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Thursday, November 11, 2010

How to quantify your social media investment -

Although social media is technically free, it comes with hidden costs. Learn how to evaluate how much your social media campaign is really worth.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

5 deadly social media mistakes -

Social media can reap benefits for a brand, but only if it's used correctly. Watch to make sure you're not falling into the same traps.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The key to capturing the mindshare of moms -

Fresh from the success of the New Scientist cover, Dr. A. K. Pradeep, the CEO of neuromarketing firm NeuroFocus, tackles the mommy brain.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Riding the rising tide of social media investment -

Few would dispute the marketing power of social media. But are brand usage and measurement as widespread as you would expect? Let's take a look.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The world's worst digital marketing advice -

Not all the advice being spread around conferences and in blog posts is rooted in sound logic. Steer clear of anyone you hear spewing these nine little gems.

US Consumers Expect All Businesses to Engage in Social Networking

US Consumers Expect All Businesses to Engage in Social Networking

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Social Media Realities_1stPositionMarketing and SocialMediaDelivered

Check out this SlideShare Presentation: Presentation notes and resources lists are available by emailing me at

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What is the value of a "fan" or a "follower" to a brand?

I saw this question posted on Linkedin awhile back. "What's the value of a "fan" or a "follower" to a brand? Aren't these fans likely your loyal customers already, so how is capturing them on Twitter increasing revenue?" I answered the question back then and I think the same still holds true today and going forward. Since then there has been at least one study trying to determine an exact dollar amount to a fan. But I think that there are far too many factors and variables to determine that sort of thing across the board. So here is my answer to that question, updated a bit for clarity.

Let me answer that by asking these questions: What is the value of any of your business' loyal customers? What does it mean to your business to have repeat customers? How much are they worth to you over a month, a year, a lifetime? Put a value on that and you will have your answer.

Traditionally it has been much cheaper and easier to market to an existing customer than to find a new one. I suspect that is still true, but the internet and social media- Twitter and Facebook in particular- are quickly changing that. It is now much easier for your consumers to find information about and connect with businesses. Do you want them to connect with you, or with your competitors? It is also much easier for your competitors to find and connect with consumers. So again, do you want to connect with your customers, or do you want your competitors connecting with them? You can bet that if you are not staying in touch and building relationships with your customers, someone else is!

Customer loyalty is crucial for small businesses to maintain and grow their sales and profits. But consumers can be pretty fickle, especially in tough economic times. So you need to do all that is practical to earn and keep that loyalty.

One of the best ways to do this is through social media. It’s such a great tool for this because you can use it to learn more about your customers (prospects too) and to let them learn more about you. It makes it much easier to establish a personal connection with them.

People prefer to do business with people they know, like, and trust and social media is wonderful at facilitating interactions and exchanging communications between consumers and the people behind a business. What other medium allows one to conduct research, share information, advertise sales/promotions/events, generate publicity, drive traffic to a website, and communicate directly with customers and prospects (thus building relationships and establishing trust) as quickly, easily, and affordably as social media?

Those kinds of benefits are well worth the time, effort, and money spent developing fans and followers. If you can calculate the savings to your company that social media brings and add that to the business won through your social media efforts, you will have your answer to what the value of a fan or follower is.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is it Time For Small Businesses to Focus on Mobile Marketing?

I've been reading a lot lately on the growing trend of mobile marketing. And I think it is a growing trend that is just now really starting to gain momentum and will explode within the next few years. This is due in part to the recovering economy and the growth of smartphone sales, but also because of some other drivers that I will talk about later in the article. I also believe that is an untapped or underutilized medium and marketing method for small businesses. But is it time for small businesses to focus on mobile marketing as a core marketing strategy and practice? Here is why I think every small business owner and manager needs to take a close look at mobile marketing and give serious consideration to adding it to their marketing strategy sooner rather than later.

What is Mobile Marketing

But first let's address the question of what mobile marketing is. Basically it is marketing on or with a mobile device. The Mobile Marketing Association says, "Mobile marketing is a set of practices that enables organizations to communicate and engage with their audience in an interactive and relevant manner though any mobile device or network." These devices are usually mobile phones, laptops, netbooks, iPads and the like and the networks are most always wireless networks like Verizon, Sprint or AT&T. Types and mechanisms of mobile marketing include SMS (Short Message Service) which are short codes sent via text messaging, MMS (Multimedia Message Service) which contain timed slide shows of text, images, video, and audio, In-game marketing, Mobile web marketing (websites that are designed specifically to be viewed on mobile phones), Bluetooth hotspots, Infrared waves (which are very limited in distance), Location-based services (sending advertising messages directly to consumers based on their current location), and User-controlled media which often requires users to initiate the contact and requires their express consent to receive future communications .

Mobile Marketing Practices/Tactics and Channels

There are many ways (practices or tactics) to execute mobile marketing. Mobile marketing mainly relies on three channels- mobile applications (apps), mobile messaging (SMS, MMS, and WAP) and mobile websites (websites specially designed and optimized for viewing on a mobile device) to deliver mobile content and advertising/messaging. Using SMS to send short text coupon codes which consumers can access on their mobile phones and present at check-out is a and great way to drive traffic to a business. And dedicated apps on mobile phones make getting marketing content to users fast, easy, and even fun.

Mobile Marketing Extends and Enhances other Marketing Practices

But mobile marketing can be executed through other channels not specifically designed or used for mobile marketing. For example, coupon codes can also be sent through email or posting on a website, even on social media sites. And just having a web presence alone can be a form of mobile marketing, because mobile phone users can access websites through their phone's web browsers. Being involved with social media and providing useful content such as business hours and location, products and services provided, customer reviews, pictures and video of products, the business, or staff, and everyone's favorite- deals and specials- is a way to be involved in mobile marketing.

So even though a practice or tactic isn't used solely for mobile marketing, it's use can be extended to mobile and serve a very useful function as a mobile marketing practice or tactic. Additionally, your marketing can often be enhanced with the ability to know where customers are and reward them for visiting your business (as with services that use GPS such as Foursquare) and to give them the ability to grab coupons and other deals off social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, or off your website, to entice consumers who live in the area or who are in the area for other reasons (shopping, eating, running errands, working, commuting, or whatever) to stop in to your business and spend some money with you.

Smartphone Sales are Growing

The mobile phone industry analyst firm, Gartner, estimates that 172 million of the 1.2 billion mobile phones that were sold worldwide in 2009 were smartphones. ( And the research company Nielsen expects smartphone handsets to surpass feature handsets in the marketplace by the end of 2011. ( )

Here is a quote from a recent article on Nielsenwire with a link to a chart of past and projected sales growth:

"We are just at the beginning of a new wireless era where smartphones will become the standard device consumers will use to connect to friends, the internet and the world at large. The share of smartphones as a proportion of overall device sales has increased to 29% for phone purchasers in the last six months and 45% of respondents to a Nielsen survey indicated that their next device will be a smartphone. If we combine these intentional data points with falling prices and increasing capabilities of these devices along with an explosion of applications for devices, we are seeing the beginning of a groundswell. This increase will be so rapid, that by the end of 2011, Nielsen expects more smartphones in the U.S. market than feature phones." ( This link also contains a chart of past and projected smartphone and feature phone sales.

Increased Online Ad Spending

Advertisers are increasing their spending online to reach these mobile consumers- even small businesses. Several recent articles and sources have confirmed this. And while online Ad spending is still not on par with TV Ad spending, it is growing. MAGNA, an industry analyst firm and division of IPG's mediabrands, said in their Advertising Forecast released in April, 2010 that they expect online spending to reach 21.9% of all Ad expenditures by 2015.

WebVisible's latest State of Small Business Online Advertising for the 4th quarter of 2009 revealed these important things: 1) small businesses are increasing their online Ad spending, 2) small businesses are increasing in sophistication of online advertising, 3) as small businesses grow and have success, they spend at a higher rate on advertising (though that's really no surprise) and 4) even the smallest of businesses are finding that online techniques make a difference in their ability to reach local consumers. This last bit of information is exciting, because the key to most small businesses' success, particularly those that have very limited advertising budgets, is to effectively reach local customers.

Mobile Channel Adoption Surges and is Expected to Double in the Next 12 Months

Mobile channel adoption has been surging ahead by marketers. Marketing technology provider Unica , based on a recent survey, says that already one third of marketers are using some form of mobile marketing. Marketers in the Unica survey revealed that their adoption of the three major mobile channels will double in the next 12 months with the fastest growth coming from marketers using mobile websites and mobile applications. Mobile messaging is currently the most widely used mobile channel and will continue to grow but the other channels are expected to grow faster in proportion to messaging and will continue to grow in adoption rate and usage beyond the next 12 months. This is being fueled by the surging popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones and phones and other devices that use 3G. From Dec. 2008 to Dec. 2009 US mobile phone subscribers with unlimited data plans increased from 16% to 21% and several phones now require the purchase of these data plans when purchasing the phones. During the same time period, smartphone ownership increased from 11% to 17% while 3G phone ownership increased from 32% to 43%. (

Smartphone Owners Use their Phone's Smart Functions

Smartphone owners actually use the features of those devices. Consider these findings from Nielsen's Mobile Insight Survey:

"Smartphones show higher application usage than feature phones even at the basic built-in application level. During Nielsen's Mobile Insights survey we asked the respondents about features they've used in the last 30 days. The good news for the smartphone market is that people are actually taking advantage of the device capabilities."

"The percentage of people who use their phone for only voice communications drops from 14% among new feature phone owners to 3% of smartphone owners. The use of the built-in camera and video capability jumps by almost 20% for both categories, due to the generally better quality and user friendliness of the features. Smartphones also often have a better speaker which translates into more frequent usage from about half of feature phone owners to about two-thirds of smartphone owners. Not surprisingly the use of Wi-Fi increases 10-fold from 5% for feature phone owners to 50% for smartphone users to satisfy the need for fast downloads."

Technology, Social Media, and the Desire for Convenience are the Drivers

This is all being driven by technology (the lowered costs of online advertising, faster and more stable wireless networks such as 3G and 4G, the trackability of digital marketing, cheaper smartphone handsets, the rapid development and dissemination of apps, and the added and enhanced features of smartphones), social media (particularly geolocation tagging sites such as Foursquare and Gowalla) and consumers' desire for convenience (to be able to access information easily and quickly wherever they go). Gone are the days of needing to do your research on local restaurants, coffee shops, bars and nightclubs, retail outlets, or even auto repair shops, before you leave home or the office. Now it can all be done on the fly- whenever a consumer has a need or a desire for a product or service. Your wife calls you on your way home from work and tells you to stop by the store and pick-up milk and bread. No problem. You can use an app to find stores with deals and coupons for products. You're out with your family on the weekend doing some shopping and get hungry and need a kid friendly place to eat fast. Grab your phone and search Google to find a restaurant close by and check reviews and customer comments in the search results and on sites like Yelp or on social media. You can then check their website, your coupon app, and social media sites for discounts and deals to the restaurant(s) of your choice. And do it all on the go in just a matter of minutes. Just think about the implications this has for marketers to drive impulse shopping and market convenience goods and services!

Are You Ready?

When you take into account that with smartphones, apps, and social media services consumers now have the ability to search for nearby businesses on the go; access reviews on comments about those businesses; see information on the products and services of local businesses- even pictures and video; check-in with geolocation tagged services to earn badges, mayorships and real rewards from participating businesses; and download coupons to use in local businesses right on the spot, then mobile marketing makes sense for just about every kind of small business to use. For retail stores, restaurants, and cafes it is a no-brainer. Mobile marketing is an inexpensive, highly trackable, and surprisingly easy to use method of marketing. It puts even small retail stores and restaurants on a more even playing field with the chains and big box stores. And I think it is about to explode in popularity.

My answer to whether or not it is time for small businesses to focus on mobile marketing is a resounding yes. But each business will need to make that determination for themselves based on the type of business they are, the industry they are in, the customers they serve, and the resources available to them. As you make that decision keep in mind this question: are you going to be where your customers are and give them access to information about your business the way they want it, when they want it? Those that do now will be in an enviable position to those that don't when the inevitable mobile marketing explosion happens.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Social Media as a Viable Marketing Avenue for Business

Social media outlets such as Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, and Twitter are very popular among people of all demographics and ages. They allow for a real-time look into the daily lives of friends and family. The social media users range from elementary schoolers to grandmas wanting to keep in touch. This wide range of appeal has grown social media very quickly. For business owners, social media is almost a no-brainer marketing strategy but there are still many businesses that fail to recognize the importance of what a ‘tweet’ or “status update” or a Facebook Fan Page can do for their company, their brand, and their profits.

Consumers use the internet to reach out to companies whether it is for research or customer service matters. Companies maintaining websites are able to generate interest and sales from a virtual international marketplace. Marketing personnel work hard to ensure their website and their products are being prominently displayed in front of their target audience using many resources. Now, with the advent and popularity of social media sites, companies literally have front row tickets to their target marketplace.

Talk Directly

Social media sites encourage and enable real-time interaction between individuals. Companies taking advantage of this resource will find that they can get the exact message they want to deliver to their intended audience. They open the doors to associating directly with their customer base, where information that filters back can be invaluable. Feedback that results on social media can help a company understand what their customers are thinking, looking for, needing, and feeling. In turn, a company can provide necessary solutions as they are needed.

Deal Directly

Companies that are reaching out directly to their customers through social media, will likely be remembered and subsequently develop a following of potential customers based on friend referrals. It is a prime opportunity for businesses to reveal sale information, events, and even company news to the public. Social media tools also allow companies to follow current trends and get a first-hand look at what people are talking about. Depending on the nature of a business, it can be crucial to have this kind of knowledge over the competition. Now that there are agreements in place with Google and Bing to include your social media updates in search results, these updates can significantly increase the traffic to your blog, social media profile, and website, as well as increase the overall ranking of your web pages.

Network Directly

Another advantage of being an active participant in the social media world is the endless opportunities for your own business to connect with vendors, affiliates, and job seekers. With so many industries becoming involved in social media, companies may even take advantage of the learning opportunities to improve their business, using resources they never knew existed. Essentially, social media sites are breaking down many barriers and allowing B2B connections to thrive.

Creativity Is Empowering

One of the key elements of a good social media plan is consistency and another is creativity. The point of having direct access to your customers is to get them interested in your business, get them excited about your products or services, and get them to like you. Your plan to market on social media sites must be strong because it can be all too easy to get behind on tasks and eventually abandon your efforts altogether. Random quips and comedy may work from time to time, but you must go into social media with a plan if you want to be successful. You want to stay recognizable and reliable on all sites to keep the consumers interested and looking for more. The reliability of your company is essential because, especially now, consumers are going to buy from those whom they trust and like on some level. Your daily presence in their updates and news feeds can mean a lot, to both your customers and your bottom line.

Social media sites are relatively easy to set up and use, but it truly is the brains behind the words that will make a difference. Staying on top of social media updates and consistently delivering strong content is a full time job. For smaller businesses or solo entrepreneurs, this can be especially challenging. For this reason many companies are choosing to to get help from experts, while some are continuing to handle it in-house, with mixed results. With careful planning and dedication to this marketing avenue, results will definitely be seen in both the short and the long term if handled correctly from the start. Social media and business go together like bread and butter. For some companies, social media interaction may in fact become the proverbial ‘bread and butter’ of the company profits.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Get Clients with Specific Goals -by Jennifer Davey

Most successful individuals will tell you that the secret to their success has been a clear plan that defines where they are going and what steps they are taking to get there. This is great advice. A great plan can make all the difference in the world to your business. But for a plan to be more than just words on paper, it needs to be specific.

Vague goals will lead to vague actions. Stating that you want to get new clients within the next month is a great goal, but it isn’t really helpful. You need to take that vague goal and really focus the microscope on it. How many clients do you want to get? What type of clients do you want to get? Thinking clearly about exactly what you want will allow you to set up a great plan to accomplish your goals.

Clarity in your goal setting will allow success. Most goals are very lofty. Being specific gives you the knowledge needed to attack the goal on a daily basis to create success over time. In order to get specific, you must spend the time necessary to discover exactly what it is you want. Then you can list the steps needed to take to get to that specific want.

Making specific goals will allow you to break them into smaller goals. Getting 20 new clients in July is a great goal, but it may send a shiver down your spine every single time you think about it. However, if you get specific about what clients you want and how you will get them, the goal becomes manageable. You can set small daily goals for yourself that will add up to the original goal of 20 new clients by the end of July. Instead of tackling a monster, you are just dealing with his limbs each day.

When you tackle smaller goals on the path to the larger goal, it creates a feeling of success. This feeling will drive you. It will make you want to tackle those goals with gusto, ensuring their completion.

The road to success is lined by specificity. Don’t shy away from specifics. Get really detailed and spend the time necessary to set yourself up to win. Many people don’t get specific with goals because it is scary to put what you want into clear terms. You might not believe it’s possible or that you deserve it. Ignore the skeptic inside your head. Get specific and find out exactly what you want. Only then can you truly go after it.

Small Business Coach and Marketing Strategist, Jennifer Davey, is the author of the “Getting Clients Home Study Program”, the step-by-step guide to getting clients, building your business and making more income. Grab a FREE copy of her 14-Step Formula for Getting Clients and Report “What you Need to Know to Be Successful at Getting Clients” visit

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I love St. Patrick's Day. It's a fun holiday. What other holiday encourages you to celebrate with festivities, wear lots of green (I look pretty good in green), and drink beer? And who doesn't love an Irish brougue? It's such a wonderful accent and all day I get to pretend I know how to use it and say things like "Top o' the morning to ya", and call my kids "wee little lassy" or "wee little lad."

Regardless of one's heritage, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. People of all nationalities and cultures are welcome to celebrate the day and appreciate Irish culture. That openess and connection with people is something I've also experienced with social media. Even though everyone is different we can all find something of common interest that binds us together and makes us feel like a community. In today's rapidly paced culture where we don't even get to know our neighbor's anymore, having some sense of community is comforting.

For today's small businesses it is important, almost critical, to have that kind of connection with their prospects to attract new customers and with their existing customers or clients to build loyalty. So what is your business doing to encourage a St. Patrick's Day spirit of celebration, connection and community?

Getting Clients - Defining Your Niche is a Critical Step. By Jennifer Davey

As a small business owner, self employed professional or service provider clearly defining your niche makes getting clients take a lot less effort.

Defining your niche helps you attract clients by making it easier to target them. Once you know your niche, finding places to market to that niche becomes easy. Defining your niche also helps you clearly and simply explain to your network the types of clients that would be appropriate to refer to you.

Since it’s not possible to be all things, to all of the people, a clearly defined niche will allow you to tell your ideal clients how you benefit them. You can share with potential clients how you solve their problems, and help with their struggles. It becomes easy for you to position yourself as EXACTLY what your clients are looking for.

A clear niche allows you to make the most of your marketing budget because you are not marketing to less than ideal clients. Since you’re narrowing where you market, and who you market to, you will get a much better return on your marketing investment.

Best of all, defining your niche allows you to become the expert. Clients always prefer to work with the expert and experts make more income.

Small Business Coach and Marketing Strategist, Jennifer Davey, is the author of the “Getting Clients Home Study Program”, the step-by-step guide to getting clients, building your business and making more income. For a FREE copy of her 14-Step Formula for Getting Clients and Report “What you Need to Know to Be Successful at Getting Clients” visit

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Importance of a Unique Business Identity

By Jane M Cooke

Every business faces competition in its specialty and market. To compete effectively, not only does it need a unique, identifiable service or product but also needs to stand out in other ways. This unique presentation is the Brand.

Business Identity is the way you present your brand. This is how your business is presented through various media in an easily identifiable manner. The business message and identity should come through and be memorable. Business identity looks at presenting a business in a uniform, attractive way creating a positive and memorable impression.

What does a business identity consist of?
Business identity is the presentation of business through various elements which easily refer to the business. Some of the elements that identify your business are
  1. The Logo - This has to be a graphical identifier for your business whether used in print or online presentations.
  2. The Tag line - This identifies your position with respect to your offer, your customers and your competition.
  3. Business Card - An essential tool for communicating your brand as part of your networking efforts. It should have all your identity information including address, email, phone numbers and these days some social media info if it is relevant to your type of business.
  4. Brochure - An important element in presenting an overview of your offer.
  5. Stationary - Used commonly for a variety of communication or work related activities, this must easily identify with your brand.
  6. Email Signature - This must be standardized for all communications to make it easy to contact your business.
  7. Website - There are elements of your website which uniquely present your brand. This includes your logo, tag line, information, icons and so on.
This can be extended with complimentary offers. Some examples which can further extend your business identity are
  1. T-shirts
  2. Coffee Mugs
  3. Pens
  4. Ebooks
Business Identity Design
This is an important process before finalization of the unique identity selected. A number of important factors need to be considered
  1. The logo - It is the most important image of your business.
  2. The tagline - It has to be short and memorable, and it is in perfect synch with the logo.
  3. The typography/font to be used - It has to be readable and has to be decided for each element.
  4. The color scheme - This is important as it decides the look and feel and how the elements stand with each other.
  5. The texture - This has to do with the print elements.
  6. The iconography - This will be used in your stationary, business cards, brochures and the websites.
All the elements should be in alignment with each other. The online and print elements must match.
The perfect business identity design is one which does not surprise but meets expectations and links perfectly to your brand.
Jane M Cooke has helped businesses with Identity solutions since 2004. If you are looking for a professional Business Identity Design visit us at Dharne & Company.

Article Source:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is Your Marketing Melting on Contact?

It snowed yesterday here in my town for the better part of 12 hours. It was a pretty steady snow with the occasional light spells and heavy spells intermittent. There were even times when it was very heavy with large, fluffy flakes falling to the ground in dense bursts. It was quite beautiful.

And what was the grand total accumulation of all of this? A trace to maybe a half inch of snow that barely covered the grass in my lawn. That’s it! All that snow and it only accumulated maybe a half inch total.

This begs the question, why didn’t we get more like a half foot of snow instead of a paltry half inch? As I learned from a meteorologist on a local TV channel, it was because the snow was falling into a warm column of air that extended from the ground to about 1,000 feet in the air. Above that there was plenty of cold air- and moisture- and hence plenty of snow. But it was melting on contact because it was falling into a hostile environment for snow to survive. The ground and the air right above were so warm that most of the snow simply melted as it hit the ground.

Usually when a storm such as this moves in, the cold air and snow will overwhelm the warmer air and lower the temperature until there is a single column of air from ground to clouds that is at or below freezing. But the stronger March sun and relatively warm air mass already in place prevented this from happening. The snow did not start accumulating until after the sun set and the ground cooled. But even then the temperatures remained just above freezing until late. So there never was much of an accumulation.

Our marketing can be a lot like this weather phenomenon. We pour marketing and advertising messages at an audience over and over and yet we receive only a very small response. Why? Because we are sending our messages into a hostile environment and most simply melt on contact. What makes an environment hostile to our marketing efforts? Many things- maybe it is a poor economic climate, maybe it is bad messaging or promotion through the wrong channel or channels, maybe it is the wrong product or service, or maybe the price is wrong.

But in this analogy, it is the recipient (the ground) that is rejecting the marketing (the snow). So I want to focus on the target. If you know you have a good product or service that meets a need, is priced right, and is promoted right and consistently but it is still not selling well, the reason probably is you are targeting the wrong audience.

The very first thing you must decide is who your product is for. If you are selling athletic shoes, are you selling to serious runners, basketball players, sports enthusiasts, or someone who wears them as casual shoes? If you are selling restaurant meals, are you selling to someone looking for an elegant full service dining experience or someone looking to pick-up a quick bite and go? If you are selling a service, is it for the end consumer, a client, another business (and who does that business sell to), or to a non-profit or government agency?

These things matter immensely. If you target the wrong audience, nothing else you have done right matters. Consumers can simply not be overwhelmed by your marketing anymore if they have no need or desire for your product. The light of the internet, social media, and open access to information at one's fingertips prevents this from happening. If you ignore this and keep pouring you marketing efforts into hostile environments, all of it will result in the same end as the snow that fell in my yard yesterday – melted on contact.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How Dieting is Like Marketing/Running Your Business Part 2

Don’t Let Temptations Sabotage You
Last week I posted about the similarities I have noticed between dieting and marketing or running a business. This week's post is a continuation of that and focuses on one of the main saboteurs of any diet (or business)- temptations.

If you are anything like me you probably have a hard time sticking to your diet because you are constantly being bombarded with temptation. Maybe you still have left over Christmas goodies like cookies or candy sitting around the house, or your spouse keeps baking pies and cakes even though you repeatedly tell him or her you are eating healthy now. And the TV bombards you with images of Thick burgers, juicy steaks, candy and all kinds of goodies- it’s amazing how much you notice these things when you are dieting! And just try checking out at the grocery store, the drug store or Wal-Mart without passing multiple displays of sweets and junk food. These temptations do not help you stick to your healthy eating plan! And when you give in to temptation to eat that piece of cake or that bag of potato chips you feel guilty. Guilt produces negative feelings about yourself and that usually leads to find something comforting- which for many of us is food. If not kept under control, these negative feelings will lead to more destructive thoughts and behavior and before long you are off your diet and have given up on exercise too.

Similarly, we have distractions in our daily business that keep us from doing what we set out to do this year. We can’t take that new salesman out and train him because we are having to put out fires around the office. We can’t write that new proposal or whitepaper because we keep getting distracted by email or Twitter. Every time you sit down to plan your marketing or budget for the next quarter or year the phone rings or someone drops by your office. The distractions and temptations are seemingly endless.

One very powerful solution works for both your dieting and business challenges - identify whatever it is that is sabotaging your efforts and get rid of them (or remove yourself from them). If you are tempted to surf the internet instead of working, disconnect yourself from it. If that is not an option, get a laptop with no internet connection and block out time to write that proposal, newsletter, whitepaper or whatever. If email is the culprit, turn off the “bing” notification every time you receive one or turn off your speakers. And again, you could disconnect from the internet while you work. If the phone or office drop-ins are a problem, block out time to do your task and let everyone in the office/store/etc. know that you are not to be disturbed during this time. Have someone answer your phone for you or turn off the ringer and let it go to voicemail. Have your assistant or receptionist intercept visitors with clear instructions as to who gets in and who does not and how those turned away should be handled. Put a sign on your door (or cubicle) to let people know what you are working on, your wish not to be disturbed unless it is a true emergency (you might want to cover this with your staff too) and when you will be available to them. You could even take an old laptop with no internet access down to your favorite hangout or park bench and work away. You’ll benefit from the change of scenery and the fresh air.

It sounds simple. And it really is if you have some discipline. But don’t expect it to be as easy as it sounds, not at first. Try just one of these approaches at a time and evaluate what works and what does not. Create your own approach to eliminating distractions and get your team involved in creating solutions. This not only helps you come up with solutions it lets them know your intentions and will help them “buy-in” to your approach. And it may even spark them to do the same for themselves. Before long, your whole office will be more productive. And co-workers might just stop dropping by your desk with plate fulls of brownies too!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Dieting is a Lot Like Marketing/Running a Business- Part 1

One of my New Year's resolutions was to lose weight. And while I've been in the process of losing weight I've noticed something surprising- that I have some fears and trepidation about dieting that are similar to my fears and trepidation about marketing and running my business. And I bet many of you do too. Here are a few thoughts on how dieting and running a marketing program or a business are a similar experience and a few tips to make either endeavor successful. I'll have more to say about this over the next few weeks so stay tuned!

You are afraid to eat (spend money) because you have put in a lot of hard work to lose weight (trim the fat in your marketing budget or business) and don’t want to put it back on. The key is not giving up food or giving up spending. The key is to eat healthy (spend money wisely on) the things that will help you reach your goal.

In dieting, losing unhealthy weight (fat) is your goal. In business, losing unproductive expenses, processes, personnel, and investments is your goal. Once you’ve rid yourself of these unhealthy items, you want to avoid adding these back to your diet (your business).

Add some investments instead. Marketing is an investment. If it has become an expense in your business and is not producing measurable results (increased sales, increased profits, higher quality leads, reduced wasteful spending) get rid of it. *A caveat- some forms of good marketing can be a bad investment (mainly because it is mismatched to your goals or is done poorly) so make sure the marketing you use is ideally suited to your business and is something you can implement well.

Unfortunately, unlike in the food world where we know that a donut lacks nutritious value and contains a lot of unhealthy stuff that should be avoided if we are trying to lose weight and eat healthy, in the marketing arena it can be difficult to know what is nutritious and what is junk. That’s why I wrote “9 Reasons Small Business Marketing Stinks: And How to Avoid Smelling Rotten” for some tips and general advice about good marketing for small businesses. It is posted here in this blog so just scroll down until you find it.

I’m also here to help you sort through your options and help you implement the best strategy and tactics to help your business grow. Call me today to discuss how to get started positioning your business for success! 877-999-5469

Copyright 1st Position Marketing 2010.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

9 Reasons Small Business Marketing Stinks: And What You Can Do To Avoid Smelling Rotten

1) It has no strategy
I see so many small businesses who just basically throw darts at the board with their marketing and advertising with no rhyme or reason. What little marketing planning they do centers around advertising. But usually this is poorly planned. They take no thought in who their target market is, how best to reach them, where to reach them, when to reach them, or how to appeal to them and spur them to action IF they reach them. Did you notice that was a big if? Most of the small business ads I see really don’t get break through and grab the prospect’s attention. The other big problem is they are scattershot. There is an ad here, and ad there, they are done infrequently, and the target is poorly defined.

Don’t use a shotgun approach to advertising! Use a laser targeted pinpoint approach. This does not mean you only target one area or shoot using one gun (pardon the violent metaphor). It means you aim carefully at your chosen target and fire from multiple positions (PR, advertising, promotions, social media, etc.).

2) It has the mindset that advertising and promotion (or sales) is marketing
These are but one aspect of the marketing mix. FYI, if you don’t already know, the marketing mix consists of the 4 Ps- Product, Price, Promotion, and Place (where the product or service is sold or distributed). While promotion is a large part of the marketing mix it is not the only one and usually not the most important one. But it is the fun or glamorous side of marketing so it gets a lot of attention. Still, many fail to realize that there is a lot more to promotion than advertising or sales. Those are only aspects of the promotional mix. I will talk more about the rest of the promotional mix in future articles.

Get a big picture view of marketing and start with the basics first- your positioning and targeting strategies based on your product or service and ideal customers (market place) and let that direct your pricing, promotion, and distribution strategies.

3) It's copy cat or “me too” marketing
Many small businesses copy the same old garbage everyone else is using and you get the same bad results. Even if the marketing is good for one business, it may not be good for your business. First, you are not the same business so your goals and objectives, target audience, capabilities, etc. are not the same. Second, it does nothing to distinguish you from them. Why would a prospect buy from you if you are no different than your competition?

Give them some compelling reasons to do so by demonstrating that you have something your competitor does not. Be different by design.

4) It is practiced by the uninformed
Small business people are good at their craft. They are great plumbers, doctors, lawyers, store owners, beauticians, chefs, dry cleaners, accountants, etc. But most don’t know anything about marketing- and don’t have the time or patience to learn. And that’s ok. It would cost them more to learn and do it themselves than it would to pay someone competent to do it for them. I don’t want to fix my own broken pipes, draw up own estate plan, prescribe my own course of medical treatment, or cut my own hair. I’m no good at it. But these folks are. That’s why I pay them to do it for me. If this situation describes you and you agree with me, you can skip the rest of this article and call me now!

If you still insist on doing it yourself, then learn the basics of marketing and start with understanding your marketplace, finding a profitable niche, and defining your product or service to serve that niche. If you do this right, you will either find yourself with no true competition or you will stand out head and shoulders above them.

5) Small businesses think they can market like the big boys
The problem is small businesses don’t have the money to market like the big boys. The big boys can run branding campaigns and hire expensive Ad firms to design and produce visually entertaining and stimulating masterpieces that make you almost drool for that new iPhone or Cadillac STS (or is that just a guy thing?) But c’mon, how many of you have not licked your lips when you’re watching those Hardee’s Thick Burger commercials? And they can run their ads repeatedly. These are meant to build brand awareness and reinforce brand perceptions as much (and usually more) as they are to create brand preference and create a desire to take action. But most of you can’t afford this kind of service. You can’t afford to run image only ads. Your ads have to work hard to create awareness and generate sales or leads. So you have to market wisely and make every dollar spent be an investment that will produce a measurable return.

This means finding your niche, creating products and services to fill that niche, crafting your identity to appeal to that niche and targeting that specific niche with your well crafted, well planned, and well timed promotions and advertisements. And these ads have to have a call to action to spur a visit to your store, your website, or generate a phone call. Do anything else and you risk losing money and ultimately failure in business.

6) It is too disjointed
They are trying random things not really knowing why or they are dabbling in marketing with no real goal, process, or system. As a result their marketing strategy and tactics are not connected to each other and working together in harmony. In fact, they might even be working against each other. Here is a case in point, suppose you are a professional with deep expertise in your field- medicine, dentistry or law for examples- and you are trying to appeal to a wealthy target audience by offering a specialized service. But you are doing it by running a price discount or coupon promotion! The tactics are out of line with the target audience and do not support the core marketing strategy.

Your marketing tactics have to be connected to (indeed lead by) your marketing strategy and your marketing messages need to be integrated so that your website is consistent with your brochures or press kit, which is consistent with your social media profiles and business listings, which is consistent with you elevator speech, with is consistent with your business card, and so on. Tactics must be aligned with strategies and support your goals. Every piece of marketing communication must be integrated with your brand and marketing strategies to be consistent and produce desired results.

7) It is not built around a complete system
Most small businesses have no system in place for marketing. There is no plan for properly evaluating the marketplace and finding profitable niches. There is no system to help position or reposition their products or services to serve those niches. This is especially devastating when the marketplace rapidly changes. There is no system for promotional campaigns and activities. A coupon tactic is tried one month, a sales promotion another, maybe some print ads are tried another. But there is also no monitoring and measuring plan in place to know what is really working, if anything, and for making changes to the plan as needed. All of these systems must be put into place and used regularly or no real progress will be made. Perhaps you could get away with this in boom times, but not in bust times like we have recently been experiencing and not in the foreseeable future.

Put systems in place that will give you a goal to know where you are going and direction to know how to get there. Then continually work your systems and monitor your progress to make sure you are on track. If not, make some course corrections (change your tactics) to see if that works. However, if you make repeated course corrections and nothing works, it’s time to either call for professional help or change your strategy- or both. My number is located on this blog for your convenience.

8) There is no follow up
Many small businesses, particularly B2b firms, have leads that go un-nurtured and un-converted. Not because they were bad leads but because they didn’t follow up with them. Chances are, if the lead was not ready to buy right then or at least have a sales person talk or visit with him right then, the lead was pushed to the back burner- where it withered up and died. Or the consumer that visited the store once, or even purchased once, never returned and was never contacted with any type of follow up marketing.

If your business relies on generating leads for you or your sales staff to turn into clients/customers, then you need to have an automated follow up system in place. You need a system to capture their contact information to send them follow up emails and newsletters and contact them by phone or in person to keep in touch with them and nurture them through the sales cycle. You need a system to get to know them and their needs so you can send them selectively targeted promotions that will cut through the clutter and make them pay attention. Spend at least a half a day every week working your follow up system and making sure your best leads are being nurtured and converted to sales.

9) It is not automated
This leads me to a related point- much of the follow up marketing tactics are not automated where they can be automated. (Neither are the other marketing activities such as posting articles, blogs, and social media posts.) This makes it time consuming. Pretty soon business owners get so busy following up there is not enough time for doing and managing the rest of the business. Business owners in this situation probably are not taking the time to measure the results of their marketing so they do not know what, if any, results it produces. This leads to frustration, anxiety and wondering if marketing is really helping their business at all. They start questioning their time and effort spent on marketing and pretty soon they are doing no marketing at all. Which virtually guarantees their business will not grow- and makes it highly probably that it will not survive for very long.

Spend some time now setting up systems and processes that can be automated and save yourself time and stress- and money- later. There are many good CRM and auto-responder software programs available to help with this, some simple and reasonably priced, and some sophisticated, which the price reflects. I would suggest checking out AWeber or Campaigner- which I personally use- for simple, affordable auto-responder options and use either Excel or Access if you already have Microsoft Office for a simple CRM solution. You also might try some free or very low cost solutions such as Sugar CRM or ZOHO. For a more robust option I have heard people rave about Act! and I know many people love it. Others don’t so do your home work before purchasing anything.

For lead management and nurturing you might also try or There is one combination auto-responder and CRM solution that I have used in the past that is very good at automating and managing the follow up process and has other applications such as e-commerce solutions that can be added on. It is called Infusionsoft. This might be a good solution for you if you generate lots of leads and need to rely on an automated process to reduce your time spent following up and to make sure that leads are actually followed up with and nurtured.

You can get more resources for marketing by visiting this resource page and others on my website.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Digital Gatorade Dump

It is Super Bowl week. The matchups are set and the Pro Bowl has been played and we are all waiting anxiously to watch the game and see who wins. It is this annual event and the college bowl games that started me thinking about this topic. It has now become an iconic and time honored tradition that the winning coaches of the big college bowl games and many NFL playoff games (and probably the Super Bowl) gets doused with a bucket of Gatorade at the end of the game. This is referred to as a Gatorade dump, or shower, or bath. I found more articles and stories using the term “dump” so that’s how I’m going to refer to it here.

Why is this done? Is it a little payback to a coach who has worked you like a rented mule for the past umpteen months? Maybe. There might be just a touch of truth to that- but all in good fun. However, that’s not really the reason. Is it tradition now that the practice has been established for many years following the New York Giants popularization of the practice during their glorious run to the Super Bowl title during the 1986-87 season? (Yes, I’m aware of the claim that the ’84 Bears started this but it was made mainstream by the ’86 Giants) Again, maybe- but it’s more than that. It is a creative, light-heartedly fun way for guys to publicly express their emotions and say “Well-done coach, congratulations!” without being too mushy and emotional.

When I started thinking about this little ritual that we’ve all become so familiar with and why it has lasted so long I began to think, this is really cool- the guys expressing themselves in a manly way, the coach accepting a little recognition from his players in a manly way. It’s a bonding thing in addition to being a hardy congratulation. And then I began to think, wouldn’t this be great if we could do this to the people in our own lives who have lead us to some sort of victory. Wouldn’t it be cool to dump a little Gatorade on our boss, mentor, or friend as a way to say, “Great job on landing that new client!” or “You really rocked that project!” or simply “Hey, thanks for getting me through that colossal meltdown I was having.”

Well, it would be a little messy and the recipient may send you the cleaning bill for soiling his or her power suit- and the office carpet- with flavored sports drink. Plus, it really isn’t acceptable to go around drenching your boss with icy cold liquids no matter how flattering you are with your verbal praise in the process. But if you have a really great boss, coach, mentor, etc. you may want to show him or her your gratitude- publicly, so the person gets the recognition he or she deserves. After all, a really great boss especially is hard to come by, maybe even more so in tough economic times. And they have been praising your work and helping you build your career.

So you want to do something nice for them, but you don’t want to seem like a kiss up or that you are just doing it for a raise or promotion. Maybe you can’t purchase a gift for them because of company policy. You could just tell them but that is pretty boring- appreciated but not really exciting or motivating. You could buy them a drink after work but that takes the public part out of it unless you can get the whole office to schlep down to the nearest watering hole to celebrate. Offices used to have parties to celebrate these sorts of grand achievements. But with so many budget cuts that’s likely not an option. There are the old stand bys- pats on the back and handshakes- and the new acceptable alternatives- high fives and fist bumps. But the occasion might call for more than just that alone.

Add to that the fact that many people work remotely in virtual teams and rarely if ever spend time with the boss or project manager in person. ? It is very difficult to physically show them your support. Or what if you just admire the work of those selfless people who put their lives on hold- even on the line- to help victims of tragedies (like the relief workers in Haiti) or who serve our country through the military? So what can we do? Can we take the Gatorade Dump in the football world and apply it to the workplace or world outside of football?

I think we can. My suggestion won’t change the world or come close to expressing all the gratitude and recognition that is rightly due some Marine who has given his blood and guts to fighting for our freedom. But it is something we can all do that will only cost us a minute of our time and still be a pretty cool way of expressing our gratitude. I’m suggesting a digital or virtual Gatorade dump. I don’t know how it’s going to work visually yet. Perhaps some of you designers and artists out there can put together something to show this visually. Maybe an app. designer can design something for the iPhone and other smart phones. In the meantime, how about just posting something on your Twitter or Facebook status updates mentioning the accomplishment? Better yet, write it on their Facebook wall for all the world to see (sorry, its work related so post on your LinkedIn profile instead and be sure to write them a nice recommendation prominently mentioning this recent accomplishment).

I suggest writing something like, “I want to send out a #DigitalGatoradeDump to Joe Smith for that awesome project we just completed!” Or, “Congratulations @BizDevSarah for winning that new client and making our sales quota this quarter! Here’s a big #VirtualGatoradeDump for you!!” Use your preferred term for the practice (shower, bath, dump- or whatever fits in the tweet). Maybe we can try it to see if it brightens someone's day a little without making us get teary eyed or appearing like too much of a brown nose (you might want to coordinate with other co-workers, teammates, etc. to help with that aspect).

Let’s give it a shot. It will only take a minute. Go ahead and try to find someone you want to thank or congratulate today. Try hitting up the Super Bowl winning QB with a little digital shout out that includes the digital Gatorade dump tag. Thank a soldier or Red Cross worker doing the same. Make it a cool thing you can do to express gratitude while keeping your emotions in check. And make sure you use the # (hashtag) symbol so that it spreads around and people can search for Digital or Virtual Gatorade Dump recipients to know who deserves a physical, or digital, pat on the back. Who knows, it might just make someone’s day. I’d like to hear your comments and suggestions on this so please leave them below.

© Gavin Head 2010.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How to Choose the Right Print Advertiser

Here are some simple and easy to follow tips for choosing a print advertiser (newspapers, magazines, trade journals, news circulars- including those you find at local coffee shops and retail stores) for those of you who still think print advertising is a good use of your advertising budget. It assumes you know your target market well and have a compelling message/offer. If you have not nailed down those things yet, stop right now and go back and do that! That may be the best money saving advice I can give you on the subject. And it took you less than 20 seconds into reading this to make it worth your while. You'll thank me later! :)

1) They reach your target audience. Not a large readership, not someone else’s target audience… your target audience. It does not matter how many readers a publication has or how many homes or businesses your ad will appear in if most of them are not your ideal prospects. As a small business, chances are you don’t have the money for image ads and purely awareness building ads. You can’t afford an ad in a large publication with tens of thousands of readers. If you do, there are most likely hundreds of ways you could better spend that money. Your ads need to reach your target market- people who need and want what you have to offer.

2) There is reasonable expectation that your intended audience will actually see and/or read your ad. It is large enough for people to notice it and for you to get out the information needed to grab people’s interest and spur them to action. You need space to include a compelling “call to action.”

3) They provide the frequency needed to spur action or effect a change in your prospect’s buying behavior. It usually takes several impressions (how many times an ad is seen) before a prospect buys. I have heard it takes anywhere from 3 impressions to 9. This really depends on your product, normal buying cycle, and how well you market it (pricing, promotion, etc.). Make sure the ad or ads will be seen by your target audience multiple times. Often you can negotiate for a volume discount when purchasing multiple ad runs.

4) The print medium is consistent with your business goals including establishing, maintaining, or building your brand/image. If your target market is hunting enthusiasts for example, don’t advertise in a magazine geared toward opera lovers. Make sure the quality of the magazine or newspaper (paper, print, and writing quality) are all consistent with your brand. It’s ok to use your small local magazine to run ads in if you happen to be selling used cars, computer repair services, or fast food. But what if you sell antiques, fine jewelry, or luxury cars or yachts? Do you want to show an ad of your impressive items on low quality paper next to an ad for Joe’s bait shop or an article that looks like it was written by a 7th grader? I don’t think so! By the way, the same goes in reverse. Don’t advertise in a fancy, high quality journal if your product or service is a more every day, mundane item or your target audience has different tastes and expectations. Nothing against those things- we all need toilet paper and various other sundries- but we don’t expect and ad in Esquire touting a great deal on them at the local dollar store. Know your target market and their expectations!

5) The price reflects the value derived from the investment. Evaluate your potential return (revenue directly related to the Ad) in light of the price of the ad. An ad that costs only $25 but generates $0 in revenue provides NO value and is only an expense. Your business does not need another expense, especially in this economic climate. However, an ad that costs $1000 that generates $2000, $5,000 or $10,000 is an investment that the savviest investor would be willing to take in a New York minute! Calculate how many sales must be made and the profit that must be earned in order to gain at least a market rate of economic return. What is an economic rate of return you ask? It is the rate of return that takes into account all the economic costs of your business (cost of goods sold, wages and salaries, including your own, gen. and admin., rent, utilities, and other operating expenses) plus factors in a normal rate of profit for your industry given the current economic conditions. So if your business’ economic costs are $10 per unit sold and the current normal industry profit margin is 10%, then your business must achieve a gross profit of at least $11 per unit. From this point, factor in the price of the advertising to determine 1) if the ad is feasible (will it generate the bare minimum required return of investment? And 2) is this the best use of my advertising dollars? Will it likely generate the maximum return possible for my investment?

These are the general rules for choosing a print advertiser but some can be applied to other media as well (TV, radio, outside advertising, even the internet). But each product and business has its own set of circumstances and can benefit from more specific guidelines. Consult with a professional for more detailed advice before taking the plunge into anything costing more than a few hundred bucks. But start with these principles first. Follow these 5 simple rules and you will eliminate 90% or more of your print advertising choices and make your remaining options much easier to wade through and select from.

Please visit our website to download the FREE Report Top 10 Free and Low Cost Ways to Attract Attention to Your Business!

Market for Clients during Tough Times -By Jennifer Davey

This post is by a fellow marketing consultant/coach, Jennifer Davey. She covers many of the same issues I do but has a slightly different slant on things. She wrote an article recently that I think is critical for all small businesses to hear. Since I hate trying to re-write or say something that someone else has already said so well, I'm just going to re-post her article here (with her permission). And be sure to check out Jennifer's new upcoming teleclass on making your website earn its keep. Discover the steps, tips and tricks that you can use to make your website successful in the How to Make Your Website Earn its Salary and Get Clients teleclass. Hope you enjoy this article!

Tough financial times lead to tough decisions that can turn out to be business killers. Businesses tend to reflect their customers. When customers are spending, businesses tend to spend. When customers scale back on spending, businesses tend to make cuts to save on that extra income they aren’t making. These cuts end up costing the business even more.

If you offer a useful service or product to clients, they will buy no matter what is happening in the economy. Business does not come to a stop just because there is a recession. To the contrary, if your services or products are of VALUE to your clients, they will still buy it during tough times.

A successful business must never abandon what made them shine in the first place. A successful business is one that is forever moving forward. Moving forward means marketing to get clients. Be proactive to get results for your business.

Tough financial times demand a more focused marketing plan. Clients are in the marketplace looking for what you offer. If you don’t market to them, someone else will and you will lose business during a critical time.

Bad financial times are when great businesses are separated from average businesses. Focus even more on solid marketing to get your services in front of the potential clients. Keep your business moving in the right direction with targeted marketing.

The only way your business is going to survive and thrive during a down economy is with steady clientele. You need marketing in order to get new clients and keep old clients returning. Are you doing all the marketing necessary to bring in new business? Make sure you are following a strong marketing plan to attract new clients and keep old clients. Take the time to review your plan and create a new one if needed.

Small Business Coach and Marketing Strategist, Jennifer Davey, is the author of the “Getting Clients Home Study Program”, the step-by-step guide to getting clients, building your business and making more income. For a FREE copy of her 14-Step Formula for Getting Clients and Report “What you Need to Know to Be Successful at Getting Clients” visit

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Garfield Can Teach Us About Price Discounting

Discounting can be bad for your small business. Even Garfield seems to get this. But why don’t small businesses? First let me explain the Garfield reference. My young son was watching an episode of Garfield the other day while I was riding the exercise bike diligently trying to work off the Holiday pounds. Although I was reading a great book on marketing I couldn’t help but notice what the episode was about- Pizza and marketing (sort of). You see, Garfield’s owner Jon decided that he would forego ordering from Garfield’s favorite pizza restaurant because he had a coupon to a new pizza place. But the thought of cheaper pizza did not thrill Garfield, in fact, he was totally unenthused at the idea. Why? Because Garfield had tasted this budget pizza and it was awful! It had the texture of rubber and it tasted like cardboard.

The pizza was cheap because it had been made by a machine that automated the whole process and could turn out 10 pizzas per minute. It was a very efficient process that made the cost of the pizza dirt cheap. The problem was the quality- it was terrible- thus the reason for the discount. The owner of this cheap pizza producing restaurant had to give out coupons- and he even offered Jon further discounts- to get customers to buy. I understand this owner’s reason for discounting his product. It was inferior and he had to do something to be competitive. What I don’t understand is why some small businesses do it.

For the most part, discounts signal inferior quality. Why do small, independent restaurant owners who produce superior quality meals and experiences feel compelled to discount their products? Why do retail stores with owners and employees who know their customers by name and that carry specialty products not easily found anywhere else in the local market resort to cutting their prices when times get a little tough?

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about the occasional discount to introduce a new product or business to the market (especially a new market) or a coupon given to drive traffic to your store or restaurant during typical slow times. I’m not even talking about discounting as a last resort. What I am talking about is the constant discounting and couponing that goes on as if the establishment were a mini Wal-Mart. And businesses that start discounting soon after a drop in sales or a recession without trying other approaches first. Unless you compete in a budget/discount type of industry, these kinds of discounting practices are detrimental to your business in the long term- and perhaps the short term as well. For more information on the problems with discounting see my article “The Pitfalls of Discounting” in my latest newsletter.

There are times and places for discounts for some small businesses, not all, but some. And there are right ways and wrong ways of doing this. Be smart when you discount or offer a coupon. Have a specific business goal and competitive reason for doing it. Don’t just do it because your competition is doing it or they have “everyday low prices” that are lower than yours. In fact, don’t compete on price unless you know you can win the battle and the war. And don’t discount at the first sign of a business slowdown. Price is not the only reason customers shop elsewhere. Even in bad times there are customers out there who will appreciate your superior offering and pay the higher price. Concentrate on finding these customers before you even think about discounting. That is most likely your ideal customer any way.

So learn this valuable lesson from Garfield: Discounting often associates your product or brand with lower quality. Be ready to counter that perception or use it to your advantage if you are going to employ this pricing tactic. If you are going to offer discounts or some other kind of price concession, introduce them wisely and for a limited time. Be specific with yourself and your customers why you are doing it and stress that this will not be a long-term deal. For more information on how to properly use discounting, see my top 7 tips in this short article “How to Discount Price Without Jeopardizing Long Term Profits and Brand Image” It is available in my latest newsletter, which you can sign up for here.

Be strategic with your use of discounts to avoid negative consequences. Or better yet, just don't use them at all.

To your success!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brief Thoughts about Social Media for Small Businesses

Social media can be an excellent marketing platform for small businesses, especially when it is used as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. I like to think of social media as another marketing tool that I can use to expand my reach and more deeply engage with customers. It is a terrific platform for broadcasting promotional offers and directing traffic to your website. But most people are unaware that it is also a great research tool, a way to find out what your customers and prospects want and monitor what is being said about your business. There are a number of ways social media can be used to either enhance or replace traditional methods or ways of doing business-such as using it for customer service, research, advertising to a more targeted audience, generating leads, building trust or getting digital coupons to your prospects to drive almost immediate business. It takes time and a good strategy sprinkled in with some patience but for those disciplined to learn it and use it their efforts will pay off. See my article 5 Most Effective Ways Small Businesses Can Use Social Media and sign up for my newsletter at for more information and advice about social media and tips and tools to manage it all.

10 Benefits of Social Media

This article is from my December 2009 newsletter.

As many of you know I use social media- a lot. Not only do I use it for myself to maintain personal connections with friends, family, clients, colleagues and old acquaintances, I also use it to promote my business and my clients. The benefits of social media for both my personal life and business are obvious to me. But I’m finding out as I talk with some in the small business community that they are not aware of social media’s many benefits or sold on its effectiveness. So I’ve decided to do a little research and write some articles presenting the benefits of social media. Those who read my first two newsletter editions are aware that I’ve written on the subject before and already given some very good reasons to use social media. I refer you back to those articles to refresh your memories or to read them for the first time if you are a new subscriber. What I hope to accomplish in this article and in future articles is to make a compelling case for every business- large and small- to use social media. Because I truly believe that every size and every type of business can benefit from connecting with and knowing its customers better. This article will be a general overview of the benefits of social media. In future articles I hope to give specific examples or case studies of companies and organizations who have successfully utilized social media in their business or non-profit work.

The first major benefit of social media is that it brings awareness. It is a low cost way to get your name or the name of your organization onto the web and into the minds of customers, patrons, and prospects. Anyone can establish an account on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Merchant Circle, Plaxo and dozens of other sites free of charge. The only cost involved is the cost of your time.

Identify Customer and Prospect Wants and Needs
Once you have established a presence in social media your business can connect with and stay in touch with customers to identify wants, needs, and problems- and communicate your solutions. Ask questions to find out what customers are looking for. Create forums on your Facebook fan page for fans to speak their minds about likes and dislikes. Since space is limited on social media sites (especially Twitter) when you need more detailed information, create surveys and questionnaires with a free tool such as Zoomerang or Survey Monkey and simply post the link on social media sites asking people to take the survey. Used in conjunction with survey tools, social media is a great place to monitor trends and get feedback from customers and potential customers. Bonus tip- if you want to get a bigger picture of the marketplace by knowing what your competitions’ customers want, monitor your competitor’s sites. Follow them on Twitter and join their Fan pages. Sign up for their emails. This is a good way to pick up on trends and get ideas for new product or service offerings. It’s also a great way to discover how you compare to your competition so you can know how to further differentiate yourself from them.

Listen In
The third major benefit is that you can monitor what your customers and others are saying about your brand. Sites like Yelp let customers post reviews of businesses. You can use Yelp and similar sites to find out what is being said about your company or brand and respond through social media. In fact, some companies are using Twitter as a customer support platform because of its ease of use and real time updates. Likewise, you can monitor what your customers and others are saying about your competition’s brand. These types of conversations used to go on out of listening range of business owners and managers. Rarely did they know what a customer said about them- good or bad. However now, with so many taking their thoughts, complaints and comments online, we have the privilege of being able to “listen” in on these conversations and respond accordingly.

Increase Online Exposure
A fourth major benefit of social media is increasing your online exposure. The Google and Bing search engines pick up Facebook and Twitter posts and updates and include them in search results. If your website in referenced in your Facebook or Twitter profile (and it should) people who visit your profiles can see and click your website link and be taken directly to your business’ website, increasing your traffic directly. Indirectly, these searches put extra eyes on your business name, your name, and/or your brand name thereby increasing your exposure. Additionally links from social media sites back to your organization’s website often increase your website’s page ranking by being associated with a well known and trusted website such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Merchant Circle. Kind of like the instant boost in credibility or coolness nerdy high school kids get when a member of the cool crowd accepts him into his group.

Generate Targeted Traffic
A related benefit is that businesses and other organizations can generate traffic to their website, blog, or events- by posting relevant information and links to your website, blog, etc. right in their social media posts. Twitter is a terrific tool for this and I use this when appropriate. Not every post can contain a link to your stuff or a plug for it or you won’t have fans and followers for very long. But after you have earned the right to promote yourself this is an excellent way to let people know about your business or cause.

Generate and Nurture Qualified Leads
Through search features and third party sites like Twellohood, Localtweeps, iphone apps, and even TweetGrader, you can generate and nurture leads. Just use the tools to find people by location, title or interest to follow them and connect with them on Twitter. Check their Twitter profiles to see what other social media sites they belong to and look for ways to connect with them there as well. Here is a link to a great article on Mashable about finding local fellow tweeters

Make Announcements
Social media networks are a good place to toot (or tweet) your own horn. You can announce new products, services, enhancements, awards/recognition, etc. on social sites to spread the word more quickly. Just be sure to mix in helpful advice and conversation and not to toot your own horn too frequently.

Partner Up
Find new business partners, vendors, suppliers and business opportunities and stay in touch with current business partners, vendors, and suppliers. I’ve met a few business associates through both Linkedin and Twitter and did so within only a few months of using each service. I was not looking for this, it just happened naturally. If that is your goal, however, there are strategies to follow to make your search more productive and efficient. Check out Jennifer Davies’ article on joint ventures and partnerships later in this newsletter.

Educate Yourself
Learn- people post all sorts of information on social networks that are helpful to small businesses such as marketing advice, management advice, customer service advice, and personnel advice. You just have to know how to find it. One excellent way is to use Twitter’s search feature and search for words or phrases using the # (hashtag) symbol. Use in conjunction with hashtag directories to understand what abbreviations mean and find useful hashtags. Twitter recently unveiled a service that lets you organize and follow lists tweets that are relevant or interesting to you. You can create the list using your own criteria. The great thing about these lists is that you don’t have to follow people in order to follow the topic, all the tweets are grouped together, and you can keep these private if you like.

Build Trust and Credibility
And the one that I think is most crucial to small businesses- especially if you sell a product with a long sales cycle that takes multiple touches with your customers, is that social media helps you build trust and credibility. Customers want to buy from people they know, like, and trust. Social media is a wonderful tool to get to know customers as individuals, become personable to them and get them to like you.
Using social media is a convenient, and even fun, way to develop and cultivate relationships with your customers and demonstrate your credibility and trustworthiness.

Used the right way social media holds many benefits that will help your business find customers new and old, better understand their needs/wants and purchase drivers, and develop long lasting relationships that result in satisfied and loyal customers- and a healthy bottom line for you.

Copyright 1st Position Marketing 2009


1st Position Marketing is now blogging with Blogger! This blog will be dedicated to all things marketing and branding with a focus on smart marketing for small businesses. I will talk about practical, effective marketing strategies and solutions that will help your business meet business goals and objectives such as getting more sales, new customers, and higher profits- without breaking the bank. I will post at least weekly and more often when I'm in a writing mood, or if I just need to get something off my chest! My first post will be here soon. Your comments and feedback are welcome. Enjoy!