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DSC00064Marketing Misfire Photo of the Week I couldn't resist taking this photo while walking around in Manhattan. I'll leave the company name out of it but this was their main marketing message on the front of the building. They may want to consider...

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video-300x300Beginner's Guide to Video Marketing Disclaimer: I'm am not a professional video producer. If you've read my blog for a few years you'll know I typically embrace the latest mediums in marketing, learn them, and implement them in my teams'...

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Clean ShirtsHome Delivery Dry Cleaning Case Study: How Performance... Many of my readers are marketing professionals so stick with me on this post until the end. Although it looks like a post reviewing local dry cleaners it was actually inspired out of seeing first hand...

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Hotel Video Marketing - Good Tool or Not? I recently wrote about an experience I had in Europe staying at Ibis hotels. I was impressed with their marketing of their services and the backing of that brand marketing by hotel staff. The post was...

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Yoda.sized5 Steps To Analyzing That New Marketing Effort I was recently watching the original Star Wars movies with my kids. An absolute timeless series, but it's amazing how much more suspenseful that was when I was much younger. Graphics and special affects...

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Home Delivery Dry Cleaning Case Study: How Performance Impacts Brand Image

Category : branding, general marketing, strategy


Many of my readers are marketing professionals so stick with me on this post until the end. Although it looks like a post reviewing local dry cleaners it was actually inspired out of seeing first hand how performance directly impacts a brand image.

I despise ironing. There – I said it. I feel much better. I ironed my shirts for many years but as my use of button down shirts grew, it seemed like I spent most weekends ironing. I also dislike spending money on something I can do myself. But, like plumbing and electricity, I decided it was time to outsource. (side note: plumbing and electricity were outsourced as it was determined that I couldn’t do that myself :) )

My wife and I had heard that there were actually dry cleaners that picked up and dropped off at your home and after a quick price comparison we felt the few extra cents might justify the efficiency in this service.

So we searched for Minneapolis and St. Paul cleaners that delivered and we went with Total Care Cleaners. After a few months I was sold. The service was excellent. I put my shirts in a bag and hung them on the door where they were picked up. All the shirts came back in perfect shape ready for wear. We also found the customer service to be very good. No matter when we called or emailed, we always had a live response or one shortly after. Never a lost shirt and never a missed delivery.

Then came some tempting PR for a local competitor – Mulberrys Garment Care. They advertise 100% toxin-free cleaning. From their site:

“At Mulberrys, our award-winning dry cleaning and stain removal experts use pressurized, naturally occurring C02. The use of odorless C02 enables us to return your clothes cleaner and without the chemical smell. Also, because no heat is used, your clothes are finished without the fading, shrinking, pilling or stain-setting common to all other dry cleaning methods.”

We thought it couldn’t hurt to give them a try. I was sucked in by what came back on that first order. The shirts came back on nice wooden hangers and [drum roll please] they had collar stays already in the shirts. Wow! What a great perk for essentially the same price. Although my wife and I are loyal consumers it looked like we’d been lured and had found a new service for my shirts. This was just too good – they’re environmentally friendly and offer some nice value-adds.

Then, the wheels started coming off. First, it was a lost shirt then a lost suit and then a handful of shirts on one order. (Note: all the items were found and returned within a week). It wasn’t so much the temporarily lost shirts that bothered us as much as the lack of response to our emails or voicemails. We actually ventured into their store in a local grocery because we couldn’t get a response and we found chaos. There was no explanation or reason for the lack of response and we got vague answers as to the location of my shirts. For the record, all the people were pleasant and when they got the clothes right, they did it very well. But, we were using up the time we hoped to save by using this service in chasing down lost items.

We also found out they were expanding to other cities. What?! It seemed they were struggling to serve this city. That’s when the analytical business side of my head kicked in.

Total Care Cleaners understood the core needs of their consumer. Clean, pressed shirts delivered on time and the complete order in tact. Not only did they understand, but they did it well and delivered responsiveness when their customer needed it. No big value-adds – just dependable service. Mulberrys already had expanded to nice perks and value added features they knew their customers would like. But, they were missing that reliability and service that makes the extra features nice to have. In the end their brand is suffering because they haven’t mastered their core business the way the competition has.

Hopefully, we all supported Small Business Saturday this last weekend and we all got the chance to see some small businesses in action. I love to support small, local businesses that understand their target markets and the needs of the consumer. Who wouldn’t want to support that? Understanding your core business and executing on that before expanding is key in my opinion.

Any interesting insights around small business from this weekend?

5 Steps To Analyzing That New Marketing Effort

Category : campaigns, strategy


I was recently watching the original Star Wars movies with my kids. An absolute timeless series, but it’s amazing how much more suspenseful that was when I was much younger. Graphics and special affects have come a long way.

But, one persona in the movie that portrays wisdom relevant in any galaxy is Yoda. Remember him? The little green guy in the swamp that guides Luke on his journey to understanding, “The Force”. One of Yoda’s lines in the movie struck me as extremely relevant in my profession – or any profession for that matter. Luke was having a hard time with something related to The Force and he told Yoda he’d try again. Yoda snapped back and said, “Do or do not. There is no try”

Brilliant! How many times have we heard, “we should give that a try” on our Marketing teams? I’m starting to see the word “try” as an out. When you’re “trying” something, failure to execute is understandable. After all, it was only trying. But, what about all the cost, resource, and time that went into that “try”.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for trying something new. In fact, I encourage innovation and “out-of-the-box” thinking in regards to how my teams market their companies. But, as Marketers we have 100 times the options available to us to connect with our customers than we did 10 or 15 years ago. The Internet, social media, podcasts, webinars, blogging, etc. are offering us bountiful options in which to proliferate and distribute our positioning and messaging. The myriad of choices is daunting for small business marketers and the temptation to dabble in a new medium or technology is great.

But, there is the problem – the dabbling. If you don’t draw up a plan, dedicate resources, and design intended outcomes you risk missing the boat on the new direction’s potential. Instead, follow these steps and put the new effort on the right path:

Article in instapaper that might be good reference

  • Alignment with Goals: Alignment with goals is always one of my first thoughts when considering giving my approval for anything in Marketing. Is this new effort going to support a direction the Marketing team or the overall company is going?
  • What’s the Plan: Simply trying can waste time. What is the measurable result you hope to attain? An “A to Z” plan should be clear so you can get to a certain point in time and analyze whether the intended result was achieved. Too often we get in the habit of giving something a try and seeing what happens rather than knowing what you want to happen first and implementing a plan to get there.
  • Look for Other People’s Experience: A simple search can yield a plethora of perspectives. Perhaps someone else has some experience you can tap. Maybe there are pitfalls or better ways of implementation that you haven’t considered.
  • Consider Resources: You’ve gotten your plan and feel confident that there is a measurable outcome. But, what are the opportunity costs of implementing? If you’re a small business you’re most likely looking at not applying your time to something else in order to implement this new idea. Make sure you have a full scope of what resources are needed and what may get dropped.
  • How Much Will This Cost: This should be a no brainer, right? If your budget is tight – it better be. But, often we don’t consider “project creep”. What hidden expenses are out there that you haven’t considered yet?

As a reference point for some more information on a related topic, I came across this article which I think gives a good perspective on taking calculated risks:

I know there are a variety of perspectives and opinions on this topic so please chime in if you think there are other angles to this discussion!

A True Story About a Chair

Category : general marketing, strategy


jillchair.jpgThis is a true story and you need to read it.

While out to eat with friends recently, I heard a story that so caught my attention that I couldn’t wait to write about it. A former co-worker and now close friend of my wife and I humbly relayed something she’s started at work. She’s not the type to boast or draw attention to herself and to further put this in perspective, she’s the antithesis of the corporate, political-playing title climber. She’s got an incredible personality, truly enjoys people, and rarely is found without a positive glow. So, can you imagine that she’s potentially changing the way a Fortune 500 listens and communicates with its employees and customers?

Well, she is and she’s doing it with a chair.

She works in Communications for a very large retailer based in the Midwest who has thousands of stores worldwide, thousands of employees, and a bustling technology-filled corporate campus filled with energetic people trying to climb the ladder and change the world of retail.

Then there is Jill. She had a simple idea that – at first – was met with opposition. But, her perpetual optimism won over management and they told her to give her idea a try.

So, she plopped down two chairs in the heart of this busy corporate campus and put a sign over the two chairs calling out a topic for the day. She occupied one chair and then waited. And waited. And waited for another employee to sit down and discuss the topic she had posted. No technology. No motives. Just a person genuinely interested in her co-worker’s thoughts and feelings.

Well, her wait was short. People started to sit and talk. One at a time, Jill sat and spoke with employees. Taking notes on employees concerns and feedback, she promised their input would be anonymously passed on to upper management – and it is.

Would you believe that at times there are lines waiting to talk with her? They trust Jill and love sharing their thoughts with her. There are plans to not only increase the frequency of when she’s there to talk, but now she might sit at stores and talk with customers about their experience.

Again, two chairs. A topic. No technology. The whole world of business broken down to its simplest form – face to face, honest communication.

Here’s the copy that is used to advertise The Chair:

“The Chair” is designed to spark open, face-to-face, one-on-one conversation with employees in the simplest way possible: by offering employees a topic to talk about, an empty chair to sit on and an Employee Communications team member to listen to them (really listen – without a laptop, cell phone or Blackberry in the way). “The Chair” gives us a pulse-check on employee opinions, thoughts and ideas, while giving employees a place to be heard. “The Chair” is set up every other Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to noon for corporate employees, with plans to expand it to store employees in the future.

With all the texting, blogging, IM, emailing, chatting, Twittering, etc. isn’t it awesome that a simple thing like this is having such a dramatic effect on a very large company? With any company, constructive feedback from employees and customers is not easy to get. As a marketer, I practically jump off the ceiling if I can get a customer or employee to sit down and tell me honestly what they think of our products or marketing plan.

Honestly, I’m not sure just anyone could pull this off. If you could meet Jill, you’d instantly know why this is working. But, I think more companies need to try. Listening is so important to understanding, and understanding customers and employees is what empowers businesses to improve.

Like a lot of corporate environments, people are falling all over themselves trying to take credit for the idea, but in the end it was all Jill. She’s loving it and has truly carved out a niche for herself in corporate America.

If you’d like to learn more about this effort, let me know and I’ll put you in contact with Jill.

What are your thoughts on The Chair?

The Ultimate Small Business Sales Management Book

Category : strategy


The Road Warrior’s Guide To Sales ManagementI’ve been excited and proud for the opportunity to write this post for about the last year. The time has finally arrived and I’m very excited to announce that there is a new book on the market called The Road Warrior’s Guide To Sales Management. No, I am not the author, but I happen to know the author pretty well – he’s my Dad.

Tom Schaber should be slowing down after decades of hard work, but instead he’s pumping out a new book and turning away more business than he can handle from his successful sales management consulting business. His new book is a down-to-earth, practical guide to sales management that is derived from over 25 years of managing sales organizations.

From the back cover:

The Road Warrior’s Guide to Sales Management provides owners and sales managers with a simple business approach covering:

  • The optimal time for a company to hire its first sales representative or to add more salespeople
  • Where to find sales professionals
  • Interview tips to eliminate the sales duds
  • Goal setting that really works
  • How to avoid long, boring sales meetings
  • How to fire a salesperson and not get sued
  • And more on compensation, creating sales territories, and developing salespeople’s skills

For $17.00 this is a no-brainer for the small business owner or sales manager. I’m not just saying that and pushing this because I’m related to the author – I honestly think this is a great resource for small business. From front cover to back cover the book is filled with straight talk and practical advice. I’m proud of the author and proud to be able to tell you about it.

Tom blogs about sales management at Total Sales Manager and his book can be purchased through:

(FYI…these links are not affiliate links and I don’t make any money on the sale of this book)

Important Steps In 2008 Paid Search Planning

Category : paid search, search engine marketing, strategy


I know what you’re thinking. It’s Halloween. Christmas lights aren’t even up yet and I’m suggesting you start thinking about your 2008 paid search campaign. Well, paid search is more than just ad copy tweaks and keyword research. Paid search is a component of your overall small business marketing plan. Now is the time to learn from your 2007 results and make sure that your 2008 paid search strategy is in line with your overall product marketing goals!

Head on over to Search Engine Guide and read my full post – Important Steps In 2008 Paid Search Planning.

Let me know your thoughts! How do you make sure your strategies are aligned?

Small Business Marketing Needs To Make The Shift

Category : b to b marketing, strategy


There is a major shift happening in the world of marketing. Actually, it’s been happening for some time, but many industries chose to ignore it.

As calls from ad reps start coming in trying to get business for 2008, I can’t help but notice that many traditional print magazines are leading with offers related to online marketing. I’ve watched the print trade magazines shrink in size for three years, but this is the first year that the sales reps are leading with online marketing mediums and opportunities.

I guess this should be no surprise to anyone, right? BtoB recently report that:

Internet advertising revenue for the first half hit a record $9.993 billion, up 26.4% from the year-earlier period, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers, which released a report Thursday.

Yet, it surprises me that “old school” magazines and reps are so quickly changing their tune. I’ve spent alot of my career in the telecommunication and data networking industry that has always been slow to evolve. There are many other similar industries. But, maybe this is a sign that they’re coming of age. How the magazines write and act are typically an extension of their audience.

BtoB also reports that the channels by which we reach our audiences online is spreading out:

Forrester said interactive spending will total $18 billion this year and jump to $24 billion next year. By 2012, it will reach $61 billion, the research firm said, driven by marketers that leverage multiple channels: e-mail, search, display advertising, online video and emerging media ad channels such as social and mobile.

Now, that is what I call a shift! It’s important to keep in mind that these stats are not just a representation of a bunch of marketers – these stats are a representation of the audiences and users that those marketers are trying to reach. We need to stay on top of that and make the shift as well.

Small business marketers need to stay aware of these statistics. Our budgets don’t allow for falling behind the times.

What A Way To Buy Wine!

Category : branding, strategy


My wife and I truly enjoy a nice bottle of wine. We enjoy discovering a new variety and finding that perfect bottle. But, one aspect of wine buying that always has frustrated me is the liquor store experience. How many times have you been charged with picking up a bottle of wine as a house warming gift or bringing the bottle of wine to your friend’s house for a dinner party? You step into the store and there are endless rows of bottles separated only by white/red, maybe region where originated, and price. Not a good way to buy wine.

Ugh! You decide that $10 may be too cheap for the friend’s party so you hit that $15-$30 range, but you’re only making that decision because you perceive a $20 bottle of wine to be better than a $10. Is that any way to buy wine? What a shot in the dark.

Well, I was recently in Manhattan for business and was walking down a street in SOHO when I saw a store called Bottlerockets. I fell in love instantly. Voted the best wine store in New York, this place has mastered the wine buying experience.

Bottlerockets New York Wine Store

Need to buy wine for a gift for the boss? How about find a wine paired with a certain food or just takeout? Have an occasion that needs the perfect wine? Or, are you looking for wines selected by famous critics? Bottlerockets has organized the wines based on the consumer’s needs. Whatever your need, you’ll have a variety of options that make the experience fun, educational, and easy.

If that isn’t enough they have a wine book store and a kids nook stocked with toys to further compel the busy parent to take a few seconds and stop in.

This is how you should buy wine. I don’t know enough to walk through endless rows of bottles and select a variety that is right for my tastes or for other factors. I’ll typically go by bottles I know I like or by a price range. Bottlerockets changes that. I’d be more adventurous and focus more on the experience of a good bottle of wine rather the price.

Hats off to Bottlerockets! I wish they had a store in Minneapolis. They’re a small business that has created a buying experience focused solely on the needs of the consumer. Small business marketers can learn a thing or two from Bottlerockets.

Do I have you thirsty for more wine talk? I did a little searching and found some more wine marketing discussions:

Tips For Small Business Media Planning And Buying

Category : online marketing, print advertising, strategy


phoneoffhook.jpgIt’s October, my phone is ringing off the hook, and sales pitches are starting to roll in which means it’s time for 2008 media planning and buying. This is sort of becoming a Fall ritual for me as we work on our media plan and figure out what mix of print ads, paid search, banner ads, white paper postings, webcasts etc. we want for the upcoming year.

As a small business media planner the art of media planning and buying can be a bit intimidating at first, but as you learn the ropes you find ways to put yourself in a good position to make the right decisions and stretch your dollar as far as it will go. Here are some guidelines I’m following for this year:

  • Treat Reps With Respect: Admittedly, the cold calls I receive get a bit old after awhile, but I believe the caller should be treated with respect – and get a call back when they get my voicemail. I’ve developed some great relationships with ad reps and I like to continue doing that. Many times the better relationships make for better business deals.
  • Have a Basic Media Plan in Mind: I like to have a basic idea in my mind come October what I want in my media plan for next year. What verticals will I hit with print, what types of online ads will I be buying, will I be trying video are just a couple of the answers I like to have ready. This way you can give eager sales reps some guidelines for what they can include in their proposals. Which, in turn, saves you time wading through endless options.
  • Get The Stats: If you’re purchasing banner ads or any kind of online ad placement, ask for basic statistics from the rep. Try to get such stats as visitors, impressions, average click-through-rates, and site page views. I’ve purchased ads in the past from reputable companies only to find that their web traffic was very low.
  • Know Your Budget: I always assume that my budget will be the same as the previous year (but make sure you ask for more!). Knowing a basic budget figure for media planning and buying will keep your sites set on a goal of getting the most out of what money you do have to spend.
  • Keep Track of Contacts: I’m dealing with many different media types and vendors so there are quite a few contacts to remember. Start a spreadsheet or database with contact info from everyone with whom you speak – even if you don’t think you’ll do business with them. This saves time when you’re ready to go back and finalize contracts.
  • Negotiate Value-Ads: Let’s face it, print advertising is declining but not dead. Many of us still need to place print ads for branding purposes. One trend I’m seeing though is many magazines are cutting back issues or decreasing in size. Use this trend to your advantage by asking for value-ads to be thrown in with print ad purchases. I like to ask for banner placements on websites (more links for SEO!!), subscriber lists for sales campaigns, or free white paper postings. You’d be surprised what you can get thrown in.
  • Try Something New: It’s easy to get stuck in a rut from year to year, but every small business marketer should be looking at trying new mediums each year. We may take a stab at video this year! Remember Universal Search is playing a much bigger role these days.
  • Leave Some Padding: Don’t commit every last penny of your 2008 media plan. Leave some wriggle room for events or ads that you might want to run mid-year. Remember, things change!

Does this seem daunting? Don’t let it. Have a plan, stick to that plan, and don’t get tempted to stretch the budget. There has never been a better time to be working on media planning and buying – the options for positive results are endless!

It’s a Constant Power Struggle

Category : general marketing, strategy


fists.jpgWhat happens when two very opposite personalities and perspectives square off on a business process? Typically, nothing good. But, that is sometimes the case between marketing and IT departments. We don’t understand each other and because the gap is wide between how we each approach the business, sometimes we don’t try. IT people think us marketers should stick to our flyers and brochures while us marketing people think the IT guys should worry about keeping desktop computers running and the network fast.

Well, the truth is we both do a lot more than that and our worlds are slowly converging.

New marketing mediums such as blogging, podcasts, video, RSS and more have forced more than a few IT and marketing departments to share a conference room and hash out their differences. I certainly have been a part of a few of those!

I’ve had a post planned for sometime now outlining the friction and steps to improve, but my “Get to the Point” newsletter from MarketingProfs popped in yesterday and took care of that for me. The article titled, “Information Technology is from Mars, Marketing is from Venus” does a great job of telling the story. It’s a short article so take a few minutes and check it out.

I’m curious – is there anything you’d add?

Should Media Planners Love Or Hate Google?

Category : campaigns, paid search, strategy


I logged into my Google Adwords account yesterday and noticed something for the first time. On my campaign summary page there was a tab setup for my online campaigns and a new tab setup lower on the page for Other Campaign Types which strongly suggested I look into Print or Pay-Per-Action campaigns. This could have been there for awhile, but it’s really the first time I took notice.

Screen Shot of Google’s Other Campaign Types

So, I can go to Google for paid search, pay-per-action campaigns, site-targeted display ads, and print advertisements. As with anything Google does, they get bigger and better. What will these services look like in 5 years?

So, what does this all mean for the small business marketing media planner? Can we hand over time-consuming media planning to Google? Will bigger company media planners be out of jobs?

Absolutely NOT! While Google is doing a nice job of expanding their portfolio of opportunities for advertisers, they are by no means replacing the traditional media planner – or even today’s Search Marketer. iMedia Connection made the case that traditional media planners and search marketers will need to do more collaboration in the near future, but their roles are still very important. From the article:

“Nowadays, search marketers are being asked to take on projects that have traditionally fallen to online media planners: buying advertising on targeted sites. Search marketers understand and know the Google system well, but perhaps its time for traditional online media planners and paid search marketers to work more closely together. The opportunities to do so are only just beginning to surface.”

Media planning is a big job that shouldn’t be underestimated. From selecting mediums, defining budget, negotiating contracts and placements, planning messaging and creative, delivering a schedule of placements, and monitoring results, the media planner’s role is by no means in jeopardy. In fact, the case could be made that the role is getting bigger as the options and mediums increase.

The fact of the matter is that Google’s reach on publisher’s websites is not far enough that full industry campaigns can be turned over to their mediums. There are a handful of sites on which I may put display ads through Google, but it won’t certainly include some of the highly targeted industry sites on which I currently advertise. And, since I’m not a newspaper advertiser, that medium is not even on my radar. How many years until Google covers every trade mag in every industry niche? Not sure – but it may be sooner than you think.

Breathe easy media planners! Google has opportunities for you but is no where near replacing your role.