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Actually, we were never hired...but it's a great story about how we fired ourselves...BEFOREMan Fired 2 we got the job.

The other day I received an e-mail from a mid-western manufacturer asking us if we were interested in doing some work for them.  They wanted to increase their manufacturing capacity and asked, "So, can you design a survey item that will actually get returned?"

The simple answer is, "Yes."   But I wanted to talk about depth.  So we set a telephone interview for this afternoon and after the "howdy - hi" portion got into our questions:

  1. Where, in the nation or region are the majority of your clients?  "Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota."
  2. Long term customers or recent?  "Most are long term."
  3. In the three states, about how many customers do you have?  "Seventy."
  4. How were your customers affected by the recession?  "Most faired pretty well and they are starting to climb back."
  5. Of the seventy customers how many might, in your opinion, have the capacity to increase their buys from you?  "Maybe forty-five."

That's when I fired us. 

"Look", I said, "we could create a survey for you and take your money and maybe even sell you more stuff.  But what you need to do, and you are not going to like my answer, is get in your vehicle and go see each one of these customers.  You, not a sales person, not somebody else from the" 

It's not always about technology.  It's not always about a third-person visit.  It's about relationships and going out and asking for the business.

In retrospect, perhaps we didn't fire ourselves...but made a friend.

Thanks for coming by.



A "Paws" from Advertising & Marketing...

I know...I crack myself up.  Let's get right to it.  A year ago I had the opportunity to sit in on the organizational meeting of The Pet Project Midwest.  It wasn't that I had lots of extra time...but it was, and is, a break-through idea that both my bride and I support.  Last night we attended the "First Birthday Party" for the group that now has a location and has been supporting disadvantaged local pet owners by supplying food...all during the recession and beyond.  Here is a brief video.  More below!

To learn more about The Pet Pantry and Iowa Pet Alert (a lost and found gone digital) head over to and you can follow them on Twitter: @iapetalert, @ThePetProject. And, yes, there is a Facebook Page too.  This is really, really good stuff and they are looking for help.  By the way, least you think this is simply passion.  Ask to see their detailed business plan.  Serious stuff.

Thanks for coming by:  Follow us @MichaelLibbie or @InsightADV or @RuralLifeRadio.   Now, back to our regularly scheduled program....




Sunday Morning Coffee - April 25, 2010

Welcome back to Sunday Morning Coffee a time when we look back on a week that was and a glimpse forward to what's coming up.  It's sort of like sitting down with friends at a coffee shop or cafe and sharing stories.  And, because it's a conversation, I'm interested in your take.  You can comment here or send me an e-mail   Coffee is hot...have another cup?

Wellmark logo It's getting really spooky...  This past week Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, one of the largest employers in Des Moines, decided to go "all in" when it comes to battling smokers and smoking.  According to published reports, in the Des Moines Register, job applicants will have to testify they are "tobacco-free" (even at home) and those employees who currently "use" will have to kick the habit by October 1. The "edict" goes into effect June 1.   I'm not a smoker or tobacco user but isn't this too much?  Can Gestapo tactics be next?  Rewarding people who "turn in" folks that have a cigar on their deck, after supper?  And leather coats appearing at your desk the next morning, "Papers! You have papers?!?"  Could eating fast food be next?  How about having sexual relations, unprotected?  Or driving a vehicle that has bad tires?  Anybody else see a problem here?IMG_0138

Kizzy, our African Gray parrot,  has her own Twitter account.  She is nearly a year old and wanted to 'stretch her wings' a bit.  You can visit with her, should you wish, on Twitter: @Kizzy_Bird.  Could a Facebook page be far behind?  Of course...

Using on-line video to promote your business?  No?  Why not?  Last week I published this piece about how we use video to promote our business and the products and services of our clients. is why you should:  Nielsen Research, in a study released last week, says that nearly 73% of Broadband Internet users have watched on-line videos...and actually enjoy doing so. Here is that study.  You here yet?  Why not?

Coming up this week I'm going to share a customer service story with you that, once again, proves you should be doing business with locally owned, family run businesses over the "big box".  Price is not, and should not be, the main focus when you buy goods and services.  I'm hoping that this gives hope to those business owners who are thinking "price sells" and rushing toward the bottom trying to out-price each other.  It doesn't work.

Waiter food Enjoy eating out?

You must and quick serve restaurants increased their advertising dollars by over 2% to nearly $4.1 billion during 2009.  Meanwhile, and this is a bonus, what two cities in the United States does the most restaurant business.  Go ahead, think on this for a minute. (I'll also suggest to you why...)  New York City?  Nope...   St. Louis?  Nope.  How about that KC BBQ....ahhh....nah.  It's Fort Walton Beach, FL and close behind is Myrtle Beach, SC.  HUH!?!?!??  Think about it for a minute.  The median age, in both cities is nearly 39 years old. Older, stable and time to use their money.  Median age in St. Louis is 33 years old, Kansas City, 33, Minneapolis 32 and Des Moines, 33.  Those pesky Baby-Boomers...  But, don't take my word for is the study complete with the numbers.

Care about the Rural Economy in America?  You should...  Dr. Ernie Goss of Creighton University, Omaha, had this report about the health of our rural areas.  Is it better?  Have a read.Roller Derby 1134

Did you know that Des Moines has TWO ROLLER DERBY TEAMS?  TWO!!!  The Mid-Iowa Rollers and the Des Moines Derby Dames.  Just another reason Des Moines is ranked, by Forbes, as the number one city in the nation for business and careers.  Eat your heart out Peoria...

Last week this story about Three Rules for Retail Success got a lot of BUZZ.  What JerryKulver use happened:  I went out on a scouting mission for a client of our advertising agency.  I went to a number of garden centers all run by the Hy-Vee supermarket company.  Some of the same stuff but a different atmosphere and shopping experience...depending on where I went.  The Urbandale Hy-Vee Garden Center is amazing.  Why?  I think, and you already know, it comes down to three basics and those basics work in all retail settings.  Ya gotta have the right people, the right product supply and an ability to merchandise what you are selling.  Hat is off, once again, to my friend Jerry Kluver who...ROCKS!

Coffee is good this morning!

Last week I got a package in the mail from a friend in Minneapolis.  It's a DVD, professional,Fnal Solution 3 about the life of David Fishel, or more direct; his life as a slave laborer during WWII and his eventual move to Des Moines.  Knowing the family, Robert and Bobbi Aronson, I expected this to be good...but the 15 minute video is more than that.  It is profound and a wonderful teaching tool.  The video, Stolen Youth, is one of a four volume set that focuses on the Holocaust and intolerance.  The series would make for a great teaching tool in schools and houses of worship and comes complete with teaching materials.  More on this later...

Packing loads of stuff into this week...thanks for coming by for a read.  Sunday Morning Coffee is part of our advertising agency, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications.  We'll get back to business tomorrow.  Should you want to follow me on Twitter it's @MichaelLibbie (business and not-so-much), @InsightADV (business baby, business), @RuralLifeRadio (our love for everything...rural).  Thanks again for finding us.



















Marketing With Online Video...

Yesterday I posted this video for Insight on Business.  Realizing that some of you don'tVideo Shoot directing follow our radio/television show blog I thought I would let you see what we're talking about.

The Nielsen Company recently conducted an audience survey of on-line users and their video habits.  With nearly 73% of broadband users viewing on-line video, and liking it (sometimes more than broadcast television) our question to you is: 

Are you using on-line video as one of the marketing/advertising tools to promote your products or services?  If not...why?  Here is the video that allows you to take a quick peek on how we use it to promote our agency and our clients.


Follow us on Twitter:  @Michael Libbie or @InsightADV thanks for coming by!

Michael Libbie -



Sales Success - Three Rules

Let's say you have a bunch of retail centers and all those retail centers carry just about the same stuff.  They are all located in prime sites where your target market has easy access to what you're selling. stands out as a shining star with record sales while the others simply do...OK.  What is the difference?

Three things:  Staff, Selection and Merchandising.

JerryKulver use Too simple....right?   "Come on Michael, everybody knows about this.  There is nothing new here."  No?  Then how come it happens time after time after time?

Yesterday I saw this first hand.  I was making the circuit of Hy-Vee Garden Centers.  (Hy-Vee is a regional supermarket group with over 220 stores in the Midwest.)  Over the past several years supermarkets have gotten into the lawn and garden business.  Makes sense...people are already walking through the parking lot.  Why not give them the opportunity to buy something else?

My purpose was to see if these stores were carrying a particular product produced by one of my clients, how it was being displayed and if staff knew anything about it.  While it is a very small sampling one store stood out above all the others we visited.

The Urbandale Hy-Vee Garden  And, they rock for three reasons:

Staff - They know the products and they sell by building relationships.  I visited with "Al" whom I am guessing has been retired from "his other job" for some time.  Not only did Al know about the products I was searching for but within minutes he was attempting to sell me. was all sincere.  I counted at least eight employees who were engaged with customers.  Nobody went without a, "Hi, great day!  Did you see _______?"  No closed end questions like, "Did you find everything you needed?"  They were busy...selling.

Selection - Of all the garden centers we visited this one had the most...stuff.  There was something for nearly every budget.  I'd suspect the inventory was double that of the other centers we walked.

Merchandising -  I think, far too often, retail forgets about this aspect of the sale.  Not only was the selection huge; everything was set up with a plan.  From outdoor seating to fertilizer the displays were attractive, informational and directed.  There was a mix of products, colors and shelf space.   There are major investments in water gardens (in a parking lot!) signs are tasteful and music (soft jazz) is playing at just the right level.  Shopping became...a party.

Pretty simply stuff...but it also takes time, money and a driven commitment to do it right.  These it right.  Maybe because Jerry Kluver (above) runs the ship?  Maybe...but they "get it" and I have a feeling now that Jerry is more involved with Hy-Vee Corporate...the rest of the Hy-Vee Garden Centers won't be far behind.


So, what about your retail center?  Could it use a bit more attention to three simple rules?





Sunday Morning Coffee - April 18, 2010

It's let's sit down and take a look at the past week and a peek into the future.Coffee Cu ps   Sunday Morning Coffee is sort of like hanging out in our own coffee shop or cafe visiting about...stuff.  And, as always, it's a conversation so I'm interested in your take.   The pot is on...have a sip?

Sir Elton John came to Des Moines last Friday evening and packed over 15,000 fans into "The Well".  I'm glad it's over.  Don't get me wrong...he is an amazing talent and he's been at this for over 40 years.  It's just that when radio stations in the market, in order to hype the concert or feel as if they have a bigger part in it than the star, play one song after another in some sort of tribute for DAYS...  I  must have heard "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" ten times on Friday.   Yikes...enough already.

Des Moines by Tim Kiser In case you haven't heard...  Des Moines ranked as the number one city in the nation, according to Forbes, for business and careers.  (We were joined in the Top Ten by neighbors Omaha, NE and Lincoln, NE.)  They've been clinking champaign glasses at The Greater Des Moines Partnership for days.  So much about this area has changed since I arrived in 1979...and much of that change has happened over the past ten years.  Now the work stay in the top ten. (Photo - Tim Kiser)

Man Fired The economic recovery is slow...for people, not corporations.  Iowa hit 6.8% in unemployment, the highest it's been in years.  But, still better than the majority of states.  While there is some hiring going on corporations are learning they can drive more money to the bottom line, and their to their shareholders, by doing more with less people.  For example, Gannett who owns loads of media outlets including The Des Moines Register, posted a 51% increase in first quarter earnings despite a 4% reduction in revenue.  Meanwhile state income has been hit hard as business tax collections drop.  Here is the story from The Register's David Elbert.  Gotta have him on the show some day, I like his work. 

Hey, thanks to the folks who made the surprise party last Sunday such a nice event.  My bride, Georgie, worked herself into a frenzy worrying about the outcome that came off without a hitch.  What troubles me are some of the gifts I received.  Looks like folks think I'm a "cheesy AA candidate".  ;-)

The Pet Enthusiast Magazine made its debut in Des Moines last week.  The full color Pet Enthusist 40 page publication is headed by Dawn Pieke and up until this month the six time a year magazine, that also has a charity aspect, was only available in the Omaha area or by subscription.  The Des Moines connection is Holly Hartling @DMPetEnthusiast who is also one of the folks with Pet Project Midwest.  It's a good connection.  Two things:  1)  It is a nice piece and for businesses seeking a way to connect with pet owners it's a "no-brainier", 2)  I'm amazed that nobody in this market picked up the idea.  See, where there is a vacuum something will come by to fill it.   This "something" is very cool.

Gosh, I love to tell great stories like that!

Know anybody in business that fails to do a Media/Marketing Plan?   I do.  Here is a very short video clip from Insight on Business as to why and how they are a must for any size business.

It's a social media experiment.  Can social media work among a group of people whoFESNlogo1 (2) think SM is not a relevant form of marketing?  As my friend Mike Sansone likes to say, "I dunno, let's find out!"  So, last week, in an attempt to push membership and interaction for The Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association we started a host of SM projects for the "supplier section" of the association.  We're still building...but here is a "first look" at the Farm Equipment Suppliers Network (FESN) and why.

One of my greatest joys is putting people and businesses together and creating a relationship where none existed because one company didn't know squat about the other.  I think I did that three times last week.  It's a thrill...

Say, just in case you think I'm making all this Social Media stuff this article from Advertising Age where Jim Farley, Ford Motor Company marketing chief, says their digital marketing out performs their traditional marketing.  Go it...we'll wait.

I'm so old....    Yesterday it was made known that President Johnson's daughter, Luci Baines Johnson had been hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic.  I shared this with my bride at supper last night and she looked at me and said, "Who is that?"   Kids....

Roxi DM Social Club Speaking of "kids" that's what we thought we'd find at the Des Moines Social Club last night...we went to see Roxi Copland a singer/songwriter who is wonderful.  Really, here is her site have a listen to some of her work?   And, thanks Roxi for the birthday wishes!  You really are a star.  Anyway, we figured the place would be full of young, hip thirty-somethings.  Not.  It was a mixture of all ages, mostly over 50 which was a real surprise.  Along with getting a chance to listen to Roxi I met up with Dave Altemeier.  Dave is the son of Keith Altemeier of Fort Dodge who for years played in the Karl King Municipal Band.  It's a small world.

It was also a VERY LATE NIGHT!  Pushing this out the door later than normal.  Midnight!?!? in after midnight!  We'll get back to business tomorrow and a reminder that I monitor Twitter, @MichaelLibbie or @InsightADV.  Thanks for coming by for a sip...


























Yet Another Experiment...FESN

I've done it again.  While waiting for the "build out" of our new web-cast studios located on the skywalk, downtown Des Moines, ahem..."...number one city in the nation for business and careers." - Forbes, April 2010 - I decided to try another social media experiment within a group of people that, for the most part, have little to no concept of social media.

I know...nuts right?

Well, maybe.FESNlogo1 (2)

While attending the Spring Management Clinic for the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association I asked the Supplier Section Membership, folks that sell products and services to short-line farm equipment manufacturers, stuff like steel, gears, paint, advertising services, insurance, rotary cutters, valves, fittings, etc. if they would like to start staying in touch using social media.  The goal is two-fold:

  • Increase the conversation level among current members and interested parties associated with farm equipment manufacturing;
  • Build our brand and increase membership and membership participation in events sponsored by the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association.

For years I've been crowing about the power of social media.  Mostly to people who appreciate or at least are interested in using it as a tool to increase visibility, brand and sales.   This is the first time I've done so with absolute virgins.  Honest, most of the 600+ members look at me like I have a third eye when I spout off about social media and networking. we go.  It's called the Farm Equipment Suppliers Network and it's off to a....well, a start.  We've got a Twitter Profile - @FESN_GROUP a Facebook Page and a Blog - Farm Equipment Suppliers Network.  At least they are started and it's day two. Oh..and the logo/image...first draft.  We're changing some things around...more to come.

So...can we build market share, membership and communication among a group of folks that know little to nothing...and have nearly ZERO interest in using social media as a marketing tool?

As my friend Mike Sansone likes to say, "I dunno...let's find out."  So...and no, I am not getting a dime for this we go.  I'll report in, from time to time about the success of the project.  Wish me luck???


Successful Trade Show Marketing Part II

In part one of our two part series with Tobias Eichberg we learned how important it is to pick the right show (not all shows in your category are right for you), how to get the right people to come to your display or booth and how to figure the real costs of a trade show.

In this second part Tobias talks about how to conduct a successful visitor interaction, what makes one booth stand out over others and the critical process of following up, quickly, with those people you spoke with.  Once again, Tobias Eichberg from Eichberg Consulting:


To make contact with Tobias and Eichberg Consulting head to his website.  And, remember, with new technology, you can have several sessions with him using the Internet.Minimal Booth   If you think your trade show world is stuck.  Let's talk...

Just for fun...I must stick this photo here.   This is Ashok Singh Garcha of Safe Engineering.  He won my annual "Impress Them With A Minimal Display" award several years ago at a trade show in New Orleans.  Ashok came with his "stuff" packed in his pockets.  "Why bring so much?"   Actually, his booth didn't ship...but you have to admit it's pretty cool and, in a way, it sure does focus attention on his...product.

Thanks for finding us...  I monitor Twitter:  @InsightADV or @MichaelLibbie or @RuralLifeRadio  And, as always, if we can help settle your "trade show woes"...let's visit.




Trade Show Marketing - Tobias Eichberg

While at the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association Spring Management Clinic inFEMA Showcase Kansas City I made a new friend who shares my passion for doing trade shows...right.  This is Tobias Eichberg a marketing strategy consultant for trade shows and agri-business.  He once headed the world's largest agricultural equipment trade show, Agritechnica based in Hanover, Germany.  With 3.5 million square feet of covered display space, 18 halls and over 350,000 visitors he has the experience to share ideas with you.  If you wanted to compare sites, The National Farm Machinery Expo in Louisville is about 1/4th the size of Agritechnica.

Here is the first of two parts where Tobias talks about the most common misconception of "doing" a trade show, knowing which trade show to attend, the real costs of a trade show and getting people to your booth...


Tobias is Eichberg Consulting and he's got plenty more where this comes from.  Tomorrow we'll focus on visitor interaction, what makes a great trade show booth and remembering to follow up the leads.

To my friends at FEMA both the Regular and Supplier Members, I hope this series is helpful as you make plans for future trade show activity.

A reminder that I monitor Twitter:  @MichaelLibbie or @InsightADV or @RuralLifeRadio. You can also view my LinkedIn profile here.  Thanks for coming by.



The InterContinental Hotel Experience

Those of you who follow this post know that I've scolded some businesses because of their lack of service and lifted up others as examples of great service.  And, they have run the gamut from large to small.  I've always figured that when something goes south...folks should know.  But more than just complaining it's great to find a gem and pass that along.  So it is here.Intercontential Hotel use

I spent four nights at the InterContinental Hotel - Kansas City, at The Plaza.  It was an experience in service quality that I rarely enjoy at even larger, better known properties.  And, I've been to a bunch.

Every staff member I encountered, and I encountered dozens and from nearly every department, treated me...and others I saw them serve...with class, immediate answers, and an open friendliness that sometime is lacking, especially in higher end properties. 

Following a $15 million remodel, the property is in splendid condition with well appointed rooms and public areas.  There is also a "coziness" about the Kansas City InterContinental that other hotels lack.  Private little nooks to hold conversations, a business center that was amazing and meeting rooms that were not caverns.  Here is a quick photo tour.

It's not easy to meet the demands of picky guests or even those of us who are not so picky.  But these folks rocked.  Among the many people I had interaction with the folks at the Front Desk, Melanie and Angela Snyder were exceptional.  An "out of the ordinary" request was met with nearly instant action and inventive thinking.  Thank you.

The hotel industry, like others, has seen some rough times.  And don't think for a moment these people are not hard negotiators when it comes to contracts and business.  But's classy and polite.  Last week I included a story from Insight on Business focused on the leadership style of InterContinental CEO Andrew Cosslett who was featured in the New York TimesHere is a link to Insight on Business from April 6th.  I think he's got a new fan. 

And you know something...when a businness clicks like this...advertising costs go...down.  It pays to do the right stuff...every day. 

If you are in the area...give them a shot.  Combine superior service with excellent location on The Plaza it would make for a great weekend get-a-way or a fantastic business meeting.  Cheers...