Bonitamedia’s Weblog

Creating a lasting impression for small business

The Dangers of Poor Planning…

A very short discussion broke out on Twitter tonight (ok – maybe 3 or 4 total comments – more of an extended thought than a discussion really). I commented on how poorly-planned Social Media campaigns can be just as fruitless as their traditional-media counterparts. However, it was quickly brought to my attention by @pattyg23 that a poorly planned SM campaign will probably be worse. After thinking about it for a few moments, I tend to agree – and here’s why…

Everything done via SM is digital – and therefore unlikely to be destroyed. Think about it for a moment. Open up a separate window and go to Google. Type in your Twitter ID, or your Facebook or Myspace name (or alias) and see what you find. Your tweets are public (in fact I had one of mine used recently in a newscast in AZ – thanks @Careypena3tv) Nothing done on the internet is private anymore. NOTHING. Not just the pics you wish were never posted when you were drinking too much at a nightclub (or taking a bong hit in SC), but every word you type – no matter what your mood, reasoning or context, is saved somewhere in this surreal place known as CyberSpace. Any mistake you make may come back to haunt you in the future. It’s very difficult to put a spin on any written mistakes, but easy to spin other mistakes. An example would be Alex Rodriguez’s recent apology for steroids. It was easy for him to say “I haven’t taken anything since 2003” when he hasn’t been tested since then (no “paper trail”). However, it would be much harder to overcome this little PR nightmare had he told someone online he was juicing in 2007.

So – what does this all mean? First – don’t just jump into a SM campaign haphazardly. If you don’t choose to hire a professional to guide you through the maze, take the time to learn how SM works. Learn what makes members of each community tick, learn what the expect, learn how to earn their respect. In this digital age, news really does travel at the speed of light – and you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make yours count…

Editors Note: As luck would have it, Marc Meyer posted on his blog (and subsequently on Twitter) some examples of mistakes he has made throughout his career.  He and Mack Collier both make the point that no one knows everything, and my post isn’t meant to deter anyone from participation, rather to think before you write(speak).   Thank you both for your insights! (BTW Mack – if you’re reading this, I still need to figure out the Tweet This code for WordPress!)

Just a quick follow-up…
We have all heard stories of someone getting in trouble for their antics in public haunting them online…
Here is a great example provided by Tamar Weinberg in her Social Media Etiquette post.  Tamar – great info… Thanks!

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February 10, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History is Destined to Repeat Itself…

…especially when we repeat ourselves. Not just the mistakes, but the triumphs as well.

There are countless blogs about marketing theory in recessions. Just Google it. You’ll see a ton of info out there. The case that I find most interesting is Proctor and Gamble…

P+G was founded in the 1837 by William Proctor and James Gamble, getting their start by selling soap and candles. Seeing as the company has survived every economic environment for the better part of 170 years I feel they are as good an example as any to learn from. P+G faced many obstacles as it grew into one of the largest and most successful companies of all time. P+G’s branding strategies encompassed everything from identifying markets and creating new brands specifically for those markets to creating competition from within (most notably in their line of soaps).

Even more interesting than how P+G managed to leverage it’s own brands to strengthen the entire company is their attitude toward marketing during recessions. P+G does not cut their marketing budget at all. Instead, they look for added value with current media and they look to new and innovative marketing ideas in order to break from the norm. An example of this would be the door-to-door surveys they did in the 1930’s. When the world was in the grasp of the Great Depression, P+G sent 3000 people to the streets to conduct door-to-door interviews with the consumer to find out what their concerns were, what products they were buying and why, and so on. The result was P+G was the only conglomerate to come through the Depression in about the same condition it entered it: STRONG!

Many things can be learned from their example. To me, the most important is this: Being Proactive is far better than being reactive. P+G decided to find advertising value by negotiating better terms and pricing with current vendors and taking the savings and investing into new programs. Sound familiar?

JustoutofHome and Wirespring have both pointed out a trap that many agencies fall into… “No one has ever fired an agency for buying 30-second tv spots” Not terribly exciting, and in today’s DVR world, not too smart either. Look at your current strategy and see where you can get better value for your dollar. Instead of saving, try new media like mobile billboards, digital signage, Facebook, Twitter, etc… You may find yourself pleasantly surprised!

If you are interested in learning details about Proctor and Gamble’s marketing strategies, I suggest Wikipedia is a good starting point

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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

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!

Jon

January 8, 2009 Posted by | Business tips, 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 jon@mobile-exposure.biz).

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!

Jon

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