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: Advertising · Digital Marketing · Marketing · Radio

As reported by the Wall Street Journal this week, the board of Zales Corp fired it’s CEO and two other top executives over poor performance, particularly during the 2009 holiday season.  One of the major issues, according to The Journal, was CEO Neal Goldberg’s decision to shift most of it’s broadcast advertising budget to internet marketing.  This strategy clearly backfired as Zales’ prime competitors, heavy users of broadcast media, posted strong results.

Consumers are obviously using the web with increasing frequency as their source of entertainment and social connection.  Marketers should take caution, however, before they assume that this shift in attention equates to a shift in digital marketing effectiveness.

For all its promise, the web has yet do demonstrate an ability to influence desire and intent to purchase.  In fact, most web commerce is dependent on those triggers occurring before Google is searched, a banner is clicked, or a merchant’s site is opened.

The desire and brand choice that drives market share — online and offline — are still being created by effective terrestrial advertising.  This is particularly true for emotion-driven purchases like diamond jewelry, as Zales can now sadly attest.

Bottom line: Make sure that you’ve built the desire for your brand with effective offline advertising before you expect consumers to look for it online.

Posted by . In topics: Customer Retention · Digital Marketing · Local Search/Google · Marketing · Social Media

With recent advances in search technology, your customers’ experiences can now be instantly in the public domain and, in many cases, magnified by the size and nature of social networks.  This adds to the existing risks posed by sites that offer un-moderated ‘ratings’ of local businesses – many of which you may not even know exist.

If you don’t already, its time to start taking steps to manage your brand’s reputation online – at the very least, to find out if there are any reputation-killers lurking in the dark recesses of the web.  For most businesses, this can be as simple as a doing a couple of quick searches each month, or setting up an automated Google Alert to do the searching for you.  Other businesses may need to dedicate more effort to this issue; particularly ones that are active in social media, have high staff turnover, face very aggressive competitors, or who’ve had problems with product quality or customer service.

In this, the first of two posts on Reputation Management, we’ll cover why you should be concerned and how you can take steps to monitor what’s said about you or your business online.  In the second post, we’ll focus on how to use this information, including strategies for remedying bad situations. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Customer Retention · Marketing · Technology

iPhone App: RedLaser

I love technology, and you have to give the geeks credit:  if there’s an inefficiency in the world, it won’t be long before one of them figures out a low-cost way to eliminate it with a web service or, most recently, a smart-phone app.

Take local retailing, for instance.  Used to be that when a consumer shopped at a local retailer, he or she had to pay an outrageous premium – the mark-up that covers the retailer’s rent, insurance, healthcare costs and the high-cost domestic labor that provides assistance, know-how, and help with returns.

2009′s master-innovation elegantly frees the consumer from this burden.  RedLaser, the $1.99 Apple iPhone App, uses high-tech imaging technology through the phone’s camera to read the UPC barcode that appears on most products.  With a quick scan, RedLaser instantly enables the user to find that product for less (the lowest-cost provider is almost always an online store).  Click a link, order the product, and (if you’re really savvy) type in an online coupon code for free shipping or an additional discount.  Bingo – The same exact product with significant savings and almost no time or effort!  Maybe as little as a few hours away with free shipping… Read more »

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

Wendy Harris, Team Harris Realty

2009 was a great year for Wendy Harris, of Team Harris Realty, despite the horrible macro environment for realty businesses.  While many of her peers reacted to the real estate downturn by reducing or eliminating mass-marketing, Wendy moved in the opposite direction with spectacular results.

Wendy recently wrote to share her story: “Thanks to Cumulus radio, I outsold every resale Real Estate agent in Fayetteville and continue to increase my business!”

Wendy took advantage of radio’s unique ability to deeply inform potential clients as part of the mass-reach/high-frequency branding process.  She differentiates her business with a unique listing proposition:  a guarantee to sell the house at a specified price by a specified deadline and backs her guarantee by agreeing to buy the home if she doesn’t hit her goals.  By breaking this concept down into several explanatory radio commercials she quickly communicated this program to anxious sellers.  “The phones started ringing the first week I started.” Read more »

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

Every month, our team of marketing, operations, and strategy professionals put their heads together to answer a reader’s question about growing his/her small business. You can click here to submit your own question, and please feel free to join this discussion by adding your comments below

Rachel H., Stamford CT

Q: My staff and I put a lot of time into our website – it has a fantastic design, includes video testimonials, detailed pages about all of the services we provide, and have a very good page of Frequently Asked Questions.  It’s so much better than our competitors’ sites that several are even starting to copy us.  I get a lot of positive feedback from customers about the site so I know it does what we want it to do.  The problem is that it doesn’t generate a lot of traffic.  But the traffic it does get results in an email to us about 20% of the time, which I understand is a very high converting level.  I have our www address on our direct mail pieces and very large print in the occasional newspaper ads that we run. I’ve had web programmers offer to do things (that I don’t fully understand) to make it show up more often in Yahoo and Google, but the bids are pretty expensive and I just don’t know if they will work.  What do you recommend? Read more »