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!

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

Branding Real Estate Communities – MUCH Harder than it seems…

Started a great conversation with Olivier Blanchard regarding real estate and branding campaigns. REALTORS brand (coming soon), Builders brand, Developers brand, Developments brand – or should I say Bland. Not wanting to offend anyone, but given how much the genreal public has been overwhelmed with under-whelming advertising, there is little wonder why campaings often don’t work as expected.

Today I want to focus on Developers. Developers are the ones that start with a chunk of land and turn it into a beautiful community, hopefully attracting people to reside at (not in) their creation. Living in SW Florida, I can assure you there are no shortage of golfing communities, waterfront communities, gated communities, family communites and so on. As a developer, finding out what your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is will be as challenging as permitting. No matter where you are building your community, you need to discover what sets you apart from the others. To do that, you need to know well beyond your client (technically, the client is the builder NOT the homeowner), and you need to know their clients – the end-user, the homeowner. Having a “Signature Golf Course” built by a well-known designer doesn’t qualify. Having better snow-making equipment doesn’t work either (for you northerners). It goes well beyond that – and frankly, much deeper.

I was a REALTOR for nearly 10 years. I finished my career working for one of the largest developers in the area (Developer “A”). The company is publicly traded. They spent countless dollars branding their name. They got into building “custom” homes. Their goal was to be huge and successful. For a time, they were. I believe they even won Builder of the Year (after I left). However, behind the scenes, many mistakes were being made that ultimately brought the company down. Buying land at costs that were way too high, venturing in to “Custom” Home building, (while I’m here, “Custom” is NOT choosing one of these 8 floorplans and choosing finish – that’s customizable – huge difference. Custom means everything is drawn from scratch, based on each clients’ needs) and straying from the core company values all played huge roles in the demise of this company. Allowing sub-par contractors in just to get work finished, cheapening materials in order to make the balance sheet better and so on helped bring them down. This developer orignially sold and branded their projects as well-run, high-end, lifestyle and social communities, then when they transformed into a home builder as well, their brand was lost going through the same transformation.

On the flip side, we have Developer “B”. They opened back in the early 1980’s with a single project bordering the Estero Bay and Imperial River. Offered tremendous ammeneties (features), but from inception, always branded the BENEFIT of buying in their community. The fact that contractors were scrutinized. Standards were higher than anywhere else. This particular developer limited the number of projects it would take on, created an image of each individual community, all the while maintaining the core beliefs of the company. Before working for Developer “A”, I applied at “B”. Eight years of sales experience (mostly in the top 5% of my peers) wasn’t good enough. I needed experience with another company first – they suggested “A” (kind of like a AAA baseball team I guess) for refinement. Again – holding to their core values. Core values that would parallel Walt Disney. Every presentation started with the vision of the company founder, to provide a harmonious place to live amongst nature and enjoy it’s resources without disturbing the natural beauty. Holding true to these values from the top on down has made their develpments some of the best places to live here locally.

Can a community be branded effectively? Yes. However, it is one of the hardest things to do in that industry. Not to be different in your marketing is virtually suicidal, however, there is little difference from one community to the next – unless the underlying developer spends the time needed to create a brand for the developer first, and the community second.

I would love to map out step-by-step instructions how to accomplish proper community branding, but it isn’t that simple. It is time consuming. It takes research, patience and thought. However, when you figure out your USP (and please – make it unique!), shout it from the rooftops! (Or the sides of your friendly neighborhood mobile billboard company!)

Next post we’ll go into some easy do’s and don’ts when branding yourself as a Real Estate Professional…

J

December 29, 2008 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Soul searching+pure motives=more business…

Today I had a revelation – not of the religious sort, but then again, maybe a little. This is not intended to portray any one religion as better than the other, because quite frankly, I don’t think anyone can make a case that one is the best – besides, this is a marketing article, not a thesis on religious doctrine…

So – here is the revelation. An overwhelming majority of the successful business owners that I know have deep-rooted religious beliefs. They attend mass, services on Sunday, go to the Synagogue. They observe and respect both the religion and the tradition behind their chosen faith. The first comment I can hear coming is “God favors the righteous”. Knowing that each religion is different, and many religions believe if you do not follow their “path”, you are out of God’s favor, I eliminated the option that God looks at these business owners differently than one who is not as dedicated to religion, or who is agnostic, atheistic, satanist, etc… The conclusion is this – a subliminal business-model branding that happens every day, every week, in every organized religion. It is a simple philosophy that is as old as time: The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. HOLY CRAP BATMAN! SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING DEVINE! Will it work?!?

You may be saying Jon’s off his rocker again, or maybe still on meds after the surgery, because this seems so simple that everyone must be doing it. no one needs to be told, right?

Wrong…

I can tell you there are many “religious” people that have failing businesses. There are many non-religious ones that prosper. They all have one thing in common – they truly respect and understand their customers. Olivier Blanchard (http:thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com) goes as far as saying they “fall in love” with their customers (Olivier – I was half-way through this when I read your blog today…). I stopped by a client’s restaurant today. An up-scale restaurant being hit pretty hard by today’s economic climate. During our conversation discussing different ways to generate excitement for a place that already has “IT” and “WOW” every time you visit is tough. It is even tougher when we don’t want to tarnish or cheapen the brand they have built so eloquently. After about 20 minutes, I left, with some great ideas to pursue. On my way out, I was stopped by mall security (As a reminder, mobile billboards are one of my branding tools) because one of the tenants was complaining that I was in the parking lot advertising for a competitor of hers. Mind you, I was in the back of the parking lot, 40 empty spaces either side of me. She did not have 1 single customer walk in her store during the time I was there, yet she decided to call security and the police. Curious… I hope she doesn’t treat her clients that way. Personally, I am not offended or even remotely mad that she was upset. It tells me that the marketing I am doing for my clients gets noticed and works, because it strikes fear into the competition. However, it would have been a lot easier for her to walk 10 steps and politely ask to change the direction of the truck so the sign wasn’t showing…

That story brings me back to my original comment. Business people that spend time in some sort of house of worship on a consistent basis repeatedly are reminded to treat people with respect. Therefore, they do. It shows in their businesses, their personal life, the choices they make (or don’t make). The moral of the story is this: If someone isn’t going to remind you to treat people well, you need to remind yourself. It WILL come back to you in some way, shape or form later in life.

I’m interested in reading your insights!

December 19, 2008 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Branding basics in a tough economy

Branding seems to mean something different to everyone. Best definition I have found is at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand) as you might expect. No great revelation there.

What I do notice though is how often companies react to the economy, to their competition and to their own fears and abandon or stray from their brand to try something new. Now, before any “new media” consultants blast me, here me out :). The issue I am speaking about is not the delivery method, but the actual message itself.

During tough economic times, there are certain givens – almost guarantees – that will happen. How you choose to handle your business during these times invariably will determine your future success – or failure. Customers will slow down their spending habits, forcing each and every one of us to cut back – or close our doors. Interesting thing happens at this point – less businesses to serve the customer-base! Believe it or not, this is one of the greatest oppportunites you will ever have to a) increase your market share, b) increase your profits (you read correctly), c) position yourself to emerge stronger than your competition, and d) have the knowledge and forsight to handle times like these with confidence (because we will see recessions again).

How do you accomplish this? Well, I recently read an article from John A. Quelch – the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5878.html). In this article are 8 factors he believes will help get through these trying times – definitely a must read!

Let’s take a moment to address te “reactive” strategy that seems so prevelant these days. “My competition is selling his product for 10% less than I am selling the same thing – I need to drop my price by 15% to compete…” WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! Unless your margins are so high (and if they are that high, you should reconsider your pricing structure anyway), you can’t afford to cut prices that much – nor should you. This is where the power of your brand comes in. If you are a discount retailer, you keep pushing the fact you are a discount retailer. People know that, they expect it, and will naturally think of you when your competition runs their “Lowest Prices” advertising. If you are a service-oriented store, STAY ON TRACK! Don’t get into a price war! Most price wars (at least here locally) are started because one business is closing (or saying they are closing). Ask yourself a simple question: “If I am going to purchase a product that may at some point need service or warranty work, like jewelry, should I spend my money at a place going out of business, where I will never be able to get a missing stone replaced under warranty? Or am I better off going to the store I know will always be there – and has the best service?”

The danger with getting into a pricing war is two-fold: First – you pollute and tarnish your brand. You will spend countless hours and dollars recovering from the image change. Second – you may put yourself out of business!

The bottom line is this… Be proactive in all you do. Stay consistent with your message and images. Don’t be afraid to try new media, but keep consistent. Warren Buffet summed up our current economic condition best (and I paraphrase) “When people are afraid, be greedy. When people are greedy, be afraid”. Some of the greatest opportunities are right before you. It all starts with promoting your brand and image so the consumer will have the confidence to buy from YOU when they decide to buy.

December 18, 2008 Posted by | Business tips, Marketing in SWFL | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

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