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December 2008
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February 2009

The Business of Advertising - Our Radio Topic Today

Some of you know that, for the past several years, I've hosted a radio show here in Central Iowa. (To hear the show from today just follow this link for the business portion PODCAST of the show.)   It's heard each Sunday morning at 8 on 98.3 WOW-FM (983wowfm) and it deals with State_Fair_2007_032 rural lifestyle and rural living.  The show for today will be slightly different.

I'm going to talk business and marketing and advertising...because SOMEBODY must.

Following a couple of important rural related news stories we're launching into a discussion (and you can join in if you like) about exactly why it's a bad idea to cut out or to cut back your advertising budget in the face of the recession.  It's time to dust off the studies and the stories of success in the face of tough economic times.

It's time for you to listen and resist the "March to Insolvency".

Yes, it is that important.  Here is what we'll cover.  (And if you missed the show you can click here for the business section of the show.) 

  • Historic proof you should be INCREASING your advertising in a recession;
  • The Internet and what you need to do NOW to fix what may be broken;
  • Buying "SMART" means buying advertising that matches your TARGET;
  • Understanding MEDIA stories and buying around them.

Finally, we'll talk about ZERO cost things you can do that will improve your market share and sales. 

Our firm is an advertising agency.  We do this EVERYDAY.  We don't make widgets or sell "Self Winding Torque Inducers"...we help people who have the guts and the product sense to sell more of what they produce.  So, this little tirade comes from fact and not emotion. 

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications - Thanks for reading and maybe for listening!

"Follow Me To Failure..."

I'm sitting in a meeting room with seven people representing various corporations.  There were a couple of steel manufacturers, a graphics company, a publisher and  two Empty meeting room manufacturers of equipment parts for the agricultural industry.

As we went around the table each (with the exception of the magazine publisher) indicated they were, "...cutting back on advertising".  Here is an example of one quote:  "In these economic times we looked at our budget for 2009 and decided to cut back on our 'soft costs' like advertising."

I wasn't shocked.  I've heard it too many times. 

Each time I hear those words I think of those who have said them before.  How, once they have made the dreadful decision to "tuck tail" and slash their advertising and marketing budgets, they have lost market share and sometimes lost their company.

Cutting marketing & advertising dollars now is a tragic mistake....want proof?

A famous McGraw-Hill Research study looked at 600 companies in 16 different industries and found those that maintained or increased their advertising/marketing budgets during a recession averaged significant sales growth during and three years following the recession.  "Sales of companies that were aggressive advertisers saw sales increase by 256% over those that did not keep up their advertising programs."

(For more on the subject read "Innovating through Recession" by Prof. Andrew Razeghi of the Kellogg School of Management - Northwestern University.)

Don't cut.  Do Target and Innovate!

(UPDATE:  Our Topic on the Radio Show for Sunday Morning at 8 will be about Advertisng in a Recession.  Hope you can listen.)

You can increase your sales not only by continued advertising but also by being more careful where you advertise and with what.  We'll cover those two topics tomorrow.  But today...we beg you do not make the mistake others have.  It's not worth the gamble.

Thanks for reading...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications




Business Networking on Steriods...

I've just attended my first business networking event hosted by the national business networking group BNI founded by Dr. Ivan Misner, "The Father of Modern Networking". 

It is an amazing process and conception:  A very structured meeting that forces attendees to talk about their business, make referrals and build on relationship marketing.  And, for BNI, they get to monetize "getting to know each other".  Brilliant!BNI 2

There were roughly 45 people who met for this breakfast meeting.  (They meet everyThursday at 7am) Most of them were independent business folks with a smattering of "corporate" PR people building brand awareness on a local level.  I was invited by my friend H.A. Gross of Plaza Printers. (Photo: John Burns, Independent Mortgage and Shelana Laing, Glen Oaks Country Club)  The "hook" we believe is the focus on actually building business on relationship marketing and the interesting "side benefit" of locking out your competition.  (only one insurance person, car dealer, investment banker, printer...or advertising agency can belong.  Per chapter - another brilliant BNI move.)

BNI 1 Here is the interesting "insight" from our vantage point:  What happened to the local Chamber of Commerce?  When you think of it, this should beTHEIR deal.  They should be the ones who create a way and a method for intense business networking. After all, that has been their "mission" on the local level for years.  Somebody was sleeping and now private industry steps in?  Could spell trouble for the future?

Are we going to dump our chamber membership?  Nope.  Are we going to join BNI...not sure.  However, from a marketing and public relations standpoint this can only spell troubles for local chambers or it can spell HUGE opportunity to step in, create a program and increase the value of membership dollars.  That world VALUE is the key.  (For those of you involved in "tweetups" you really know about value!)

So is the word, "focus".

What is your main business objective and what are the very best ways to achieve it?  Who is your market and what value can you bring to the market place with your product or service? 

In the economy we are all facing there is not an inch of room for guessing.

We'll let you know more about how all this shakes out...thanks for reading.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

(Second photo: Travis Peterson of Artistic Concretetalks about his business and how to add value to concrete products.  Love the sign behind him....$1,950 for an Oliver four row picker...ahhh the history.)

Sometimes It Makes Ya Crazy....

Today I was doing some work for our rural lifestyle radio show, Highway 6- Your Road to the Country.  Actually, I was looking for another sponsor.  So, I started checking Man gun or noose likely prospects and came across yet another valuable lesson in marketing.  Please, make sure you read this.  What I found made me a little crazy. Here you go:

Always make sure what you "say" on your actually "do".  We call this "transparency" and it is vital to building a solid brand.  Ready?

From the website:

"Anymore it seems all businesses are big chains, lacking concern for their customer's needs.  Not true.  Business Name (I'm trying to protect them, until I can HELP them!) is a family-owned business that has a long retail history and an inventory that includes everything from ABC to XYZ. At our store we stress quality service and stand behind our products with a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee."

Sounds nice and maybe they DO have a 100% satisfaction guarantee.  But you can not get in touch with them to figure it out.

The website has a "contact us" page.  It's a form the "customer" fills out and then submits.  However, unless you have a user name and password.  You can't send it.  A user name and password to send in a form?  Corporate phone number?  Forget it.  Actual names of people responsible?  Nah...  Now there's a great way to meet "customer needs".

Then a visit to the "News Page" we read a piece from over a year ago.  The product links don't work and the "In Store Specials" page is still under construction....  Still or never been?

Promise me...if you are reading this, GO NOW to your web-page and make sure you are, in fact, meeting your "customer needs" without putting them through some crazy hoops.  For "Business Name" is on the way.  If you will just listen!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications...really, we can help with this stuff.....

Dr. Michael Dirr And Social Media

This week opened my eyes to a whole new set of opportunities for a great industry.  Professional landscape folks, nursery owners and turf professionals from the Midwest gathered at The Western a closed trade show sponsored by the Western Nursery and Landscape Association.  It's an event where owners and retail meet with manufacturers and wholesalers to buy, sell and trade.

They also come to learn.

Dr. Michael Dirr is an expert in the field from the University of Georgia.  He's written WNLA Michael friends  seven books about the industry and when it comes to "woodys" and "virburnums" he knows his stuff.  (He is pictured here between two friends, Don Faller of Praire Gold Nursery of York, NE and Gary Ladmanof Classic Virburnums.)  Some attendees told me that if Michael Dirr was not at the event...they would have "skipped it".  He is that well known...

Following a presentation by Dr. Bridget Behe on website development and e-commerce, Dr. Dirr asked me about websites and social media.  He knows the nursery business and now wants to learn how to better connect outside of traditional print media.  I suggested a business blog.  He's thinking about it.  To give him (and you) a boost check this by The Brand Chef - Andrew B. Clark, "A Dozen Ways to Tech Up In 2009".   Perhaps finding this might encourage his efforts?

It was a great show and event.  Our client NatraTurf was well received and we all learned so much more.  Here's looking toward future relationships and...growth.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications


Stumbling On So Much Opportunity!

I've been attending The Western Show sponsored by the Western Nursery and Landscape Association.  On Monday I sat in on an interesting seminar by Dr. Bridget WNLA Behe  Behe of Michigan State University.  Her presentation was "Surf's Up! Gardeners are Looking for Information Online...and Making Purchases".  It's about a study she conducted regarding the habits of online looking and buying for the garden industry five years ago.  Good stuff...but talk about a marketing opportunity!

There must have been 75 people in the group who were lapping up, what many of us in the advertising/marketing world would consider, old news.  "Should you hire out web design or do it yourself?" (Thanks Bridget for the nod to professional creation!)  "Basic design concerns."  "Updating websites."  "Getting found on the Internet."  Pretty basic stuff...but the kicker was how much of this was "new" to the people in the room!  When I asked a question about Social Media like Twitter, Facebook and Business Blogging...Dr. Behe suggested we needed to do baby steps first.

It pointed out the reality that just when you think everybody that should be using web marketing find out that many in a particular industry need to start.  It was worth the drive and the time!

Tomorrow, Dr. Michael Dirr and the Internet...oh, and social media.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications - Where we "get it" if you "want it".


Hanging Out At The Western...

So, here I am, Sunday night and sitting in a hotel room overlooking the Overland Park Convention Center.  We're here with NatraTurf our client who is breaking into the 2008_convention_center professional turf and landscaping industry.  So, we came to The Western Show, sponsored by the Western Nursery and Landscaping Association.  Lots of displays...few people wandering the isles.

"It's the economy", said one visitor to the show from Kansas.  "We're in the tree nursery business and we've got enough work to keep us going through the spring.  But, after that, it's anybody's guess."

Her statement was echoed among others, "Home landscaping is pretty dead but we've got some commercial work ahead of us.  But, once that is done..."

The economy and value.  The two most talked about issues during our first eight hours on site.

That's why it's great to be representing NatraTurf a company that makes products to reduce turf water consumption and reduce the amount of chemical fertilizer used by professionals.  NatraTurf products not only save money...but also the environment.  It's not often that a product offering matches the needs of the industry.  But this time it does.

Tomorrow we continue our search for members of the Iowa Nursery & Landscape Association...we know you are here somewhere...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications


What If You Saw Possibilities?

One of my best friends, Gale McKinney saw his business redefine itself.  This "redefining" caused monumental changes in how they marketed themselves.  And they never looked back.   Gale is a CPA and about a dozen years or so ago Certified Public Accountants got tired of simply being "number crunchers" and "audit firms" so they Crystal ball became business consultants.

No longer was the CPA somebody who got your corporate or individual income tax numbers and did the best they could to get you to pay little or no taxes. They filled the rest of the year up with practical business consulting projects that looked "inside" the numbers...and now they work...all the time.

What they saw were opportunities that had been sliding past them...and now they help other corporations see what they've been missing.

It's the same with advertising agencies.  Only we look at market possibilities that our clients miss because they are too close to the daily battle.

Sure we create some great looking print advertising for magazines, billboards and (gulp) even newspapers.  Yes, we create stunning websites and amazing advertising campaigns linking all forms of media.  But we also dream...

Stones We look at the market and wonder, "what if?".  What can we build?  What if our client takes the very same product they are making for one consumer group, repackage it and break into another brand new consumer group?  What if our client knows plenty about "special formulas" but nothing about being able to send those messages to new customers who can appreciate their work at creating wholesome food?

What if they don't know there is a market for natural, food?

What if?

And, it works all across the board.  We suspect there isn't a product being made right now that could not alter a few things and be re-branded or marketed to a whole new consumer group.   And, even the stuff that has been sold for years to the core demographic can be given new life and increased sales.  With a little thought...

It's what we do at advertising agencies.  Sure, we can take orders for pretty pictures or we can create new markets and new customers.

Which would you rather have?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications - Let us put our feet up and think for you....

Goin' Green In Kansas City...

In just a few days I'll be traveling to Overland Park, Kansas (OK...close to Kansas City!) to take part in The Western Trade Show a presentation of the Western Nursery and Landscape Association.  I'll be with our client, NatraTurf and it's going to be a blast!NatraTurf_drop_logo_RGB

For a number of years NatraTurf has been doing testing on products designed to cut water consumption at golf courses, reduce the amount of fertilizer applied to lawns and turf and create a new way of thinking when it comes to grounds care.

So far we've developed three products.  HydroSave - Ultra Greens Grade is a product that promotes root growth, cuts water consumption on golf greens and naturally ads sulfur to the soil, which improves growing conditions.  It's really an amazing product that we hope to expand into the consumer world. 

In addition we've also created HydroSave - Fairway Formula and SpotGone.  The Fairway Formula not only helps golf and turf professionals use less water and fertilizer it also naturally opens up the soil and aerates it for better growth.  No more taking "plugs" out of the turf. This stuff actually decreases the soil compaction issue...naturally.

SpotGone is a fun product for homeowners that are tired of pet urine spots in their yard.  Available in a "shaker bag" owners simply shake a little on the spot and within just a few's gone!  The tag line is, "Get Rid of the Spots...Keep the Dog!"

We're looking forward to talking to turf professionals at the Western Show...we're also there to learn what else we can bring to market that will help the industry...and our planet!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications - Where we're proud to represent great clients!