Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Posts Tagged ‘internet

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.

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.

Tell me something I don’t know

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600px-information_iconsvgI want to share something with you. You could have found it on your own, but you didn’t. Maybe I use Internet search tools better than you do. Maybe I needed this information before you did. Or maybe I have more free time on my hands than you do. But the bottom line is you and I might have similar interests, similar levels of curiosity, or have the occasion to solve similar problems. And I have information you might want or need.

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of having to search the whole of the Internet, you could just tap into my bookmarks or my central depository of information?

Wouldn’t it be even better if you could find a group of people like us. And we’d all be willing and able to share what we know?

Like a lawyer asking a question in a courtroom, you have to know that I already know the answer.

Delicious. Or wait. Maybe Wikipedia. Or StumbleUpon. Or even my own wiki that I only let certain people have the password to. Maybe I don’t have THE answer after all since there is no ONE answer.

The bottom line is information is power and in today’s online world, people are willing to give that power away for free all the time.

Your online information gathering is so important that your OS or browser has some way of backing up your bookmarks. That information that you have deemed important enough to have it added to your browser’s database is probably very interesting to me. Let’s share.

A typical organization has vast amounts of internal knowledge and wisdom that it has gathered over the years. How is it being stored, vaulted, and recalled as needed? Do people sit around the company elders and have them spin yarns. Or is there a central database where anyone that needs the information has ready access, yet secure enough to be protected against competitor’s prying eyes.

On a personal level, how to you collect and store your information? How much are you willing to share?

At the corporate level, do you know of any positive examples where company knowledge and wisdom is collected, protected, and made available on an as-needed basis?

Written by Jeff York

May 30, 2009 at 9:20 am

Now I’m an advertiser. What does that mean?

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This past week, I was talking with a friend whom also happens to own her own business.  Recently, she’s been thinking about putting spots on TV which she’s never done before.  One of the questions she asked me was how will that make her look.  Does being on TV make a business look “desperate?”

This is actually a very viable question and one I’ve never really considered before.  Within her business peers and competitors, she was concerned that this would impact how they would view her.  In her line of business, how she appears among her peers is important.

If she has a commercial created and puts it on the air, what does that say about her business?  What does that say about her?

Advertising means telling as large an audience as possible about you and your business.  It’s a very effective way to establish your brand and to create points of differentiation in the minds of potential customers.  Advertising means that you believe in your business enough to put marketing dollars behind it.  Since no business has 100% market share in their segment, every business can increase sales with smart marketing.

All of that said, the key has to be smart marketing.  It starts with the message.  Is it right for the medium you plan to use?  Does it exactly match the image of your business you want to portray?  If not, then you can actually damage your business by releasing that message into the public.

Let’s say you now have a perfectly crafted mass media message that will cut through the clutter.  The job is only half done.  Next is finding the right medium for delivering the message.  As I stated in my series of posts on the various mediums, there are a wide range of media to use for delivering your message:  television, radio, newspapers, Internet, direct mail, and outdoor.  Deciding which to use requires thought as to what type of audience you want to reach, the message you want to convey, and budget.  Then you have to make sure that your placement within that media works for you as well.  Is your print ad buried in the paper or did you get a good placement?  Did the TV station sell you ROS (run of schedule) and then put your spot in Jerry Springer?  Did the radio station give you first spot in break or bury you in the middle of the break?

It’s vital that you talk with a good media buyer before committing to a media plan.  Speaking with a rep from a media company will only give you the perspective of why you should advertise only on their station.  Once you’ve purchased a plan from them and started to establish yourself as an advertiser, then good reps will start to have an eye out for you on other media…and you better still be buying time/space with them.  Media buying firms have the whole picture in mind and generally can secure better rates than you can on your own.  They make their money from ad agency commissions that media companies give for placing buys with them.  If you place the buy directly, the media company keeps that commission for themselves.

The bottom line is advertising is good for your business.  If your competition is already advertising, then by not doing so you will start to lose market share.  If they are not, then you immediately place yourself above them in the public’s mind and will start to reap the benefits shortly.  You should know that by putting yourself out there as an advertiser, you should expect that other media reps will start to call on you.  It’s wise to find a good media partner (buyer or ad agency) that you are comfortable with and are confident that they have your best intentions in mind.

Blocking the Writer’s Block

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Many of us have been there.  We have to write something on deadline.  Sometimes it’s on a topic that just doesn’t excite us.  Sometimes, we like the topic, but for whatever reason, the literary gods of inspiration are denying us.

The deadline’s approaching.  What do you do?  What will you do?

My suggestion is to read, take a walk, and drink.  In that order.  Let me explain.

I like reading.  I love knowing what other people have to say.  Thankfully, today we have one incredible resource at our fingertips in the Internet.  Call up your favorite search engine and type in keywords related to your topic.  Start reading what others have already said about your topic.  Don’t steal their ideas!  Just read about the topic and explore the different angles those authors have taken.  Typically, these Internet articles have links to other topics and ideas.  Follow the links down the rabbit hole.  Explore new topics.  Read the fresh perspectives.  Read read read.

But remember, you’re on deadline.  Once you’re gotten a good base in your head, take a walk.  Think about what you read.  Think about different angles people have taken on your topic.  Think about your own experiences and how they may differ from what you read.  Take mental notes which might only be free form thoughts, but may also serve as jumping off points to help get the creative process started.

And drink.  I’ve found things with sugar and caffeine in them to work the best.  Stay away from alcohol.  You’re no Ernest Hemingway.

What’s worked when you’ve been besieged with Writer’s Block?  Ever been forced under deadline to have to find your way through the Block and still deliver the goods?

I’ve got a website. Now what?

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Who needs a website anyway?

Ask any marketing person today and they will say if you’re in business, you need a website. Why? First, all of your competitors have one. If for no other reason than to be on the same level as them, you need one.

So, all you need to is plant your virtual flag into the cyberground, toss up a page with your name on it, and you’re done…right?

Sure! Do the bare minimum. Expect the bare minimum. Want more? Do more!

Today, busy professionals use every tool at their disposal to find out which companies are worth doing business with. Who are the cream of the crop? Who is worth their time? One of the most accessible tools today is the Internet. Look up their website. How’s it look. In a brief period of time, can you get an excellent sense of who they are, what they do, and exactly what they can do for you? If not, try Googling someone else.

Let’s say you’ve put together a nice website. The content is clear to understand. You’ve got pretty pictures. Now what?

Have you asked your website what else it can do for you?

Let’s say your website has a well written paragraph on your front page. Do your visitors want to read it? Or would it be better to have a video where your CEO can invite people into the site to explore and interact? Is your navigation consistent and intuitive? What else can your website do for you?

Time to visit your website and look at it critically. Maybe it’s time to visit your competitor’s websites as well. What are they doing that’s different and memorable? Are they gaining a leg up on your company through superior web branding? Do the websites have returnability because there’s frequently updated worthwhile information?

What do you perceive as goals for your website? What have you accomplished through a web presence that perhaps your office/store location haven’t been able to do on its own?

Written by Jeff York

July 12, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Advertising Media – Part 4a: Original content delivered by web

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As I mentioned in my last entry, “advertising on the Internet” is just too broad of a statement to make. There are too many ways in which to get your message out via the Internet as a delivery platform. That’s way I decided this week to create a sub-topic which is a new and creative way to soft-sell yourself and your company.

I have been working with companies to develop original content delivered to viewer’s desktops, laptops, TiVo’s, iPods, and so on. These days, people want their content when they want it and how they want it. But simply tacking on a :15 or :30 pre or post roll commercial onto a video podcast, for example, is only slightly better than advertising on TV. It’s an excellent way to reach a highly targeted audience with your message, but that audience is increasingly adversarial toward traditional advertising methods. A :15 preroll might be marginally acceptable. A full :30 spot is just too long to endure in a podcast environment. Other traditional modes within podcasts include product placement, sponsored segments, and lower thirds. I have a more effective solution.

What I wanted to talk about today is something even more creative and acceptable. I also believe that it’s far more effective. Imagine creating a 5 minute video podcast in which you teach your audience about something they didn’t know about, but something that your business does well. It should be something connected to your company’s core business. As you teach your audience, it will become clear that you are an expert in this topic. At no point do you try to overtly sell your business, but it’s clear that you know what you’re doing. Plus, you have the benefit of teaching your audience something new. Ultimately, if your audience finds they need someone with your talents, they will contact someone they know to be an expert. They will call someone they’ve had interaction with, even if that interaction is just through the podcast. They will contact you.

And after all, isn’t that the whole goal of marketing?

Written by Jeff York

May 10, 2008 at 12:50 pm