Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Let’s talk about me

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wordofmouthLet’s say I’m your ad agency. You hire to me to create compelling messages that talk about how great you are, how you deliver more (service, value, expertise, whatever) than your competition. And then we channel that message into all the right places for you to reach new customers. Finally, we repeat that message enough to cut through the clutter and reach into the consciousness of the audience.

Success? Likely, yes. But then what? It’s one thing to toot your own horn. It’s quite another to have someone do that for you. When interviewing for a job, you get the chance to talk all about how great you are. If you’re then a serious candidate, then the employer’s going to want to talk to others that know you.

If you’re bidding on new work, your prospect will likely want to know what you’ve done in the past. Then they’re going to want to talk to people you’ve done work for.

Third party information about you carries a lot of weight and credibility. When conducting B2C business, why not put that power to work as well?

How? Testimonials. Get others to talk about you.

I’ve done it successfully in TV commercials, in radio spots, in print collateral, and even in my own personal online bio (check out my LinkedIn page).

In the past, you’ve heard me suggest that you should talk to your customers. It’s vital to know what they think of you. If you’re doing your job well, then it’s likely you will have no shortage of people wanting to sing your praises. Get them to write something. Ask them if they’d be willing to be on camera or in front of a microphone.

It’s the closest thing you can get to buying word-of-mouth advertising.

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Written by Jeff York

April 25, 2009 at 10:17 am

You’ve got the whole world in your hands

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iphone_homeA recent post made on Twitter: New phone books arrived yesterday. I’ve already recycled them today. Have they not heard of the Internet?!?

Between my wife’s iPhone and my Blackberry, there is little that we can’t do from the road. Email, phone, data from the Internet, media consumption all are easy and convenient with one of these two devices.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying Pandora for Blackberry. Connecting the phone to my car’s audio system, I now have a music delivery system that I find superior to my XM radio. The business model for Pandora? On screen ads.

As one of the majority of drivers that has to endure morning and evening rush hour commutes, I signed up for a free email subscription to Traffic.com. Their business model? Embedded ads.

With both of these services, I find myself paying close attention to the ads that are placed. Typically, the products and services offered interest me. For example, recently Land Rover sponsored Traffic.com’s reports. I haven’t checked out Land Rover lately and I wondered what they were offering. Land Rover would have continued to have been out of sight/out of mind for me if not to reaching me where I use media today.

How about your business? Are you looking closely at handheld and portable devices as an avenue to reach new customers? Free apps offered to iPhone users or pushed data to handhelds are just a couple of the new routes that advertisers can take.

Speaking to your audience

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home_page_image1It’s been my experience that business owners that are new to marketing often make the mistake of emulating messaging or techniques that they were exposed to in mass media. Maybe it was a commercial that they liked on TV or a catchy radio spot. So, it’s their business and their marketing dollar. That’s what they want to do.

As you may remember from your English classes, when writing you need to consider your audience. In this case, it’s the business owner’s core customer base. If the business owner fails to speak to that core base, they will not be effective in their marketing efforts.

This makes the first step obvious. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER. If you don’t really know your customer, then you have a fundamental issue within your business structure. If you think you know your customer, make sure you really do. Talk to them. Spend time at your store with some of them. Make sure that what you perceive about your customer is really true. Once you know that, then you can start to craft messaging that speaks to that group.

Just because you like the messaging doesn’t mean that it’s the correct message. Test it. Ask people about what you’re doing. Check the metrics. Make sure that what you’re doing is moving the needle in some way. You might not see an immediate increase in customers, but you might be moving the needle in other ways. For example, are your customers even more satisfied? If they are, you might not be seeing an immediate influx of new customers, but you might be seeing current customers buying more. That will eventually lead to exactly the type of advertising that you can’t buy directly: word-of-mouth.

What are you doing for marketing today? Did you throughly research your customer first? Do you know what they want or do you only think you know what they want? If you researched them, know them, are you speaking directly to them? Lastly, I hate to say it, but customers are fickle. What appeals to them today doesn’t necessarily work tomorrow. You have to keep taking their temperature.

If you haven’t walked a mile in their shoes since yesterday, it’s time.

Written by Jeff York

April 4, 2009 at 12:11 am

I want to believe you

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001clemens2Credibility. As a marketing professional, there are few things that are more valuable to me than the concept of credibility. Certainly, clients look to me for experience, skill, and ability to execute, but if they don’t believe I will behave in an honest, responsible way, then they would never hire me.

Conversely, they want to demonstrate credibility to their customers and clients. They want to position themselves as a company that you can believe in, trust, and want to do business with. If they don’t think that I have those qualities myself, then how can I effectively do the job for them?

If you’re just starting out in business, you don’t have a name for yourself. Once you start conducting business and building a track record, you start to become defined by your past actions.

How do you want to be perceived? Do you want people to question your judgement and actions? Or do you want people to trust and respect you?

A great deal is learned about an individual when you study their behavior when they think no one is watching them. How do they conduct themselves? If you have the opportunity to generate additional revenue through an underhanded tactic, would you even if you knew no one would catch you?

Last year, I had a shoot in which I needed to hire an actress. She was wonderful to work with and did a great job. Recently, I had an occasion where I needed the same actress again. From the first shoot, I had all of the actress’s contact information. I could have hired her directly at a lower rate by bypassing her manager. That would have netted us more profit, but it would have been the wrong thing to do. While it’s unlikely the manager would have discovered the situation, it doesn’t matter to me. If not for that manager originally, I would never have found the actress to begin with.

Do the right thing at all times. You’ll be surprised at how that will come back to reward you.

Written by Jeff York

March 21, 2009 at 9:20 am

Moving the needle

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mathteacherAnybody here love math when they were in school?

How about you marketing types? How much do you love math?

I know someone that loves math. Your boss. If you’re charged with marketing tasks, you had better know this is more than just being creative and clever. Your CEO (and your CFO) wants to know what have you done for the bottom line? Did the latest marketing campaign generate more sales? Did the most recent branding effort generate more recognition? If you spent money, you better have made money. Did you move the needle?

When I was Creative Services Director for a couple of television stations, my actions and initatives were constantly questioned (by myself and others) if they satisfied at least one of the three ‘R’s: ratings, recognition, and revenue. If my activity wasn’t geared toward moving the needle in one of those areas, then it wasn’t worth doing. And let’s face it, focusing on ratings and/or recognition is simply an indirect way to build revenue.

If you’re not being held directly accountable for your metrics, then your company is being done a disservice. If that’s the case, you would be wise to start building your own tracking systems. Or else, how are you going to know if new efforts are moving your company in a postive direction?

Breaking the rules

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the_thinkerIf you’re in marketing, you probably have a good sense of what you think works well for your clients. In college, I had a professor tell me that the client’s name should be mentioned a minimum of 3 times in a TV spot. David Ogilvy once professed that we should be selling in frame one and don’t stop until the message is done.

These “hard and fast” rules may not apply for every spot or every situation. How often do you see a TV spot on air that doesn’t let you know the client or product being pitched until into the spot?

Today, the fad seems to be to tell the viewer that you can relate to their predicament, spend time talking about how they’ve been around forever and will continue to be, and only at the end do we know who “they” are. One of the best examples of this type of advertising concept might be from Allstate Insurance. If you’ve seen their recent ads, then you know the actor Dennis Haysbert is their spokesman. If you can get past thinking he’s either Jonas Blane (“The Unit”) or David Palmer (“24”), then once he’s on your screen, you know you’re watching an Allstate ad. What if you don’t? As you’re watching the spot, he’s not talking about insurance products or coverage. He’s talking about you and your family. He’s talking about the economy. Only well into the spot does he start to tie the company to the conversation.

Clever and masterful. But yet, if the copywriters at the agency were in my copywriting class in college, they would have gotten an ‘F’. This isn’t so much an indictment on my school as it is illustrative of how school is the time to learn the rules. The real world is the time to learn how to break them properly.

What are your “hard and fast” rules when developing your marketing messages? When is it appropriate to break them?

Written by Jeff York

March 8, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Where did you see that?

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blog_tv3If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I have a certain affinity for technology. I have a few iPods (one for the car, one by the bed for trying to sleep, one with a dead battery that I use when taking a shower, just sold my wife’s on eBay, my son has one for getting to sleep). I have a couple of TiVos (had 3, gave one away). I have slightly more than the normal number of computers kicking around the house.

And I have an AppleTV.

Kicking back on the couch after a long hard day in the salt mines, I’m finding the current state of broadcast TV to be quite lacking. Thanks to my wife’s “Thumbs Up-ing” of nearly every cooking show on the Food Network, the TiVo suggestion list allows me a diverse selection of content such as what to make for an appetizer, what to make for main course, and what to make for dessert.

Enter AppleTV.

With the wealth of content on the web, there’s just not enough hours in the day to sit and watch even a fraction of it. If you’re like me, you like to learn. It might be history, a new skill, or something completely foreign to me, I’m open for the new experience.

But who wants to chain themselves to their computer screen at the end of the day? I just spent about 8 daytime hours in front of one. Besides, in front of my very comfy couch is a nice Sony LCD TV. I’d rather be there.

Lately, I’ve been tapping my AppleTV. There are a large number of video podcast producers out there (some even in HD) just waiting to serve episodes up to your nice big TV.

TiVo now has capacities beyond stopping live TV and recording content for a later viewing. You can get TiVo exclusive content pushed to your TiVo through a free subscription. You can connect to your unlimited Netflix account. You can even watch YouTube videos.

Another downtime that I’ve been beefing up productivity with is what I like to call “windshield time.” Any time I’m behind the wheel, I’m a captive audience. There’s really nothing I can do beyond drive and maybe listen to the radio, right? Wrong! As I Twittered this past week, probably the coolest thing you’re not participating in is iTunesU. Through the iTunes Store, major educations institutions are offering free content. Just download, push to your iPod, and drive to work. Learn while you drive. Whoda thunk it?

Start thinking beyond traditional media for your content delivery. You’ll be surprised and just what’s out there waiting for you to discover it.

Note: I have not received any compensation from Apple, TiVo, or anyone else. But I’d like to…

Written by Jeff York

March 1, 2009 at 12:19 am