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Creating a lasting impression for small business

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures…

It’s another oft-too-used cliche and it is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society.  Times are tough and people are finding new ways to pay bills or even put food on the table.  In fact, I had to replace my water heater a few days ago, so I put the old one on the curb for garbage pickup and it was gone within 30 minutes (I am on a dead-end street)!  I had know idea there was enough value in a broken water heater…

desperateWhat I really have a hard time understanding is why businesses feel they need to veer away from their image, their core competencies, their experience, THEIR BRAND.  I see it every day, locally, regionally and nationally.  “Going Out Of Business” has been transformed from a store closing to staying opened because of the new-found foot traffic.  I see prices slashed to the nth degree.  Loads of money being wasted on advertising and marketing all in the name of getting the consumer to spend what little money they have left.

I’m here to tell you this won’t work, it can’t work, it never will work.  Campaigns that are “too good to be true” are exactly that.  Today’s consumer is more informed than ever before.  The fact that a vast majority of people turn to the internet first for information should tell you something.  The consumer is looking for information.  They crave it.  They need it.  It’s time for businesses and marketing professionals alike to give the consumer the respect they deserve.  Don’t compromise your mission as a business in the name of the ole-mighty-buck.  Doing so will create a rift between you and your loyal customers that is unrepairable.  What’s worse is the consumer feels lied to – or even betrayed.  I would guess that’s not the image businesses want to portray.

Photo courtesy Olivier Blanchard

Photo courtesy Olivier Blanchard

I understand that times are tough.  Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures. However, if your business plan is to thrive, not just survive, careful planning to be certain you are keeping true to your brand and your mission is just what it will take to push your business to the next level!  Ask yourself this: “What is the tipping point in my business?”  (great read by the way – The Tipping Point).  I doubt you want your tipping point to be a negative, desperate one…


January 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Prioritizing matters more than you know…

Priorities and how to organize them.  This, in business and in life, seems to be the biggest distraction for many.  Priorities seem to change as frequently as daily for some people, but do they really need to?  For me, virtually every task, every event, every cause, action, reaction falls within 5 different categories (in no particular order) work, spouse, children, family/friends and yourself.  I will attempt to order these – with reason – and would love to read your thoughts.

#1 – My kids.  My children will always be first on my list.  That will never change, under any circumstance.  To me, and this may sound harsh, they are the only extension of me that is irreplaceable.  I don’t subcsribe to Bill Cosby’s theory (I can make another just like you – Bill Cosby, Himself).  I truly believe that every action I take affects my kids in profound ways.  As a parent, it is my duty to make sure they are raised in such a way to become caring and compassionate adults.  I will never live up to my duty as well as I should, but I will always be cognascent of the fact that my actions shape the lives of my two children.

#2 – My wife. When I got married, I made a vow for better or for worse.  I am not a big advocate of divorce, in fact I feel that most divorces should never happen.  Either the couple got married for the wrong reason or they are unwilling to put in the effort it takes to make it work.

#3 – Myself. I learned long ago that self-centerdness and selfishness lead nowhere.  However, a facade of caring and compassion won’t work either.  However, without a healthy body, mind and spirit I can’t be the father and husband I need to be, or the friend and business owner either.  Many people feel this should be placed at #1, but given the fact I would take a bullet for my wife or kids, I can’t possibly put myself ahead of them.

#4 – Family/Friends. No one can get through life these days without family and friends.  They help us grow by holding us accountable, challenging us, comforting us, laughing and crying with us.

#5 – Work/Business. Without a job or source of income, no one could provide for their loved ones.  However, without having all of my personal life in good health, there is no way my business can thrive.  I have seen time and again where #’s1-4 fail because emphasis is on #5.

My priorities are what they are based on my life, my situation and my own convictions.  Everyone has a different set, for different reasons.  I will say that if you are having serious issues in any part of your life, re-examine your priorities, take a long hard look at where your focus is and why.  Resolution may be closer than you think…

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A new way to keep fit…

It’s always nice to hear about a success story – especially when it involves overcoming challenges. That’s exactly what we have in Florida Fitness Coaches. The story begins with a 7-month delay because of permitting problems in Collier County and a contractor that was unable to deliver anywhere close to expected deadlines. Opening was delayed over 7 months…

FFC's Boutique Fitness Room

FFC's Boutique Fitness Room

Husband and wife team Damon and Laurel Moschetto opened their doors in January 2008 with a very simple goal – be committed to the client. Sounds pretty straight-forward, right? Well, considering most gyms – whether local or national – operate under the same business model: Get people to sign up, collect a monthly payment, and let the client fend for themselves. About the only similarity between Damon and Laurel’s operation and a typical gym is the equipment…

FFC’s typical client is 30-60 years old and, in the words of Kevin Spacey from American Beauty, “…wants to look good naked!” Each has different goals, and Damon and Laurel coach the novice to the world-class triathlete, and everyone in between. Focusing on each client, with truly personalized service makes these two unique. When you visit FFC, you’ll notice right away the difference – there is no loud music playing, the gym isn’t crowded, and the FFC team is giving individual attention to each client. This enables each client to reach their own fitness goals in shorter time. Using specialized equipment from well-known fitness companies like Polar, Damon and Laurel are able to monitor results in real-time, making sure you are working to your fullest potential both physically and mentally.

Florida Fitness Coaches blog is run by Damon (National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified), and on it you can find many great tips on nutrition, exercise and more. If you have specific questions, Damon would be happy to answer them via the blog as well.

Damon and Laurel are originally from Maine and have been married 14 years. Damon was a competitive athlete all his life and Laurel, seeing Damon’s passion for fitness, decided to go along for the ride! If you are looking for a place to bench 400#’s, you are looking in the wrong place. However, if you are serious about your fitness goals and want (or need) a true coach to help you reach your goals, then Florida Fitness Coaches is the place for you. Give them a try – you’ll be glad you did!

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Interviews, SWFL Hodge Podge | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Paradigm Shift…

Life is a voyage.  Everyday we have new challenges, conquer uncharted territory and lose epic battles (some we don’t even know are going on around us).  I am fascinated with the growth of internet communications, how “chatrooms” on CompuServe were on the cusp of social (inter)networking 15 years ago and where things have gone.  The world is shrinking my friends, and how you choose to handle or adapt is key to your success…

Change is afoot – and it is finally starting at the top.  No – I’m not talking about freezing Gov’t salaries or Foreign Affairs… I’m talking about Social Media and how big of a role it played in politics this past year.  Barak Obama and his team skillfully created a marketing campaign unparalleled in election history.  Corporate America needs to follow suit – shift your attention to getting the consumer to contact you when there is a need.  Please, look around you.  Your clients and customers are sick of the “old way”.  If you don’t adapt, then a new, more dynamic competitor will emerge that understands the direction the world is heading, and your loyal customers will indeed follow…

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Measuring the Effectiveness of your Marketing Campaign

The following analogy is courtesy of Darrell Brown, a good friend of mine in the financial planning world. 

measuring-cupImagine if you will, you’re trying to impress someone important, like say, your future in-laws, or a boss, or a new love-interest.  You invite them to dinner.  This one dinner is going to shape your life for the foreseable future.  There’s only one problem:  You Can’t Cook!

So you call up your mother and ask for help.  She gives you a shopping list and says “Don’t worry son, this is easy”.  On that list you have: chicken, tomatoes, cheese, coffee, salt, chocolate, flour, cherries, capers, lettuce, asparagus, cumin, rice, ham, onions and more.  Each element plays an important part in making the meal work.  What’s really amazing, is you can adjust the recipe one way or the other slightly – and really modify the taste, creating different, unique results.  But remember, you can’t screw this up – there is a lot riding on this meal.  So you start putting all the ingredients together – all of them – into the same pot and throw it into the oven.  You check on it after an hour or so and start to wonder where the chicken kiev, salad, chocolate cake, coffee and rice are.  You only have a pot of slop that you would have a hard time feeding the local stray dog!  It’s at this point you realize there is some art to cooking and there’s some science to cooking. 

Your marketing campaign is very similar in so many ways. First: Who you call for help.  Calling a friend that owns a succesful business is ok, but following what they do may or may not work for you.  Chances are, some tweaking, if not totally different ingredients are needed (a music store has a totally different clientelle than Medicare suppliment insurance agent).  You will get a good starting point (at best).  Second:  Choosing the ingredients.  Just because your friend gets calls from the Yellow Pages, doesn’t mean you will.  It doesn’t mean it’s cost-effective.  It’s tough to prepare a gourmet meal with Ramen Noodles and Busch’s Baked Beans.  Many ingredients are required – in just the right proportion. Third:  Mixing the ingredients.  One size does not fit all, and one strategy does not fit all.  Sure, you can look at the science behind marketing, analyze all the data and create a plan.  Or you can rely on the art, or “feel” of a campaign, drawing on your personal experiences.  Neither of these works well without the other.  The science gives us an idea how things work.  The art is fine-tuning – adding more in one media and taking from another, or perhaps venturing into new, uncharted media.  Fourth:  Timing.  Just as a cake needs ample time to cook, you can’t expect a marketing campaign to work if you don’t give it the time needed.

In the end, the effectiveness of your campaign will be judged on the number of new clients and the cost to acquire them.  What you need to know is, there are many ingredients that can not be tasted, smelled or seen.  Without them, your meal is a disaster.  You see the cake, but not the baking powder.  Same with marketing.  Just because one piece of the campaign doesn’t generate direct traffic, does not mean it isn’t working.  In fact, it may be the most integral part – the unsung hero!

If you are not a chef and you need to impress, go to Roy’s.  If you want your marketing plan to work, hire a professional that understands science and art.  Hire a visionary!

January 17, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

4 levels of competency

This post I dedicate to a mentor and Friend, Gary St. Martin, who is a REALTOR in Westford, MA. Gary tought me a ton about real estate and about just being a good person overall…

Sometimes, thoughts cross our minds and we don’t mention them because we assume everyone already knows what we have to say, or even worse, the fear of looking or seaming foolish. It’s ashame that many thoughts are squelched out of fear. So here I am, going to talk about something we should all already know, but hopefully the reminder will be beneficial and remind us all where we stand…

The Four Levels of Competency

Level 1: Unconcious Incompetence. This is basically being totally oblivious to your surroundings. You are so totally consumed and excited with something new, you can’t help but talk about it. You Don’t Know Wat You Don’t Know. This is a very dangerous place to be….

Level 2: Concious Incompetence. Here is where things get interesting. You start to realize there is more to this thing than you thought . You Know What You Don’t Know. A very important transition. Here you can begin to assess where you stand against your competetion and give the respect that is due (respect that may not have been given before).

Level 3: Concsious Competence. Well now the lights are going on. You Know What You Know(and sometimes you may tell too many people how much you now). You understand and are proficient at what you do, but may have a tough time articulating it. You can certainly do the job well – just not quite as efficiently as…

Level 4: Unconcious Competence. This is where we should all strive to be. Every professional pitcher, world-class swimmer, Hall-of-Fame athlete are here. You Know What You Know – and it is second nature. You are able to repeat with a level of consistency and confidence that is infectious. In fact, you are so good, you don’t even know it – you are just being you.

So I ask – where are you, and what are you doing about it?

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Advertising and Allocation… Learning from Wall Street

I have to admit, the world of branding, marketing, advertising and so on is fascinating (makes sense to be involved I guess 🙂 ). I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how advertising/marketing budgets- and how they’re spent – relate to my prior life as a financial planner for a large Wall Street firm. The parallels are striking.

There are some simple rules of thumb when it comes to investing, but the most basic is diversify. Sounds simple enough, right? well – not really. Models are developed for each client based on goals and risk-tolerance. A portfolio needs to account for both the long-term needs of the client (how much growth/safety-of-principle/etc…) and the short-term needs (from buying a home, to college funding, to being able to sleep at night). To accomplish this, the investor needs to buy different asset classes, multiple companies in each class, fixed income (bonds, preferred stock, etc…) of differing credit ratings, etc… One of the biggest challenges is convincing a client not to put too much into one sector (automotive) or one company (Enron). The days of investing in what you know are going away because, as we have all seen, no company, no industry is immune to financial problems. What’s worse is when an investor with little money wants to gamble on one or two companies, when buying mutual funds (albeit expensive) really give better diversification.

It is amazing how I find the same challenges when working with clients. First issue – the “My competitors do this, so I have to!” It’s like the golf buddy who speaks of the fortune he made on one stock, but leaves out the much greater losses on the others. Your advertising campaign needs to be designed based on your goals and risk levels – not on what your competition is doing. Second – Budget constraints. How many times have you seen this… “I have $5k to spend. I want to run a full page ad in the newspaper, or send out a mailer to 5000 homes from this list I bought.” Gambling with your businesses lifeline if you ask me. If you budget is low, you need to investigate mutual-fund-like marketing plans. Sure – you won’t get your full-page ad, but you will get what you really need – frequency and reach, which will invariably create a longer stream of new business. (Exception – if you are going out of business, tell everyone right away and short-term). Third – True diversification involves risky investments, so a truly diverse marketing plan will involve new media, different ideas, things that are out of your comfort zone. Anything from blogging, social media, mobile billboards, to digital sign networks are new to many marketplaces (especially mine) and are great ways to accomplish great things without spending a fortune.

I could go on and on about this, but I what I really want is your feedback in Assett Allocation for Marketing Plans.

Remember, a business with no sign is a sign of no business!


January 8, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

New Year’s Resolution…. How Original!

You know, I had a nice dinner tonight with the family and the topic of New Year’s Resolutions came up. Really, the topic came up as a way to try and help my daughter through a mental block at the swimming pool. She thinks she is working hard, yet it is obvious by her times (and her coach’s anger) that she isn’t working. Normally, I would try to discuss the practice, what she thought went right or wrong – and why. Like all parents, I am proud of my kids (11 yr old twins) accomplishments. However, my daughter has way too much natural talent and the temptation to be an over-bearing, vicarious-living fool is almost too much to handle 🙂

In trying to help her, without mentioning swimming, we talked about resolutions and habits. Personally, I think resolutions on New Years are a big waste of time – because most people never get near their goals. I’ll quit smoking, lose 20#’s, eat better, stop drinking, be nice to my dog – whatever – but theses self-made promises never seem to get fullfilled.

So – back to the angle… We talked about forming habits. It takes up to 3 weeks for a person to form a habit – whatever that habit may be. I used an example of a friend of mine, Bill Shikany, who lost 41#’s in 2008. We had lunch today and I asked him how he did it. “Simple. Eat better and workout consistently (Bill works out at Anytime Fitness in Bonita Springs)”. Seems easy enough. Endorphins kick in and the body craves the rush – like a natural high. I miss that high myself. I am wondering, am I setting a bad example for my kids by not training on the bike like I used to? Do they notice that I don’t go to the gym like I used to? (I spent way too much time there when they were infants and have 2 shoulder surgeries to show for it – ouch). Let’s see – I’m gonna go ask them both right now and come back with the answer…

Ok – 5 minutes later and a new revalation… 11 year-old kids are very observevent. Both my son and daughter noticed my lack of excersize (son did point out the waist line – thanks kiddo!). They also both said they were more likely to work at their sport if they saw me working out as well. Afterall, is it fair for me to ask them to work hard if I am not willing to?

Now for the most important part of this discussion. When your body is healthy, so is your mind. You are able to process information quicker, more accurately. You become a better listener. You become a better husband/wife/partner and so on.

I think one of the biggest reasons New Year’s resolutions fail is we don’t respect or care about ourselves as much as we think we do (hence the reason we give up so easily). What if the resolution was done to help out someone you care about more than yourself. Someone who affects you in ways no one else ever could, ever would, or ever will. In ways that can never ever be replaced. What if your resolution had the ability to help direct the life of someone other than yourself? Would that make a difference?

Ask me in 3 weeks…


January 6, 2009 Posted by | Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

REALTORS and Marketing… How to differentiate yourself from thousands of “experts”

You know, there are many great and innovative things being done in today’s real estate world. The truly great REALTORS all have similar traits… They focus on their core competencies (listing and/or selling). They have chosen a particular marketplace to serve (first-time buyers, investors in single-family, commercial, rental and so on). They spend their working hours learning more about the business of real estate by surrounding themselves with like-minded peers. They mentor (but only a couple of students – they don’t take away from their expertise).

When the agent grows beyond the point of being able to handle the workload alone, an assistant is hired or duties are sub-contracted out, allowing them to stay focused on their main skill set (see above). The real estate market has been hit hard by many things – credit crunch, a massive collapse in values, consumer fear and much more. The way I see it, this is such a great opportunity for REALTORS to capitalize, grow their business and earn more money now than ever before. Let’s look at REALTOR marketing from a few angles and see if your business (real estate or not) can benefit from this…

First, Warren Buffet once said (paraphrased) “When people are scared, be greedy. When people are greedy, be scared.” This statement is very profound. Of course hindsight is 20/20 (those that know me know my thoughts on the collapse of real estate values – been preaching it since 2004) and everyone realizes now that all investments are subject to fluctuations in value. Real Estate IS NOT a short-term investment, however, if you are well-positioned to buy now, the cap-rates on rental property are looking much more favorable. REALTORS need to be catering to investors and first-time buyers. Listings are fairly easy to come by right now. However, not to differentiate yourself in business is virtually suicidal (William Bernbach). Try something different. LOOK FOR BUYERS! They are out there. There are agents making more money in SWFL today than in 2007, when prices (and commissions) were twice what they are now.

Leo Burnett said “The greatest thing to be achieved in advertising is believability, and nothing is more believable than the product itself”. Read that again and again, Then think about the product. What is the product? Is it the property? No – You are the product. Your marketing must be believable. Here is a great example. Back when I was in the industry, I was at a conference having a drink with a well-known real estate motivational speaker. A woman sat down next to him, introduced herself and handed him her card. His initial reaction (to put it mildly) was absolute shock. She was obviously in her ’50’s, but her card had a picture of her that was either 15 years old or had been so retouched you couldn’t recognize her. Truth in advertising my friends…. Lie about your looks and you have immediately broken the trust of your client. This has to be the single biggest mistake I have ever seen.

Of course, another pet peeve is pictures of you and your pet. Don’t do it – your client doesn’t know your pet, may not like your pet, might think your pet is ugly – whatever the case. You are promoting your services as a professional REALTOR, not a dog groomer or kennel service.

One last point before some ideas that do work… Professional REALTOR Associations. Every REALTOR must belong to the local Board. There are many clubs and other organizations available to join as well. Remember what you are good at. Use your time wisely. Before joining these other organizations, ask yourself exactly how this will benefit your business. Know the reasons, track them, and move in a different direction if it doesn’t work as expected. I have never met a top producer that spends any significant time at these other organizations. Most attendees are either affiliates (generating business with REALTORS) or agents that aren’t busy enough and would prefer to be social. If your goal is to be the best, consider how much time you invest here.

That being said, what works? First – look back at your client. Write down a profile of your perfect client. Age range, lifestyle, married, kids, etc… In most cases, you will find your prospects are educated and spend time on the internet. I would suggest stepping out of the typical marketing box for the internet and look at things from a new angle. First, don’t make the focus of your website “View All Listings Here” – boring! Every buyer knows every agent has access to the whole MLS system. They also know you, the REALTOR, knows how to locate their type of home faster. Your client is spending more time researching the area they are moving to. Chris Griffith in Bonita Springs, FL has a great angle that has been quite successful. Her Blog is not soley about real estate. She promotes what it is like to live in Bonita – from the perspective of an everyday person. Information anyone looking to move to the area wants. Not facts and figures, the EMOTIONAL aspect of living there. Linda Davis in Gales Ferry, CT uses a similar approach. People buying from these two do so because they reach an emotional connection with them even BEFORE meeting them. That builds a level of trust and loyalty that won’t be broken by the typical facts & figures REALTOR. Using a different angle, Chadwick Saunders has developed a unique niche catering to the short-sale marketplace and has branded himself as the expert in short sales. His clients not only realize he can deliver on the investment side, they also develop a personal relationship with each client, making him one of the most successful REALTORS in southwest Florida today.

Each one of these agents has developed a brand, an image and done so without spending thousands of dollars in every real estate publication known to man. Yes – you need to advertise your listing. But remember, just like an investment portfolio, you ad dollars must be spent in different media. Outdoor, out-of-home and internet are by far the most productive because they are different. Print, radio and TV will bring you calls, but are they the calls you are truly looking for? Be true to yourself, and that will carry over to your clients. Spend the time necessary to create a marketing campaign that will promote you and your core values/competencies. Consider hiring a consultant to assist with your brand (ask how by emailing me at

Finally, your emotions are easy to read. Believe 2009 will be prosperous, and it will. Believe it will be slow and you will surely fail.

Happy New Year!


January 2, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL, SWFL Hodge Podge | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment