all shaking in their boots as consumers see through a smoke screen.  Compact tractor dealers?  They are going to want answers and reassurance.  So far the corporate website for Montana is pretty silent and looks like "business as usual". (they just switched photos...) But, it's not and dealers now know it.

Bottom line:  Flashy commercials and ad campaigns work the good times...but you also better have a plan in place for when things go south.  And that can happen at any moment.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always make contact with us by clicking here.

"The Bag Man" LOVE IT!

Shop_man_3 I get to read lots of different Blogs and there is never a lack of new and innovative ideas floating around out there.  This recent post by my friend Tom Vander Well of the c wenger group is priceless.  It's some more COMMON SENSE stuff business owners should pick up on but so often don't.  I encourage you to click right here to read all about..."The Bag Man".  The question now is...what are you overlooking in your business that would make a positive influence on your customer?  Enjoy and thanks Tom!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing and Communications where you can always make contact with us right here.

"Nobody will buy it. It's just made too well."

Mechanic2 Yesterday we visited about being BOLD and I promised you a story that I found amazing.  Here is is...from just a couple of days ago.

My call to this farm equipment manufacturer was in response to a question I had from another client.  I was doing a little background research.  During the conversation the manufacturer said to me, "We're not having much luck selling our __________. (Can't tell ya.)  The darn thing retails for about 35% more than the competition so we're cutting back and refocusing on our major items."

I asked my friend to tell me the story.  He said, "Well, we make the best ________ on the market.  Nobody puts this kind of steel in their __________, the paint we use lasts and lasts and our moving parts just don't wear out, they are the best in the industry.  But, we can't compete with the competition and their price."

We talked for a bit longer, I offered some free help and they declined.  I can't really afford to give away my services...but these people didn't need much.  Just a swift kick...into reality.

It wouldn't be so bad...but I've now heard this story from two different farm equipment manufacturers in the past six months.  Let's go over the problems:

  • "Our product costs more than the competition."
  • "We cost more because we build a better product."
  • "Service time for our equipment is nearly zero."
  • "We can't get people to give it a try, price scares them."

Quick show of hands... How many of you would love to have those problems?  I would.  And, tell you what else.  IF this company hired us to turn them around...we'd have it done in less than a year.  It's all about focus and knowing the customer. 

Blindfold They are trying to market their high end product the same way every other manufacturer of this type of machinery does.  That is why it is not working.  There IS a market for this...they just don't see it. Swinging a stick with a blindfold on. 

The funny thing is, this company really doesn't have any competition.  They just don't know it.  I sometimes wonder how many good companies go south because they just can't see the opportunity. 

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always reach us by left clicking here.


Letter_b I think I'm going to quit the advertising business...that is...if one more person comes to me and says, "We like the concept, but shouldn't we tone down the wording?  Somebody may get the wrong idea." 

Why are we so nice?  Never mind that the competition would love nothing more than to see your company featured on the Obituary Page of the business record.  I have friends from New York who scoff at us here in the Heartland and trade jokes about how "Nice the Midwesterners are..." while they create the next project to separate us from our hard earned dollar.

OK, OK....I'm ranting now.  Doing so...maybe helps me get your attention.

Here is a case study:  We have an existing client that has a great alternative for a product commonly used in agriculture.  These folks have been in business for 15 years, have an excellent track record and proof positive that their product is superior to the the "traditional" product used by 90% of row crop farmers.  Yet, they were going nowhere.

Never mind that the new product was cheaper, worked faster, caused less disruption to the soil and actually worked.  Dealers simply were not "buying it".  So, last year I had a meeting with the client and said, "This is nuts...let's pull off the gloves and be BOLD!"

We quit trying to "spoon feed" dealers and went directly to the consumer with some pretty bold statements and the proof that backs it up.  We did some aggressive advertising, took the competition head on're sold out.  That's right...some product is now on back order.  It happened that quickly.

So, are you bold enough or are you making excuses for your product or service?  Do you really believe in what you say your product can do?  If is your challenge TWO B BOLD! 

Oh...the "two"?  Sometimes it takes another set of eyes to hold up the plain truth.  Maybe we can help...but don't expect us to "tone it down".

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always make contact with us by clicking...right here. Thanks for reading...Tomorrow:  Case Study Number ain't gonna believe it.

Coming Out of the Fog...

Train_fog I'm not whining here...just an observation.  This past weekend I had a fantastic, textbook case of the flu.  Friday...I was fine...Saturday morning...ouch! Because I write a business blog and work in the area of marketing and public relations it's almost like a metaphor for some companies I've tried to help.  Only they don't get better.

Nope, not going to name them.  It really wouldn't matter because they are not about to read anything as silly as a blog.  They already know everything...and you already know them.

These are the businesses that chug along using a marketing plan perfect for a steam engine.  "Lay down the track, set the locomotive in place, stoke the boilers and full steam ahead!"  They rush forward into the fog, past the switch (that they couldn't see) and end up in the wrong place.

Why?  Because, like a train track, their marketing plan is firmly set and doesn't allow for any route changes.

But, consumers are not stationary...they are very fluid.  Different things motivate them.  It could be price, convenience, style any number of things.  To set off on a ridged set of tracks and into the fog of the consumer market can be very dangerous.

What has changed about your market?  Is the target demographic you had yesterday the same as today?  What are you doing to monitor your progress?  Once you come out of the fog...can you adjust in time?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations where, if you've got a question or comment, you can always reach us by clicking here.

Sunday Morning Thoughts...

Img_0199_t Pour a cup and let's visit about a couple of things...not much business...but maybe some insight.  Sunday Morning is a great time for us to catch up with what is going on.

I am so bummed!  I missed St. Patrick's Day, missed the first annual BLOGBQ event at Doug Mitchell's house (Doug by the way is a CIB too), missed reading the Des Moines Register, missed my daily blog and missed most of Saturday.  Well, in fact, all of Saturday.

Trust_doctor I was sick...I mean...sick!  Guess it was the flu.  Really knocked me out and I had so much to do.  Like get ready for our radio show on Sunday Morning.  Yikes!  My wife was a good nurse and feeling much, much better today.  Did not go to the doctor...toughed it out.  Amazing how such a bug can get you...

Golf_fairway Here is one for you...  What would you say if somebody had found a product that when used on golf courses can cut the water consumption by 1/3 to 1/2?  Pretty amazing huh?  I'm sitting with one of our clients last week and we are discussing new products when one of the folks at the table said, "We've got this one product that we think might be valuable..."  He went on to tell me about their early tests.  Whoa!   We're doing the media work on it right now.  IF this works like we think...and IF we can get the golf course folks on board.  It will transform this company...and help us conserve on water while saving a great deal of money. More coming soon.

Us_rodeo I spent three hours with my friends at US Rodeo Supply last week.  These guys have an amazing business model that is working...well.  Once blowing through loads of cash this little company has learned the value of sticking to a core product.  We hope to do more with Matt Owen and his company...which, by the way you can see by clicking right here.  And, Matt is a fellow Central Iowa Blogger that has more on his mind than rodeo.  You can connect with his Business Blog right here.

Spur_straps I also spent some time at the bedside of an old friend.  Johnny Hall of Harcourt, Iowa.  Johnny who just turned 65 is an old rough-stock rider and husband of a pretty fair barrel racer...Jane.  We spent many a weekend together telling stories and drinking beer.  He's in the hospital now and the doctors tell us he won't make it to the "next go".  I'm grateful I made the trip to see him last week.  Just to tell him how much his life meant to me and so many others.  While I was there his daughter called to tell him a new mare was being shipped up from Arizona and should arrive on the 23rd.  Hope he gets the chance to see her.  I hear she is one fast three year old.

Sorry to leave you with such a story...but maybe it helps all of us focus a bit more on what is really important in life.

Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can make contact with us...anytime...simply by left clicking here.

Rural Lifestyle Radio...

Hwy61_image_2 A quick reminder for those of you in the Des Moines Market.  Our rural lifestyle radio show, Highway 6 - Your Road to the country will again air at 8am this Sunday on 98.3 WOW-FM here in Des Moines.  We've been in the rural lifestyle market for years and we "get it".  You are invited to come along for the ride.  And, if you would like to learn more about what makes these folks tick...we invite you to give us a call or send us an e-mail.

Great show this week and to get connected to our rural lifestyle blog...just click right here!  Thanks for reading...and for listening!

Raise Prices - Stay in Business

Arrow_dollar_signs Yesterday I spent several hours with a perspective client.  In the middle of the discussion, as he was telling me his marketing story he said, "We were about to go under.  Maybe had 60 days left.  One of several things I did was raise our prices by 30%.  We've never looked back."

My new friend also cut the bone.  The "bone" was a deep 20% cut over a two month period.  You do the math...

The common wisdom for companies who are in serious financial difficulty is to cut price and costs.  Our friends at K-Mart found out several years ago that low price does not make up for a lack of marketing and...that may be a recipe for real trouble

Last night I had a meeting with another client.  At issue was a discussion on price.  Some members of their Board of Directors wanted to see a price cut.  They had no real reason for their thoughts other than it, "...might attract new customers."  Big word here:  "Might". 

What I was actually hearing: "Our product is simply not worth what we are currently charging.  We think the value is over-blown so we need to reduce prices..."  Rubbish.

My suggestion was that several of he members of the Board should resign.  You see, it's NOT a value thing.  It is a self deprecation thing.  In other words, "I don't think much of our product, therefore others do not see value in our product.  Let's reduce the price in an effort to survive."

Anytime you give your product or service's hard to return value in the mind of the customer.  (Remember that...)

It's easier to be better, it's easier to defend a high price over a low price and it is easier to grow with that mentality.  Your thoughts???

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always make contact with us by putting your cursor right here and left click. Thanks for reading!