Thursday, December 29, 2011

3 Tips For Successful Networking

There are a lot of opinions out there about how to network, where to network, and with whom you should be networking. I thought I'd throw in my two cents and give some basic tips which I find to be helpful to me. Please feel free to agree, disagree, or offer tips that work for you in the comment section.

1. Don't over think it
Networking can be difficult, and even stressful when the stakes are high (as in when you're actively looking for work). You may be tempted to make lists of things you want to say to that company President or HR Manager when you meet them, or remember to work in that clever joke you're sure will have them eating out of your hand. And, if you don't hit all of your points you may agonize over it later (i.e. "How could I have forgotten to mention the volunteer work I did last year?!?").

While you do want to highlight your accomplishments, omitting one detail is probably not going to make or break the possibility of a future relationship. What is important is that you dress the part if at all possible (though, if you're in shorts at a baseball game and the CEO of P&G approaches, don't shy away) and you allow your personality to shine through. Being genuine will get you a lot of points with most people.

Which brings me to my next tip...

2. Be well-prepared, not well-rehearsed
Some people will tell you to have an "elevator speech" at the ready, so whenever you have that quick opportunity with someone you can get out what's important and, hopefully, be remembered by whoever you spoke with. This is true. However, when conversing with people, whether in a random encounter or at an actual networking event, it is important to let the conversation progress and take you wherever it goes. If you're stuck in your own head, constantly trying to make sure you hit all of the points you deemed important, your conversation will sound forced (because it will be). What's more, you will likely be unable to listen well enough to have a productive conversation with the person, and trust me they will notice. One of the single most important qualities you can display to a potential contact or employer is the ability to listen, and if you don't have that you will be forgotten.

So, don't waste time rehearsing exactly what you will say at any moment. Instead, know yourself. Know your skills, your accomplishments, and what sets you apart from the rest. When you are truly prepared, you will find that it is much easier to converse, and thus, uncover opportunities to organically work in your key points.

3. Follow up
This tip may seem like a no-brainer. But, I'm always surprised to hear people complaining that nobody contacted them after this event or that, even though they gave someone their business card. Never wait for someone to contact you. They probably won't. If you think they may be able to help you, reach out to them. If they need your help, they'll reach out to you. That's kind of the way it works.

Even if you both feel you're a good fit for a position, it is up to you to follow up with your contact to reiterate how interested you are in the job, or in simply staying connected. A good routine to make for yourself is to collect business cards (remember names if they don't give you a card) from people you speak with. The next day (or, even the day after) send them a short email, and let them know how much you enjoyed speaking with them. If you can throw in something specific to the conversation you had, that's even better. Look them up on LinkedIn and request to connect. If they're not on there (they probably are), try Facebook or Google Plus. Establishing that connection is important because it's much easier to interact with people regularly if you see their social network updates and they see yours.


Think about these tips, and see if you can put them to use the next time you network. If you have any thoughts to add, please comment below. Also, if you'd like to connect with me, please feel free to find me on LinkedIn and/or G+.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Louis C.K.'s $5 Stand-Up Special


As the debate over SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) continues to heat up, comedian Louis C.K. has chosen to embrace the challenge of online piracy. Through his $5 download fee for a brand new stand-up special, C.K. is showing appreciation to his fans while encouraging them to be loyal through extending trust, and offering a good old-fashioned worthwhile product. Can you imagine?

In a recent Q&A session on Reddit.com, C.K. tells the difference between how people perceive corporations whose product they are getting for free, and how he plans to be perceived differently by these same consumers.

What will make this "experiment", as he calls it, a success no doubt is the way the offering is marketed. Louis C.K. is a regular guy. He's no tech wiz, but he wants to make his material available to as many people as possible via the Internet. And, of course he'd like to make some money. Though he's not greedy about it. Nor is he mean to his fans who choose not to purchase. Why? Because it's counterproductive.

The website used to download this special is very simple and easy to follow. It uses plain language and clear signage, so that any idiot (including C.K.) can make the purchase with no problem. After clicking on a tab that says "Buy The Thing" the customer is taken to another easy to follow page with a message from C.K. in plain language forgoing the pretentiousness which some entertainers cannot hide. He explains why he chose to make this project easy to obtain (subsequently making it easier for people to pirate), and why he hopes you, the consumer, will choose to pay. He paid for all the production himself, and would like a nominal fee for making you laugh for 80 minutes or so. He doesn't demand you keep it to yourself, and he doesn't threaten legal action if you don't.

This trust will go a long way towards building the Louis C.K. brand in the minds of the audience. No doubt consumers will see him as another hard-working person; one who offers consistently good material and  is appreciative of his fans. Corporations could learn a thing or two about humanizing themselves from such real-life humans.

You can download Louis C.K.'s special HERE

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Google Chrome Ads Bring The Internet To Life

I wanted to share a couple of these "the web is what you make of it" ads that Google has been releasing for Chrome lately because they are, quite simply, some of the best advertisements I've ever seen.

Watch.




The ads work because they tell a story to the viewer. They identify what people value in real life, and show how the Internet can help them take the next step. The ads don't cause people to retreat from technology, but rather be intrigued and encouraged by it. They show the endless possibilities that a tool like the Internet provides, and how it can connect people across time and space.

Chrome also shows just how easily it can be done. They bring the Internet to life in a profound way with these ads. This kind of advertisement is what many brands only wish they could produce. I'm not being sold a product here. I'm being educated on the benefits of that product. And that's valuable stuff. If there were something to buy here, I would be sold.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sound Bytes For Everyone Listening To You

In today's world, everyone is connected. Everyone is sharing with one another online and is encouraged to do so. The tools we use to connect with others socially have shrunk our world more than ever, so we can share our thoughts and be inspired by the thoughts of others without ever having been in the same room.

All of this is pretty exciting, pretty exhausting, and sometimes even pretty frustrating. For instance, when someone is speaking at an event, they are no longer speaking only to those in attendance. They are really speaking to the audience...and EVERYONE the audience knows. I don't mean 'knows' like I 'know' my family and friends. I mean every person that an audience member interacts with online. Their Facebook friends, their Twitter followers, everyone in their Google + circles. That's a lot of eyes and ears.

So, how do you affect the quality of your remarks to broaden their online value? Well, for one, make your speech 'share friendly'. Offer sound bytes to your audience every once in a while - stuff they can easily digest and then share with their network - that delivers the main message in a compelling and memorable way.

Some may argue that this is the right way to go about a presentation in the first place. Maybe. But, it is imperative to use this technique to encourage the 'right kind' of sharing across social networks. Not only is everyone listening, but they don't have much time to listen. So, you have to catch the eye, slow them down, and provide information which they value and wish to pass along themselves.

The best way I can think of to practice this vital technique? Type up a Tweet yourself. Stay under the character limit, give room for opinions in the retweet, and still get your message across. Can you do it?

  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

QR Codes at the Zoo

I took a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo again today. My wife, daughter, and I have been going regularly since my mom bought us season passes. The zoo an ideal place for showing a kid some cool things, and wearing them the heck out in the process!

I'm sure you may have seen these QR Codes popping up more and more around your city lately. If you're not familiar, the black & white maze-looking image in the lower right of the picture is a code that can be scanned with the bar code reader app on your smart phone. Scanning can reveal a web address, a store coupon, or most anything else. QR codes are now being used to add to the users experience by giving additional information, uncovering an exclusive deal, and taking an offline experience online in some way.

I snapped this picture today to show how the Cincinnati Zoo is using QR Codes to enhance the experience of their visitors and encourage education on, and donations to, a specific cause. This one here is for the solar panels that line the roofs over the zoo's parking lot. The panels shade the vehicles while producing valuable energy used by the zoo and others in the city. Scanning the QR code will tell you more about the project, and the corporation that heads it up.

Inside the zoo I saw several of these QR Codes at animal exhibits (no more pictures because we got rained out). They not only offered more information about the given animal and its habitat, but resources on how to contribute to protecting both. This is a great way to market the good that zoos do for our environment and encourage others to get involved. The code makes it easy, and also targets those that are interested in learning more rather than just posted for people to ignore.

It's the engagement provided by the code that can make the effort successful. Who else has experience with QR Codes? Where have you seen them? Are you using them for your business? Is this a good way to engage people?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Do Gender Stereotypes Hurt Your Sales?

I try to keep up with all things smart phone/wireless device related. Yesterday, I came by an interesting article that reported women buy 50% of smart phones and 61% of e-readers. You can read the article HERE.

Some of you may have known that. Some of you may have thought that. Some of you may not have thought that to be true. And, still some of you may have just never considered it one way or another.

My point is this: How many of you allow preconceived notions and "conventional wisdom" dictate who your market actually is? Do you assume that your product or service is better suited to one gender or another? One age group or another? One race or another? Why? Is there documented evidence you can point to that back up your gut feelings?

In our daily lives, we as people tend to make assumptions about a lot of things in order to save time. We feel we are usually correct. But, if a figure like the one above surprised you, you may want to take a closer look at your approach to marketing and whether or not your brand image appeals to the right people. Small changes can make a difference in attracting a more lucrative customer base, and bring the success you didn't realize you were missing out on all this time.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Mentor Instead Of Cash Bonuses

Below is an interesting article about adapting to changing needs of a workforce and restructuring the corporate environment in order to attract and retain the best and brightest.

I think the differences in today's young professionals versus generations past reflect positively of them. They also mirror the different approach these same corporations must make when marketing their brand to the same generation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Create Your Own Mad Men Ad on Facebook

I found this to be a really interesting way to allow fans to interact with a brand. Check out the link below for a quick video showcasing this fun way of using social media to promote and engage with fans.

Make Your Own 'Mad Men' Ad On Facebook (Video) - GENWOW.COM

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Marketing Vending Machine Snacks to the Health Conscious


I was at work last week and wanted a snack. I went down to the break room in the building to get something out of the vending machine, and noticed that not only does this vending company offer some items of a healthier nature - most do if you can get your eye past the potato chips and candy bars - but, they are actively promoting these items.

This is a very smart move. People that are not health conscious are going to patronize the vending machines no matter what. They don't need to be marketed to. However, healthier living is spreading, and many people are demanding better food choices for themselves and their families. These are potential customers that either always stayed away from vending machines and their allure, or had to change their vending habits to become healthier. These are the people that need the above message.

Similar to identifiers used on other food products, this banner attracts the eye, gives the pitch, and allows the customer to decide if they would like a healthy alternative to the other options with an easily seen green spiral in that snack's row. A very simple idea that can be effective in bringing back lost customers, and even letting junk food junkies know that they have options when they get a craving for something sweet or salty.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Innovation In Practice

There is a new product in stores now which I saw an ad for the other day. It's interesting to me because it is a clever innovation that reminds me of my favorite class from my graduate program in Marketing.

In our course on innovation as a teachable/learned skill rather than a gift you are born with (or not), we used a systematic process with which to innovate. There are five methods. This particular innovation, I believe, uses the method entitled "Task Unification". The steps are as follows:

1. List the components of the Product or Service
2. Assign an additional task to one component
3. Visualize the resulting product
4. Identify potential market or customer needs
5. Modify the concept to improve it

The product is microwave popcorn by Orville Redenbacher. The innovation is the Pop-Up Bowl. Popcorn is microwaved in a bag. Once popped, the popcorn is (usually) transferred into a bowl to eat. By assigning the bag the additional task of becoming an easy to eat out of bowl, the Redenbacher company is meeting an additional customer need. The user no longer has to find a bowl - one big enough to fit the popcorn, or have another dish to wash later. This isn't a mind-blowing, life-changing innovation to be sure, but it is a clever way to bring something new to the category and stand out from the competition.

Neutrogena's Hilton Hotel Placement


I took a trip to Cleveland, OH over the weekend for a family event. Some of us stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn up there. The rooms were very nice, as were the amenities and staff.

One thing I found particularly interesting were the toiletries in the bathroom (pictured above). There was a little stand with a boxed shower cap and bar of soap. In a row up front were a bottle of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and mouthwash. These items were replenished whenever the room was cleaned. These products were not branded "Hilton Garden Inn" (as used to be the case with hotel items), but rather "Neutrogena". Nowadays, this may happen all the time, but I don't stay at hotels all that often.

This is a great example of collaborative, or joint marketing between these two companies that can really reach a customer at the right place and right time - and affect future purchase decisions. Toiletry items are something travelers are often in need of, and regularly forget while packing their bags. Instead of running out to the store, it helps to be able to offer a small, sample size to guests.

But, this example takes the amenity idea a step further. Instead of giving a hotel guest a generic bar of soap and bottle of shampoo, why not offer a branded set of items that guests can believe in? People know the name Neutrogena, so they can trust in the quality of the product they are using. This is true even if they are not already a Neutrogena user. If they are not, they get a trial period right now to see what they think. If they are, well, they get the satisfaction of using the product they prefer. In both cases, customers will be happy with both brands for taking care of their needs. And, it is very possible that they recall the brands more positively in the future. In addition, both brands are able to mirror each other's image in the market place and reinforce this image with customers.

What a simple marketing idea for collaborating where it makes sense (where both brands have something the other can use), and working together to establish brand awareness, satisfaction, and loyalty.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pepsi Vending Machine Lets You Gift Drinks to Friends Via Social Media [VIDEO]

Pepsi Vending Machine Lets You Gift Drinks to Friends Via Social Media [VIDEO]

Make sure you take a few minutes to check this out if you haven't seen it already. Pepsi's innovation team has come up with a social-media enabled vending machine that will allow consumers to send a free Pepsi to a friend through a code that will be sent via text message.

This is a clever and truly innovative way to use social media for a transaction that would normally be thought of as not capable of this kind of sharing.

The article says the lack of a Facebook/Twitter tie-in is a glaring omission. However, I think it's good that they are doing the campaign without being dependent on any other company to make it work. Of course, using these kinds of sites would be a way to further the idea after it catches on.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Ultimate Junk Food


"To have a great advertising idea, you have to get at the truth of the product"

When you have a few minutes, definitely check out this fantastic article about the man rebranding carrots as if they were what we refer to as "junk food"!

My home town of Cincinnati was one of only two test markets for this campaign, and if you live in the area, there's no doubt you noticed the billboards along the highways. These ads definitely stood out to me, and being a marketer, I was curious to learn more about who was behind the campaign.

I take this article/campaign as great inspiration to me, and hopefully it has the same effect on others. There is no need to stick to traditional marketing for your product. There is no need to think that a product can't be looked at in a different way, if you are able to see it differently yourself.

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/154/the-new-junk-food.html

Friday, April 22, 2011

A New Kind of Product Placement

I've seen an interesting approach to marketing on television recently that I wanted to talk about. I watch a show on network TV called Parenthood. It's based on the Steve Martin movie from the 80's. The last few weeks, Lowe's has done something interesting in between segments of the show.

It's not a commercial exactly. It's not product placement exactly. It fits right in between. Lowe's has a spot where they discuss the set design of a family on the show. The spokesman gives some detail about the characters that live in this house, their socio-economic status, employment, age, etc. They are an example of a professional, somewhat affluent, young, modern family.

He talked about how they designed the set to reinforce the image of this family as opposed to others on the show. He discussed the paint, the cabinetry in the kitchen, and the shelves in the living room. All of these products could be found at Lowe's, and the staff could help a family design something similar.

I found this to be a creative approach. They are not just weaving their product into the script, but they are weaving it into the show. But, they are not a part of the show. They are not interrupting it in an annoying way to take the viewer out of the plot. They are talking about their contribution, and directly relating it to what they do for ordinary folks. How clever. Has anyone seen this, or something similar from another brand?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Richard Simmons + Air New Zealand = Best In-Flight Safety Video Ever

You should all take a look at this article on a few airlines that are jazzing up their in-flight safety videos to reinforce their brand image. This is proof that their are always untapped areas of a business that can be used to communicate something to your clientele. This is the kind of thing that will make you smile, and then make you ask yourself "why didn't anyone think of this before?"
Richard Simmons + Air New Zealand = Best In-Flight Safety Video Ever

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chrysler's Twitter Mishap

Well, this kind of thing was bound to happen sooner or later with a big corporation utilizing social media to allow their brand to interact with consumers. And, I believe a mistake like this is especially capable of happening when "tweets" are outsourced.

See the article below about Chrysler terminating their contract (or, at least, failing to renew it) with New Media Strategies after one of their employees responsible for tweeting messages to Chrysler followers decides to use the platform (mistakenly, or not - it doesn't really matter though) to complain about what else? Drivers. In the Motor City. And he uses the F-word too. This is definitely not what Chrysler had in mind for its social media strategy. But, then again any publicity is good publicity. Isn't it?

A question I've heard people asking as a result of this is whether or not this kind of thing should be outsourced in the first place? In my opinion, I don't see why not. Mishaps aside, if a company is employing a firm to develop and execute its marketing strategy, then there's no doubt social media is going to be a large part of it these days. If there isn't a marketing department on site that understands the strategy and how to realize it with each Tweet, Facebook post, etc. then it absolutely should be outsourced. But, as they say, Buyer Beware.

http://adage.com/article/digital/chrysler-splits-media-strategies-f-bomb-tweet/149335/

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Getting People To Pay For What Can Be Free

If you're a music fan, chances are you have downloaded music on the Internet. Some of it you may have paid for. Some of it you may not have. Some music is meant to be free, and is posted online by the artist themselves for promotion purposes. Other releases are aimed to generate profit; though even these albums are downloaded by many fans for free. The morality behind this is a discussion for another time...and another blog.

But, some artists just complain, and/or try to get even. Others are more productive and are dead set on being successful anyway. How do they do it? They adapt. They embrace technology. They make it work for them instead of against them. They think outside the box. And, they will end up leaving their less creative peers behind. Issues like this are where you will see the difference between a person who is just an artist, and a person who is both an artist and a business-minded professional. These professionals will not be "starving artists". They refuse.

Keeping the focus on the music business for this discussion, I have noticed tactics recently by a few musicians that display clever marketing strategies executed without a large budget that will help to push them towards success.

The first tactic is artwork. I downloaded a (free, I assure you) album from an artist containing 12 tracks. I put it on my iPod and took it with me when I headed out for the day. After the first 3 songs, I noticed that each one had it's own artwork displayed on the screen. Yes, the album was free. The artist didn't actually generate any money from my download. But, a simple thing like this gets his music noticed more than the others - the "competition". I put that in quotations, but it really shouldn't be. All musicians have to compete at some level. People have limited disposable income, and the purchase of one album often limits the ability of buying another one.

Seeing a unique picture for each song made me notice it more. Some downloads don't come with artwork at all. Some just have to resort to the generic black background with a white music note - iPod's way of telling me I'm listening to an audio file of some kind. This musician clearly knows what he's up against and wants to win. He's making the music a little more fun, and a little more memorable. And, I've seen fans, that are especially interested in artwork, buy an album largely for this reason.

Another musician uses his website to offer a free download for his album. However, each song can be clicked on individually to see a short video treatment which accompanies it. An additional link offers a 10 minute interview displaying more of the artist's back story and personality. All of these videos are YouTube links as well - they can be shared easily with others. Such an effort may not seem like that big of a deal to some. But, it causes the audience to take a closer look at the artist. It causes them to spend more time on the website, more time absorbing the music, and even seeing it come to life. This tactic pulls the audience in.

These free offerings make people want to spend their money in the future. They know this musician's personality more so than others they may listen to. They have experienced more free content, and may feel like an official release should be supported by them now. What comes next? Tour dates which tickets can be purchased for. Pre-orders for the album. Free shipping. A recap of what they have given away for free in the past year. Details on the new product. The music. The artwork included. A free, exclusive bonus disc. An autographed copy. Etc., etc., etc. They are now asking for the sale.

Yes, the official album can more than likely be downloaded for free somewhere online. But, offering a taste for free with additional content delivered in a clever and unique way, gathers support from fans. It creates fans. Loyal fans. Fans who would rather spend their hard earned money with this artist than with the competition ("competition" being more than just other music. It's any and all other entertainment). Because this artist is worth it to them.

In a marketplace that is overcrowded because of technology, and which offers content for free because of technology, the embracing of technology is what makes these artists stand out. And, it is this thought process that will make them successful in the business they have chosen.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Morning Stories

I don't know about all of you, but I love CBS Sunday Morning. There's always a wide range of topics covered, and it exposes me to some interesting things I may not have thought I was interested in before. This morning, two segments in particular appealed to me and directly relate to what I talk about on this blog. So, I thought I'd share them.

The first covers brand icons from years past making a comeback in modern day advertising. I've written a few posts before on the effect that brand characters can have on a product's sales. What are your favorites? Do any of them have an effect on your purchasing decisions?Personally, I'm waiting on seeing the Snuggle Bear again. I used to have one myself.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/06/sunday/main20039775.shtml

The second segment detailed the efforts of marketers to appeal to the baby boomer generation as they become seniors. Unlike past generations, these seniors are healthier, more active, and are looking to experience life in new and exciting ways. How do we attract them to our offerings? The first rule seems to be avoiding the term "old". Products are marketed as "universal", or "user-friendly" to get retirees to give them a try without feeling like they are using a brand that is for "old-timers".

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/06/sunday/main20039772.shtml

Monday, February 21, 2011

Social Media Missteps

As an aside to my last post about embracing new media, make sure you are using these tools without imposing on your potential clients.

Over the weekend, I received a message from a friend of mine on Twitter that I don't get to see much anymore. She asked how my job was going. I responded with a short message (of course, it's twitter!) about it and the desire to move up within the company. Later on, there's another response in the same message thread. But, it's not from my friend. It's from some woman I've never heard of telling me (us) that she found out about this great job search tool that changed her life and pasted in a link.

I was more confused than irritated at first wondering how this woman was reading our conversation. I checked with my followers, she wasn't one of them. I checked with my friend's followers and people she is following - nothing. So, apparently this woman neither of us know thought it would be a good idea to read our personal conversation and then spam us with a message promoting what's most likely her company. How did I respond? I blocked her from my account and reported her to Twitter management as spam. I'm guessing I'm not the only one she did this to, so she has probably been reported by several other people by now, and may have had her twitter account removed by the site.

Was it worth it to her? I don't think so. She will be learning a hard lesson from her unprofessional approach to social media. It's okay to seek people out to connect with, but you must be cautious not to overstep your boundaries. People not only dislike these intrusions, they resent them. And, there are much better ways to network and build online relationships. But, just like in the real world, it takes time and finesse.

Here are just a few quick tips for social media - Twitter, in particular:

1. Follow as many relevant people to your business/industry/interests as you can.

2. Be interesting. Don't post the same message over and over again. Try to keep it fresh and interesting. Every post doesn't have to be directly related to telling others to buy your product or visit your website. A broad range of posts can display your expertise in your industry, your interest in what others are doing, and a general knowledge of what's going on around you.

3. Follow back. Especially if you're an individual, start following the people that decide to follow you. Everyone is trying to get more followers to share their message. They are showing an interest in you, so show an interest in them. This opens the door to communication much wider.

4. Don't spam. It's okay to send someone a message, or include yourself in a conversation between other users. But, add something to the conversation. If all you ever give is a link to your website, and some generic message about how this product "changed your life" people will get turned off really quickly.

5. Be patient and consistent. Social media marketing is a process. It takes time to develop the relationships you need and you must work to nurture them through consistent usage. Make time to make it a success for you.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Media...Embrace It!

New media, often more narrowly defined and/or explored as social media, has done wonders in terms of providing marketing opportunities for companies and individuals looking to make an immediate and personal connection with their market. Historically, a lot of marketing has been done from a greater distance - a billboard here, a print ad or television commercial there - always hoping that you were presenting yourself in the correct space and way in order to reach your target audience. Market research helps with these uncertainties a lot, but it's not flawless...and things are always changing.

Of course, there were opportunities such as trade shows and direct mail pieces that would allow for more interaction with individual consumers long before any technological explosion. But, there was a noticeable lag in these tools; either in the response time, the length or regularity of an interaction, or something else. The defects are obviously more apparent now. They were imperfect. All marketing is really. The variables are endless. But the Internet, and social media specifically, has really closed the gap between business and consumer, and allowed for what can appear like a fully complete marketing vision realized when all of these marketing strategies, old and new, are working unitedly.

I would (and do) encourage most small business owners, or individuals looking to market themselves these days to take the plunge into new media in some form as soon as possible to achieve greater success for themselves. Web access has leveled the playing field a great deal for the little guy competing with those large corporations with deep pockets. It's important to use technology to its full advantage.

The costs are usually minimal, though the time commitment is great (but manageable), to be sure. And, those that are participating in smart ways are finding opportunities and fostering relationships which others may be missing out on. A confident and savvy networker that takes the time to see which new media outlets and strategies can leverage their marketing message will find multiple new ways to push towards success in their endeavors. Social networking sites, viral campaigns, guerrilla and stealth marketing are all utilized in the new media arena.

Think about how this applies to you. What would work for you as a personal brander to get your name and your message out to those whom you want to receive it? Which strategies could you apply using new media to grow your business?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Seth Godin: This is broken | Video on TED.com

Seth Godin: This is broken Video on TED.com

I became aware of TED only recently, and have been browsing through to find talks that interest me when I can. I found this one by Seth Godin to be really entertaining. He's a great speaker. Check this out and share your thoughts. If you know of any other good videos on TED, I'd love to hear about them. Send me a link.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Promotional Deals And Customer Loyalty

Most companies, it seems, offer promotions of some kind or another throughout the year to draw interest from buyers and bring in new business. The right deal can get an otherwise uninterested consumer in the door and persuade them to try a product or service. Why? Because the level of risk is lowered, and the switching costs then appear more acceptable.

Partner an attractive deal with a customer who is already less than satisfied with their current provider (assuming they have one) and the choice is almost made for them. Additionally, all other factors being equal, a brand new buyer will also seek out the best deal and go with the company offering more for the money, or the same for less.

But, what happens when a promotion expires? Have you, as a company, created a loyal customer during that time? Who's to say that this customer that has come to you when you offer them a deal won't turn and go the other way the second you ask for the regular fee for the service you are providing? After all, the competition is surely offering something to grab your customers' attention the same as you did.

Some businesses that provide a continual service to customers bypass the loyalty question - at least for a while - by forcing customers into an agreement for some specified amount of time longer than the time the promotion lasts. Usually, this time frame allows the business to make back the money lost from the promotion. So, customers are stuck for the moment (and may be getting unhappier with you by the day). If this contract is the only thing keeping customers loyal, then they really have no loyalty at all. And a business that gains and loses customers constantly due to the beginning and ending of promotions will have a difficult time staying competitive in the long run.

Creating high switching costs are part of a good overall strategy, but real consumer loyalty is paramount. Customers have to want to be your customer. They have to feel that being your customer is better than being a customer of the competition, even at a higher price. The question is how to achieve this. A lot of businesses compete on price alone, and when this is the case they tend to trade customers every so often. To create and maintain loyalty a business should distinguish themselves as the leader in their industry. This comes from marketing techniques in advertising, of course. But, an even larger amount (especially after the initial sale) comes from touch points with individual customers.

When a customer reaches out to your staff on the phone, web, or in person are they reaching a knowledgeable, caring, and empowered employee? Is their issue being resolved? Is the customer given additional information during this interaction which will result in them spending more money with you? Are long-time customers offered some deals not offered to newcomers? Are the only touch points with existing customers stemming from an issue with your service?

Answers to these questions can be a good indicator of whether or not a business is creating loyalty among their customer base, rather than rotating them in and out with their competition. Most are familiar with the figures concerning keeping an existing customer versus bringing in a new one. Buyers should see a positive difference in more than just price when comparing your business to another. If they do, most not only stick with you, they promote your business - for free. And everyone likes the word free.