Bowling for Business: Business sucks? There’s an App for that.

(This column first appeared on on March 14, 2011.)

I was required to take a torturously boring class in high school circa 1982 called Data Processing. (The fact it was held in the math department should have been my first clue that I was in trouble.) Since I try to block out the most traumatic experiences in life, I remember very little about the course. But I do recall the day that it was my turn to stand in the computer lab waiting 45 minutes for the bulky, loud modem to connect to the server via rotary telephone, so it could send back a string of useless numbers. After the incident, I was certain of only one thing: computers were a ridiculous waste of time.

Fast forward 24 years. I use computers and the Internet more often than toilet paper or toothpaste. In fact, I have to admit that in the glorious days since Verizon started selling and supporting the iPad and iPhone, I spend almost every minute of the day wired in.

At home, if I’m not checking available points in my Weight Watcher’s tracker, I’m logged onto Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, reading an iBook or eMagazine, playing Mahjong or balancing our checkbook with Quicken. At work, I’m almost always updating blog posts, tweeting on behalf of clients or evaluating website analytics.

And, although, admittedly, as a marketing and social media professional, I use technology more than the average bear, I’m hardly alone when it comes to relying heavily on technology. In fact, according to, almost 361 million people use the Internet multiple times each day. As an entrepreneur or non-profit director, don’t make the mistake of ignoring this trend.

For Free—

Whether you use a device supported by Google, RIM or Apple, and pretty much no matter what you want to do, there’s an App for that. (But I should reveal that Apple owns the rights to that phrase.)

Purportedly struggling in the darkness to escape from debris, stranded Android users in Japan downloaded Flashlight Apps some 50,000 times in the hours immediately following the recent tsunami and resulting earthquakes.

For business professionals, there are literally hundreds of thousands of apps for virtually every need:

But not all Smartphone apps are so utilitarian. Consider:

On a Limited Budget—

There is a Vook App for $9.99 for struggling business professionals called Help! My Business Sucks! The app offers marketing ideas to save virtually any company, though the results are not guaranteed.

A recent study by cnet Reviews revealed that 42% of Americans use a Blackberry, iPhone, Palm or Google Smartphone. Even if you, like my own husband, have somehow managed to escape the lure of purchasing your own handheld or tablet computer, consider the buying habits of your target market when you are making marketing decisions. Savvy business professionals won’t ignore the fact that a high percentage of people will try to access website content using their phones. So enable your site for mobile viewing. Doing so is relatively simple and very affordable.

The Sky’s the Limit—

If you can swing it, hire an app developer to create a customized application that will provide value to your target market. The epitome of interactive product placement, apps that integrate your brand through a fun game or useful tool could propel your product or service sales to new heights. Some corporations are already leading the charge:

  • Papa John’s offers a free iPhone app that lets users build electronic and order actual pizzas.
  • Spin the Coke provides Facebook integration so you can virtually play Spin the Bottle with friends.
  • Home Depot has a Toolbox that allows users to quickly measure objects with a virtual Caliper
  • The MGM Hot Tub Time Machine Soundboard promises to “get you out of any situation past, present, or future.” A chance to revisit Data Processing in 1982 and change my own early opinion of computers? At $1.99, that might be worth the price of admission.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: Marketing Lessons from Oscar

(This column first appeared on on February 28, 2011.)

By the time you read this column, the 2011 Academy Awards will be history. And while the events that unfold at each Oscar ceremony don’t affect most of us personally, there is much we can learn about marketing by studying the annual affair:

Image is everything—more viewers tune in to see beautiful people modeling glamorous fashions than because they care about who wins the award for best sound editing in a documentary. This might not be true if the dress code was “Come as you are.” Celebrities dress up (or down…remember Bjork?) because they understand the importance of defining, projecting and protecting their brand.

Entrepreneurs who understand this concept are able to leverage it for increased brand name recognition, customer loyalty and, ultimately, higher sales. When we sign a new website client at Mountain Marketing Group, the first order of business is to create or refine the client’s logo and slogan since these steps are foundational to effective advertising and public relations.

Membership has its privileges— while all members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences cast votes, only a small percentage receive invitations to attend the event. On the other hand, if you aren’t a member, your chances of attending are zip… unless you want to be a seat-filler.

This is also true for business owners and non-profit directors. If you don’t belong to the local chamber of commerce, you won’t be invited to mixers or educational seminars. And if you don’t attend business events, you won’t be able to hobnob. And if you don’t rub shoulders with people in the community where you do business, you won’t be able to build valuable relationships that might very well lead to business opportunities. Other memberships to consider include country clubs, professional associations and service organizations.

Networking is non-negotiable— in Hollywood, they call it “walking the red carpet.” In the real world, networking involves having actual conversations with real people who aren’t holding microphones or asking us who we are wearing.

Profitable business networking requires an investment of time and attention. When you attend a networking event, I challenge you to close your mouth and open your ears. Most of us prefer to spend time with good listeners than with people who never shut their mouths. American financier, stock-market speculator, statesman and political consultant Bernard M. Baruch summed it up well when he said,

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

Social Media matters—As soon as Justin Bieber gave a small clear box of his hair to Ellen DeGeneres, the Twittersphere went into overdrive, with nearly all of the 7,686,188 people who follow Bieber tweeting about the event as if it was the most important story in the world. The highest bid for the teen singer’s locks is currently at $12,000.

The Academy Awards’ ceremony is no longer simply broadcasted on television but streamed, celebri-tweeted, posted, blogged, checked in, stumbled upon, connected and fed to millions of eager viewers, followers, friends and fans. The reason any of this should matter to small business owners is that it’s all about buzz. If you want to take advantage of social media, don’t miss the groundswell. Create a Twitter account and set up a Facebook Fan Page for your organization. Today.

Everybody loves a party—more than the Academy Awards’ ceremony itself, I wish I could into the Governor’s Ball or one of the after-parties hosted by Elton John, James Franco or Madonna. It isn’t that I want to see movie stars up close and personal. It’s that I would love to dine on party fare prepared by the likes of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.

If you want to generate interest in your product or services, host an event and serve great food. Then, once your prospects have eaten, wow them with your professional offerings. People are more likely to respond favorably to sales pitches when they have happy tummies.

Nobody likes a windbag—the best Oscar speeches have been brief:

Jack Nicholson

I guess this proves there are as many nuts in the Academy as anywhere else.

Kim Basinger

I just want to thank everybody I’ve ever met in my entire life.

Benicio Del Toro

I won and I get to scream and jump a little. But I got to go back to work tomorrow.

Steven Spielberg

Am I allowed to say I really wanted this? This is fantastic.

James Cameron

I am the king of the world!

If you are giving your Oscar acceptance speech and the music starts, you need to shut up. The best advertising campaigns have also been brief:


A little dab’ll do ya.

De Beers’ diamonds

A diamond is forever.

Florida Citrus Commission

A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine.

Rice a Roni

The San Francisco treat

Florida Citrus Commission

Wheaties: Breakfast of Champions.

Enough said. Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.