Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing · Radio

Ad avoidance is a major problem for anyone in the marketing field. We buy, schedule, and target our media under the assumption that it’s going to get noticed. But often it does not. 60-70% of television ads can now be bypassed by DVR. Only 1/2% to 2% of direct mail is opened. According to scientific studies, over 80% of internet ad units are purposefully avoided.

Radio, on the other hand, is only ignored about 8% of the time*, but that’s not what this is about. This post is about making simple changes to your advertising or marketing approach to vastly increase the likelihood that your audience actually pays attention to your message.

Yes, consumers will pay attention to ads. Many do today, even with the tools that they have to easily avoid them. But only the ads that speak to them, and that’s the key – the ad actually has to make the consumer think that it’s about them, not just the company that’s advertising. Here are four basic things (and one advanced technique) that you can use immediately to improve your connection with, and therefore your engagement to, your target audience.
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Posted by . In topics: Customer Retention · Digital Marketing · Marketing · Social Media

As most of you know, Twitter is a free social media platform.  Its users micro-blog everything from what they ate for lunch to news articles that they’d like others to see and share.  Users express themselves in short 140 character broadcasts to designated groups of “followers” (Tweets), which can be read and passed virally through the Twitter site, mobile devices, and a number of 3rd party applications.  In the last months, The Growthwire has received a lot of questions about the use of Twitter for local businesses.   Most of these questions come from people who clearly see Twitter’s value as a social and a customer-service/relationship tool, but are uncertain about Twitter’s usefulness for customer acquisition.

Our honest answer is that we don’t know the answer yet.

The platform obviously has many evangelists, some of whom say it’s a great acquisition tool.  We’re not entirely convinced that these anecdotes are objective or applicable to the average local business.  Most of the more thoughtful discussions note that even if it does ‘work,’ it’s probably not for everyone.  The most common challenges appear to be: 1) It requires a lot of work and a broader social media strategy to use effectively, 2) Its potential decreases significantly as the geography of its use narrows (i.e. global, virtual companies like Dell will get more ROI than the small brick and mortar/local market computer shop), 3) Despite all the talk and awareness, only about 11% of the US is using the service (compared to 40% for Facebook), and 4) A lot of Twitter activity is now the cultivation of mass-follower lists to facilitate spam advertising.

Maybe we’re jaded – we’ve been through several major cycles of internet hype to date… So instead of trying to tell you what’s going on, we’ll simply ask.  Read on to take our one-question poll and see links where you can learn more about Twitter. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing · Radio

Odds are that you or one of your key staff excels at sales; Few businesses survive long, no matter how great their product, pricing, or service, without at least one strong rainmaker on the roster.  If you could clone your Rainmaker several times — effectively doubling, tripling, or quadrupling your Rainmaking expertise — you’d probably be able to grow significantly.  The problem, however, is this can be costly and sometimes it’s just impractical.   Due to the specialization/experience required, training, the inevitable ramp-up phase, and the fact that many new hires don’t work out, sales is very difficult for most small businesses to expand and profitably grow to a meaningful scale.

Enter advertising, the tool that many businesses turn to increase revenue at a meaningful and profitable level.  Advertising, when done right, is simply Mass-Selling.  When it does the exact same things that a good Rainmaker does, advertising can actually ‘sell’ to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of prospective customers at once.

Many businesses that advertise (or used to) might argue that this is idealistic at best and wrong-headed at worst.  They’ve tried advertising and it doesn’t deliver (at least to the scale that they’d expected).  Having seen hundreds of small businesses experience significant growth through advertising, I’d argue that many of these unimpressed businesses simply don’t advertise the right way.  If they’d thought of their advertising as mass-salesmanship, and actually applied the principles of strong one-on-one selling, they could have experienced much different results… Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing · Radio · The Economy

Most small and mid-sized local businesses have had to make all kinds of tough decisions since the Recession began.  According to American Express, only 20% of these firms have been able operate profitably without major cut-backs in staff and operating capital.

Marketing is an obvious target for most budget cutting.  The only problem with chopping the marketing budget is its damaging impact on sales.  According to numerous studies over the last 80 years, firms that eliminate their marketing decline rapidly during tough times.  Those that even cut back modestly lose significant market share to the few firms that don’t cut.  They also tend to miss significant gains in the first 2-3 years of recovery.

So how do you make a tough budget decision that preserves your near-term viability without causing an even greater long-term problem?  Simple:  cut your marketing budget to the bone, but spend your remaining dollars to dominate an audience – no matter how small that audience may have to be.  It’s a principle that smart advertisers have been using for decades, through good times and bad, but one that proves essential for every firm when funds run tight. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Marketing · Technology

Small businesses that don’t have storefronts or hard-wired point-of-sale systems often have a tough time handling today’s most common methods of payment – debit, credit, and gift cards.  If you’re reducing your customer pool to people who can pay with cash or check, or those with good enough credit to merit an invoice, you’re likely missing a ton of business in today’s economy.

This might change very soon with the new generation of low-cost, easy-to-use, card-swiping systems designed to work with smart phones.

For businesses that are largely mobile, such as home service & construction businesses, this technology can open new revenue streams.  You’d be surprised how much home improvement spending is blocked today by the inability to easily transact on credit cards.  These businesses are often also plagued by bad debt – checks that don’t clear and final invoices that are not paid or not paid on time.   It may also open doors for part-time businesses or those wanting to commercialize their hobby interests. Say you have a side business like wood carving, photography, or making ironic t-shirts.  You’d like to rent a booth at the local arts fest and sell your wares.  With technology like square you can easily set your booth up with real-time credit card processing.  You’ll not only save a lot of time and aggravation associated with cash boxes – the convenience will translate into more customers and higher potential price points. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing

Ever heard the expression “No one ever got fired for buying IBM”?

How about “People buy from people that they like”?

These two ideas represent polar opposites of marketing strategies used today by many small and mid-sized businesses.

The IBM quote reflects the idea that a ‘big business image’ will make prospects more comfortable buying from you.  This thinking leads to lots of letterhead, a shiny facade, and a highly ‘professionalized’ image.  It also leads many companies to try to look like they think people think they should look.  Sometimes this strategy works.  But often, it creates an impersonal, sterile, and generic brand identity.  Just the opposite of what makes people take notice of and appreciate a business.

On the other extreme is a simple formula for success: “be liked!”  In today’s business environment, where authenticity and uniqueness tends to be rewarded (when all other things are equal) give this strategy a little extra thought.  That’s where Wabi-sabi comes in. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Digital Marketing · Local Search/Google · Marketing

Big companies use PR firms to keep the press up to speed on their latest product announcements, event sponsorships, management changes, and other important information.  All of these announcements inundate the press (i.e. spam) and have actually created a backlash – many journalists now look to blogs in their area of interest for the really interesting stuff.  This is even happening in local press, where reporters eye local blogging content to spot trends and subjects of interest.

What does this have to do with your business?  Blog writers are always searching for fresh meat (trust me) and are often very open to direct communication, comment, and suggestion.  If a local blogger is writing about something that you’re an expert in, or a product/service area that you serve, it’s likely the blogger would welcome your input (much more so than a traditional journalist).  Also, it’s not at all unusual and, under the right conditions, not unethical, for bloggers to accept offers of free products/services to evaluate and comment on.  If the blogger does pick up your idea or input, you can often get a nice little bump in traffic for the effort.  If the local paper cites or follows up on that blog, or if the organizations that compile the “best of” lists in your town pays attention to bloggers (most do now), you could get a significant recognition and months of free publicity.

Bloggers often do a pretty good job of optimizing their sites for Google too.  This means that their work (and potentially your press) might be picked up by a broader audience than just their core followers. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Management

Do you think that your staff needs to care more about the quality of their work?  Do you need people to show up on time and respond to customers in a more timely, positive manner?   Do you need your sales team to pay more attention to their most important accounts, or do more prospecting?  Do you need to stop paying too much attention to things that don’t directly grow your business?

These improvements represent needs for CHANGE.

Change can be a scary thing.  We all know (from first hand experience) that most of our hard-wired behaviors, habits, and beliefs work in direct opposition to change, no matter how profitable, healthy, or enriching that change might be.  But most of us aren’t quite sure why.  We try carrots and sticks to effect change, but most of the time, these changes don’t stick.  Sometimes we look at employees and think ‘they can never change, I have to replace them.’  Other times we just take bad situations as a given and work ourselves to death running around the obvious problem…  Our lives would be so much simpler if we could actually master change when it’s needed most.

The latest book from Chip and Dan Heath (the co-authors of best-seller Made To Stick) may just provide the answer.  Switch demystifies change and presents a very simple framework for understanding and solving a wide-range of changes.  Unlike most business books, Switch is relevant and compelling from cover to cover and is extremely readable.  Their cases, examples, and frameworks will stimulate so many thoughts about your own change needs that your biggest problem may simply be finishing it!  It’s easily one of the best business books written in years.  Give it a shot.  It’s available in most bookstores and on Amazon/Kindle.  The Heath Brothers also have a website that discusses some of their content (though to be honest, it doesn’t do the book justice).