Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

It’s time to get horizontal

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product2This blog has been chock full of ideas and concepts on how you can increase awareness of your product. We’ve talked about on-air advertising (television and radio), print, outdoor, Internet, direct response, economic challenges, the power of social media, and Guerilla Marketing. We’ve even talked about co-op advertising. This week, we’re going to explore the idea behind horizontal marketing.

Let’s say you make…oh, I don’t know…in keeping with the horizontal theme: mattresses. You want to increase the awareness of your product so you know you have to advertise. The problem is your particular product isn’t something that people can easily browse in a store like a candy bar or shirts. Your product has to be a destination for a shopper in order for a potential customer to lay hands on it. Beyond traditional media buys and storewide sales events, what else can you do?

Similar to the concept I forwarded with co-op advertising, are there interconnected businesses that you have a relationship with where you can co-promote together? For example, maybe there is a home improvement store or a bed sheet manufacturer where you can build a partnership. With the purchase of a mattress, you get a set of bet sheets or a gift card to a home improvement store to further improve your bedroom. Then in buying the traditional media, you can split costs with your partner thereby lowering your advertising costs.

If you own a mattress store, it’s smart to think vertically and split ad costs with mattress manufacturers, but there are endless possibilities horizontally as well, all of which can lower your marketing costs and increase your exposure.

Brought to you by…

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imagesThere is no shortage of ways in which you can get your name and brand out in the public eye. Between straight spot buys on TV, radio, placement within print and outdoor, you can carve out your own slice of the medium and craft your message for maximum impact.

But that doesn’t prevent those who sell media from thinking of additional ways of getting advertisers to spend money. You can always purchase a sponsorship. You can sponsor shows on TV, holes during a golf tournament, or printed materials for a non-profit’s event. These are great ways for ad sales reps to earn income beyond the standard selling of advertisements (internally, you might hear reps refer to this as “non-traditional revenue” or NTR).

But is this right for you?

In the case of cause marketing (marketing of an event connected to a cause such as the American Cancer Society’s Rely for Life), this may be a great opportunity to generate goodwill toward your organization in the form of displaying that you care and that you are a part of the community. Selfishly, it also puts you in front of a particular segment of people that you may want to reach. Even if it’s not just cause marketing but a local event, you may also find value in your sponsorship given that your company’s brand will be seen as involved.

Through years of both sponsoring and creating public events, I’ve gotten to know what really works from sponsorships and what might not necessarily generate value for your marketing dollar. The biggest mistake I’ve seen people make is to give dollars to sponsor something and then not worry about how they will be represented. If you’re worried about maximum exposure, then make sure that your providing a banner, sign, or logo and know where it’s going. Unless your signage is truly unique, then having it placed among so many others is simply spending money to become part of an ignored background.

How many times have you been to an event and seen how many benefactors were listed in a program? How you bothered to look at every name? Have you done business with an organization because they were listed among so many others in that program? It’s likely they got lost in the shuffle. They weren’t worried enough about their placement to make their sponsorship marketing purchase worthwhile.

Take control over how you will be presented. Where will you be listed? How will you be listed or placed? How many other people will be listed with you? Is your competition also participating? If this is the first year you are participating with an event, is there something “extra” that they can do for you? All things you’ll want to think about before consenting to sponsor an event.

Have you sponsored an event that you found to be exceptionally worthwhile and enhanced your business through its participation? How you given an event sponsorship dollars only to find it was a total waste? And if so, what did you learn from the experience?

Written by Jeff York

August 22, 2009 at 9:53 am

Go ape with your marketing

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StreetTeam2Not that I necessarily advocate this type of marketing, but it’s likely you may have heard about it so I thought I would spend this week’s post educating you about it.

It’s called Guerilla Marketing. Depending on the type of business you are, this might be a viable option for you as long as you understand the ramifications behind it.

The term Guerilla Marketing is used to cover a number of different marketing activities, but at the essence it’s a very active in-your-face type of marketing. It might be street teams hired to go out into crowded shopping/tourist areas and hand out samples of your product. It might be people walking down the sidewalk handing out leaflets on your business. It might be a hot air balloon with your logo flying over a local event. Or it might be completely transforming an ordinary bus stop using product that your store carries.

The common theme among these examples is the desire to be so different and non-traditional that the acts serves to cut through the clutter with a chainsaw. These are often highly interruptible forms of advertising forcing you to stop and experience the brand. If done in a positive way, this can be a very effective form of marketing. However, much also depends on the kind of business you are. I’ve seen this work exceptionally well for a Top 40 radio station, but it would be highly detrimental to the brand of a more upscale type business (can you imagine Swarovski Crystal trying something like this?).

Think about your ideal new customer for a minute? Would they mind if you shook them out of their daily routine to experience you? Would they embrace the event you’ve planned? Will the event work in concert with the other marketing that you are executing?

Have you done guerilla marketing in the past? Have you experienced success? Do you have stories you can share with us?

Written by Jeff York

July 27, 2009 at 4:23 pm

How much is that little doggie in the (virtual) window?

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ers7lrgI love electronics. Like oh-so-many other guys, I like going into my local electronics retailer and picking up and playing with the gadgets. I may not buy them, but they’re fun to play with. I remember one year telling my wife that I was going to take my birthday as a vacation day from work and spend the morning at Best Buy.

You’ve done it yourself I’m sure. You’ve gone into a Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry’s, CompUSA, or any of the other brick-and-mortar electronics retailers and just played. You might have gone in for something specific and just got sidetracked or maybe you were just going in to have fun and kill some time. But you’ve tinkered.

Then came the Internet. And with it, ease of comparison shopping. Then the brick-and-mortar that you visited just became the playground to test out new gear. You figured out which model you wanted and then went home where you could find it online for the cheapest price from a company that you hope wouldn’t drop it too many times before it shipped.

What happened to the brick-and-mortar stores? Circuit City is gone with its brand sold to a company that maintains an online-only presence. CompUSA is gone as well. Even market leader Best Buy is reporting in 1st Q 09 a domestic segment increase of almost 1%, but comparable store sales decline of 4.9%.

What does all this mean to you, the small business owner?

You know all that overhead you endure month after month? The salarys, the building and maintenance cost? The inventory? Know how you work so hard to generate positive foot traffic so people come in?

Ask yourself, if you were in your customer’s shoes, would you buy from you?  Is there a compelling reason for someone to buy from you rather than just play with your floor models and then go home and order it?

Of course there is. You know all the reasons as well as I do. First and foremost, the item’s already in the customer’s hands. Why let them put it down and then go home? They have have it TODAY. Despite the rigors of the current economy, we’re still a nation of “gotta have it now” people. Secondly, your staff is there to support you if you need to learn how to use it, need to select a better one, or return it. No need to ship it off to some post office box. Just bring it back and you’re happy to help. Thirdly… Fourthly… Fifthly…

You know all the reasons. I don’t need to tell you. But you do need to tell your customers. Before you become a Circuit City, CompUSA, or Ritz Camera, you had better make sure that your marketing and branding all position you against your competition correctly. And don’t forget, your competition includes all those faceless retailers that don’t even have a storefront.

Say that again…and again

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shouting1Having an on-target message is only part of the formula you need for a successful marketing campaign. What good is a solid, well-crafted message if no one hears it? Putting it into the right channels (tv, radio, etc.) to reach the right demographic is crucial. But if you ever have the chance to talk shop with a media buyer, you will hear them talk about reach and frequency.

Reach is putting the right message into the right channel to reach the desired people. If you’re a mom-and-pop business with a small local hardware store, do you really need to spend the money reaching across the entire state or will a local campaign be more effective?

What I wanted to talk about this week is the importance of frequency. It is often the most neglected part of the media buy. Failure in mass media marketing often comes at the hands of well-intentioned, but inexperienced media reps that overestimate an advertiser’s goals or budget.

The narrative often starts with a sales rep that makes a living from selling one form of media and one single channel (one group of radio stations, one newspaper, one tv channel, etc.) and a neophyte business owner. They have been trained and know the power of their particular offering. They have a meeting with a business owner who is looking to grow their business. They may not need to buy the entire coverage area that the sales reps offers, but that’s all the rep can offer. The campaign starts, it’s more expensive than the business owner needs (the business owner is paying a premium for reach without any benefit from it) and pulls the plug on the whole program early, thereby ending all frequency. Even in the areas where the message would have had effect, the ending of the campaign early ends all chance of success.

In today’s ultra-saturated media world, you have to reach your desired audience over and over again just to start to penetrate the clutter. It’s not enough to state your message and disappear. You have to repeat it over and over again. Say it enough times, and people start to recall your message on their own. Say it enough times in a respectable medium and it will have legitimacy.

Say it enough times and it will be effective.

Put a face on that

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vinceshamwowEvery so often, I come into contact with a business or a business’s ad agency that wants to explore the idea of a pitchman or spokesman. They see others doing it in their advertising and they think it must be a great idea.

It can be…or it can be a critical and expensive disaster.

Before going down this road, let’s think for a minute what you’re actually doing by adding a spokesman to your marketing. You are hoping that the equity from this famous person will translate into legitimacy for your business and product. This immediately rules out one class of spokesman: the infamous.

How big is your business? Are you currently local with hopes of going regional? Are you on the cusp of reaching into new national markets? This will also help you determine how much “celebrity” to bring on board. Why pay for a top dollar famous actor when you’re just reaching into a local market? This may seem like common sense to some, but believe me, it’s come up in conversation with business owners.

On the reverse, is the person you’re considering really a celebrity with all of your prospective clients? This comes into play often when using a professional sports figure. Recently I was part of a discussion as to using players from the local women’s college basketball team. The client loves women’s basketball. The sales rep loves this particular women’s college basketball team. Neither is part of a good reason to select a spokesman from this pool. Additionally, unless you’re grabbing one of the best off of a team, even at the pro level, it’s not likely going to be a hit.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is this spokesman willing to be on your team? Is this person in it for the check or your success? Most celebrities that I’ve worked on commercial shoots for are in it for the quick buck. They’re pros and they walk in, do what’s expected of them, and walk away. I’ve also been attached to projects where a celebrity clearly loves the client. They want the product to succeed. This invariably translates well into all of the marketing components.

Here’s another thought…create a character instead of using a spokesman. They don’t even have to be a fictious character. Dave Thomas from Wendy’s was a classic example of someone that was an immediate successful face on the business. Until his death in 2002, Dave served as a steller face on the brand and brought success to the organization not seen since the Clara Peller “Where’s the Beef?” campaign.