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Creating a lasting impression for small business

The Epiphany of a Small-Business Owner…

Being heavily involved in the local business community, I know many people that own small “businesses” like myself. I have been thinking about the many trials facing this group of people lately and wondering how these problems can be solved. Of course, being in the marketing/advertising business, my initial reaction is to advertise more! But in reality, the issue is more fundamental than that. Yes – Everyone needs more customers, and all marketing campaigns act like the town crier – spreading the good news about your business when you have a well thought out campaign, and spreading the virus of poor marketing when your campaign is fragmented, poorly executed or under-funded.

All of this aside, I was having a discussion with my board about our “business” when one of them brought to light “we have a great idea, but we don’t have a business – yet.” Then it hit me like a ton of bricks… I really don’t have a “business” per se, but really just a great idea. The fact that any organization needs marketing is nothing new, in fact, mobile outdoor advertising really isn’t new either. What is new with us is our delivery method and how we calculate our impressions, exposure, etc… BUT – what we don’t have is the repeatable, predictable systems, operations and clientelle that a real business has. Hmmm… got me thinking….

How many businesses out there operate like mine? How many really don’t have a true structure to how things operate? How many have never taken the time to create step-by-step procedures so anyone can come in and take the reigns if needed? How many business would fail if the leader were to have an accident or get sick? How many businesses, if sold, would fail because systems aren’t documented? How many are sold “on the cheap” because the systems are bad? That brings me to the epiphany… Like many “businesses” out there, I am not a business, but rather a group of ideas that has yet to be refined or sorted out. Is that a bad thing? Does that make what we are doing or what another business doing less valid? Absolutely not!

Now that I have come to this re-realization (I have read the E-Myth by Michael Gerber a number of times, so I should not have to be reminded to do this), I need to create the systems, document them at an easy reading level (5th grade should do it) and most importantly, FOLLOW THEM! What does that do for me, or any other small business owner? Creates the ability to escape from time-to-time! If you are anything like me, vacations are filled with “Can’t you put the phone down for 5 minutes?!” or “Can’t the office survive without you?”. Not much of a break when you have to work while away AND your family time suffers because you can’t really break away. Stress levels go up. Productivity goes down. Work that can be done in 8-10 hour days take 10-12 hours/ day, 7 days/week. Kinda makes you reconsider the “business owner” moniker 🙂

There is hope for many of us though. It’s called a real Operations Manual, real Systems, real Procedures. And best of all, it’s not that hard! There’s an old adage a buddy of mine told me about working with wood – “measure twice, cut once.” Measure twice, cut once will save you time and money, as well as give you predictable results each and every time, with a higher quality product. Measure twice, cut once is what every business owner needs to apply to their operating manual. Whatever the task, do it right, write it down, repeat as necessary. Your product (which in this case is NOT what you sell, but rather your actual business) will become more predictable, easier to run, more profitable, more fun…

Remember, it only takes a few minutes more to do something right the first time. Make the choice to develop your business as a business, not as an idea. You’ll be amazed at the freedom you find!

Coming in a few days, tips on hiring absolutely the best sales people, with all the energy and desire you want them to have, WITHOUT any of the complaining you expect from a superstar-premadonna sales genius!

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November 30, 2008 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL, SWFL Hodge Podge | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Faith Restored! (well – at least temporarily)

Creativity in marketing seems to be a lost art. David Ogilvy once suggested that 1 out of 100 ads are decent (thereby implying the rest are average or worse). Campaigns seem to have lost their luster – until this morning…

As I do on at 8am on the 3rd Thursday of the month, I attended the board of directors meeting for the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce. It was a typical meeting, where we received updates on the various happenings at the Chamber and so on. Nothing special – not until the end that is…

I had a few minutes to spare and started talking to a friend of mine, Bill Shikany, from Walter Shikany’s Funeral Home in Bonita Springs. What I heard was pure marketing genius!

A couple of days ago, Bill received a call from Nashville, TN, from Chris Waters. Chris is with Sony/BNA Records and represents seasoned artists like Kenny Chesney to newcomers like The Lost Trailers. The conversation went something like this:

CW – “HI, Mr. Shikany? This is Chris Waters. I am with Sony/BNA Records in Nashville, TN. How’s business? Are you busy right now?”

BS – “I have a few moments now. How can I help you?”

CW – “Have you ever heard of WWGR Gator Country 101.9?”

BS -“Yes I have. Their offices are here in town.”

CW – “Here’s my dilemma. I represent a new country act, The Lost Trailers, and WWGR Gator Country has had their new single for quite some time and is supposed to be playing it – but they aren’t. Would you do me a favor?”

BS – “What did you have in mind?”

CW- ” Would you please have your driver get in your Hearse and drive over to the station. Get Justin Tylerr, the program manager and ask him to please put The Lost Trailer’s CD in the back of your car. Tell Justin that Chris Waters said the new single, How ‘Bout You Don’t is dead on WWGR Gator Country, because they certainly haven’t played it!”

BS – “Sure thing. I’m on my way”

Now, I know what you’re thinking, anything from the guy in TN has some serious b@lls for calling a guy he never met to do a favor. But the story continues…

Bill arrives at the station and asks for the DJ. Bill asks him for the Lost Trailers CD. The Justin responds…”was I supposed to burn you a copy?” “No,” says Bill. “Mr. Chris Waters with Sony/BNA Records asked me to come by and have you put the CD in the back of my car (points to the Hearse) because evidently it is dead.” Justin and marketing director see the car and realize what is going on. Within 10 minutes the new single is being played.

Bill Shikany and Justin Taylor

Bill Shikany and Justin Tylerr

Justin following Mr. Waters' instructions to a "T"

Justin following Mr. Waters instructions

Absolutely awesome thinking! Coming from a large corporation, I am truly shocked. Mr. Waters stepped out of his comfort zone and created a cost-effective, dynamic, sure-to-get-notice campaign that accomplished his goal – getting The Lost Trailers heard on the #1 country station in SouthWest Florida. All it took was a little creativity and remembering the old adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

Imagine if we all had the guts to run with our instincts! I’ve been told that your “gut” reaction is always the best, your “first guess” on a test is usually right?

If you are interested in learning more about this group that Chris went to such great extremes to promote, please visit http://www.thelosttrailers.com

Chris Waters – if you’re out there, I just want you to know, I LOVE THIS! Let us hear how and why you came up with this idea, how you got hold of Bill, and more importantly, what the people of SWFL think of your new group!

November 20, 2008 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL, SWFL Hodge Podge | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Is bartering becoming more prevelant in today’s business environment?

It seems like a simple questions, with an even simpler answer. Of course more businesses are bartering. With cash-flow an inherent issue in most small businesses, and the need for goods and services unchanged, many are looking to bartering as a way to overcome that obstacle.

Media companies have bartered for years. I see it typically with restaurants trading food credit out for advertising. Makes sense – the hard cost for the food is significantly less than cost of advertising. In many cases, the restaurants receive 5-10 times the “value” in advertising in relation to the cost of the food. It also helps to generate new and repeat business for the owner and can help keep the waitstaff busy during slower months. But what disadvantages are there?

A lot has been written on this topic. The first that comes to mind is disproportionate value. I was working with a large fitness facility to promote the opening of a new location. They were looking to do 100% trade. In this case, it didn’t make much sense for me to do. May services run anywhere from $1000/month and up. They were looking to give me trade in memberships for as long as the signs were being displayed. At <$50/month for a membership I would be getting the raw end of that deal. In another case, a restaurant approached me about a campaign and asked if they could do a partial trade. This intrigued me – great restaurant with a superb reputation – exactly the client I was looking for!. They are uniquley positioned in our market to be able to provide elegant dining and seminar space. After much thought, we decided the best trade would be to hold marketing seminars in order to help promote their facility to the business community.

This is one example of both sides truly getting more value than is stated on paper. This should be the goal in any business transaction – make the experience phenominal – beyond a win-win for all involved. When bartering for goods and services, be sure to structure your deal so both parties truly can get more out of the deal than expected.

What pitfalls are there? If done correctly, there are only a few. (Now, before I go any further, I am not an attorney, nor am I an accountant. If you have questions, please ask your own counsel how the situation applies to you.) First, be sure to document with a contract and add the income and expense to your P+L. This will show, in theory, a wash in income, creating no taxable situation for your business. The big problem comes in when you barter business-for-personal. For example, you have a roofer come and fix a leak at your office and in turn the roofer receives something not related to his business (golf clubs for instance). This is a small example, but trading for personal items is frowned upon by the IRS. Be careful before you do anything to that affect.

I would love to hear your thoughts and some of the business trades you have seen work or fail.

J

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL, SWFL Hodge Podge | , , , , | Leave a comment

Where has the creativity gone?

Is Advertising an art form or a science?  Great question!  (I was just interrupted by my salesperson Erin and got sidetracked – and right on topic!)  Erin has a new prospect – a large, nationally-known cleaning company.  She brought in all of their collateral (no slight on the local franchisee – everything produced came from the corporate gurus).  Everything will get noticed because the colors are bright, but really – who chooses the graphics?  What is being sold here?  Drives me absolutely nuts!

Ok – back on track….

First – I will admit that my level of creativity for my own company is lackluster – just ask Olivier Blanchard (thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com), who by the way is one of the most creative people I have had the pleasure of meeting.

Our market, like all others, is cluttered with advertising campaigns that are unoriginal, boring and in many cases offensive.  Why is that?  Has every good idea been used up already?  William Bernbach once said “In advertising not to be different is virtually suicidal.”  That is so true.  The auto industry is cluttered with ads that, when you remove the name and photo of the cars, you have no idea what is being sold.  “I get 32mpg, have 4 doors, got a 5-star rating, who am I?”  That ad is obvisouly paraphrased, but could cover 6-8 difrferent commercials out there today.  How about “This woman got pregnant by a man she barely knows in order to buy me!”  Brilliant IMHO.  Throws you for a loop (also helps that Brooke Shields is the spokesperson).  Another great one – “When you turn on your car, does it return the favor?” (Cadillac in case you missed it).

The point here is creativity seems to be taking a back seat today to the “we’ve always done this, it kinda works, and I really don’t want to try anything new because I can’t afford to waste money” attitude.  Crazy if you ask me.

What if you were able to leverage the advertising dollars spent by your competitor for your advantage?  Take a look at what your competition is doing, what sales they run, where they place their marketing pieces.  I heard a story about a nail salon that really drives the point home.  The salon was located in a strip plaza next to a large grocery store.  Business was doing fine because they had no competitionto speak of.  Well – a competitor opened up across the street (an asian nail salon – promoted as such) and advertised “$9.95 nail sets!”.  Drove our subject nuts – and worse, business plummeted.  “How can anyone make a profit at $9.95?”  The new salon put ads everywhere, had a ton of new traffic coming through the door.  Our friend started a big advertsing campaign to bring buisiness back, but at $29.95, they were throwing good money after bad.  What was the solution?  Simple – about $50 for a sign in their window, facing the competition, that read: “WE FIX $9.95 NAIL SETS”

Think about it for a while – brilliant, inexpensive, and very simple to enact.

One of my favorite clients is doing a very creative campaign right now.  Diamond brokers, and avid poker players, Todd and Jason at the Diamond District are hosting a private poker tournament for anyone who spends $1000 or more at their store in November.  The winner of the tourney gets a trip to Vegas for 4 days and 3 nights PLUS their $10,000 entry fee into the World Series of Poker for 2009!  Brilliant campaign and think for a few minutes who that will attract!

Jon McLeod

Exposure Specialist

November 14, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment