Category Archives: marketing when the sky’s the limit

Bowling for Business: Lighten Up

(This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on May 24, 2011.)

My husband and I have a standing breakfast date on Saturday mornings. So I usually try to show a little effort by running a comb through my hair and dabbing on a bit of mascara. But, this weekend, we wanted to make sure we got to Belgian Waffle Works before they stopped serving biscuits. So I skipped the makeup and threw on some sweats, an old denim shirt, and a pair of fashion-forward Crocs; and off we went.

An hour later, when my good friend, Kelly, called to say that she was in town and wanted to introduce us to her fiance, I almost chocked on my multigrain waffle. I hung up the phone and stared at Brent.

“This will be the first time I’ve met Keith. And I didn’t even brush my teeth before we left the house. My shirt has paint all over it. And I’m not even wearing socks.”

His response put everything into perspective: “I am wearing white socks…with sandals!”

Brent and I have been happily married for nearly 25 years. And the secret to our success is laughter. We agree with Peter Ustinov’s philosophy:

“It is our responsibilities (not ourselves) that we should take seriously.”

I often wish I could train clients to embrace the idea. But since money is tied to success and success is linked to business, too many entrepreneurs have lost their sense of humor, especially in this economy. And that is anathema to effective advertising.

Leo Barnett once accurately summarized the field of marketing: “Great advertising can be boiled down to three simple messages: ‘Here’s what we’ve got. Here’s what it will do for you. Here’s how to get it.'”

But how do you capture the attention of your target market so you can tell them what you’ve got, what it will do for them and how to get it? Most of us are too busy to focus on anything for more than a few minutes. So how can you cut through the noise? Take a cue from the most memorable and successful marketing campaigns of all time. Make ’em laugh. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

The great thing about hilarity is that it’s free. You can incorporate humor into your ad campaigns on any and every marketing budget.

 

For Free—

In social media, pay attention to the types of posts that stimulate feedback. Currently appearing on my own Facebook wall is a video of a talking dog, a video of a stick figure trying to sell social media and a Baby Dancing to Beyonce…hardly fodder for members of Mensa. Even when your purposes for using platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are business-related, remember that your goal is to get your message in front of three-dimensional decision-makers—not pod people.

On a Limited Budget—

If your product is Tums, you can afford to hire writers, directors, actors, famous NASCAR drivers, a professional production crew and special effects editors to create comical videos about food fighting back. But most of us have to settle for a more modest approach.

If funds are tight, invest in a great, short video script and produce it yourself for free (or almost free) on the user-friendly comical movie-making website xtranormal. Then, post a link to it on all of your social media sites.

The Sky’s the Limit—

Experiment with levity. Hire someone with a sense of humor to come up with a trial campaign for your product or service. Once you’ve approved the angle, give it a fair shake by cross-promoting it on your website, social media sites, and in print ads and press releases. Then test and measure online metrics against more formal takes of the same campaign. Some tools I recommend for this include:

Any marketing professional worth his or her salt will show you the results of market research. You can also send a brief survey with a link to your campaign, asking recipients for their opinion. Sample question: When meeting someone for the first time, which is worse? To dress like an unemployed painter or to wear white socks with sandals?

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

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

(This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net 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 InternetWorldStats.com, 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: Insane Campaigns

(This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on January 31, 2011.)

We used to spend Saturday mornings at the Denver Suds-n-Duds, where I played with miniature bottles of Borax and tiny boxes of Tide while my mom fumbled with quarters and battled the ramshackle appliances. Back then, I could sit for hours in front of the dryer watching the clothes spin. (Mind you, this was long before cable TV or the Internet.) So the delivery of our very first washer and dryer circa 1973 marked the end of an era. It also signaled the start of my disgust with all things washing-related.

An only child, it was my job to venture into our cold, dark utility room when the buzzer sounded, to check whether or not the clothes were dry. Why we listened to the timer was beyond me, since, in all the years we owned it, it never once correctly assessed the condition of our clothes. Each load required two or three complete cycles…which meant two or three times I would have to run in the dark, with bare feet, onto the uncovered concrete floor, open the dryer, restart the machine and run back before spiders, dust bunnies or utility room monsters had time to attack. In all of those years, never once did it occur to me to turn on the laundry room light or wear slippers.

What does this have to do with marketing? It reminds me of something Albert Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Had I heeded his implied suggestion, to change strategies when something doesn’t work, I might not still equate doing laundry with serving time. It is for this very reason I strive to save clients the inherent frustration of habitually sticking with unsuccessful marketing campaigns. It might seem like a no-brainer to pull the plug on a plan that doesn’t work. But, remarkably, when I propose a shift, the suggestion is often meet with resistance.

Sure, the idea might be inspired. The right people might be doing the right tasks and have every base covered. Your campaign might be cheap. But check the bottom line. If you’re not getting the results you expected, something is obviously wrong. If this is the case, switch things up. Just don’t make the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

For Free—

For example, if your social media campaign isn’t producing results, don’t assume social media doesn’t work. Instead, change your approach. Swap out your profile pictures and bios. Or post something using a completely different tone of voice. Track everything, and see if the changes affect your results. You might be surprised.

On a Limited Budget—

Review artwork and copy for print campaigns. Does your message show potential clients and donors how your product or service would add value for them or does it toot your horn? There is a distinct difference.

For instance, if you own a beauty salon, focus your marketing on the ways your products and services improve your clients’ appearance rather than on your own expertise and qualifications. It won’t make any difference to customers whether you’ve styled hair for 25 days or 25 years unless that experience directly affects their own heads of hair. Select a tagline that shows the way that your experience will ultimately translate to a better experience for them.

For example, instead of: “We’ve been cutting hair for 25 years,” opt for: “Keeping women chic for 25 years.” Although the difference is subtle, it is critical.

The Sky’s the Limit—

One of our clients initially bristled at the thought of changing an advertising campaign he had been doing with another agency for 14 years because, he said, “We’ve always done it this way.”

“Exactly how much business can you track to these ads?” I asked.

“I don’t know. We’ve never tried to figure it out,” he replied.

After working with him to quantify metrics, we were able to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of his existing approach. Faced with the raw data, he finally agreed to change things up. And for a fraction of the cost of his old campaign, we took an entirely different tact which significantly improved his bottom line. And though revamping an ad campaign isn’t rocket science, I’m certain Mr. Einstein would approve.

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

Bowling for Business: Pushing Past the Papaya

(This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on January 17, 2011.

I couldn’t have been better prepared for our stint on Supermarket Sweep than I was on the morning the cable game show taped in 1991. My teammate, Donna, and I had brushed up on trivia and even memorized the layout of the studio grocery store so we would be able to quickly fill our carts with high-ticket items so we would make it to the all important Big Sweep. Then, inexplicably, when the cameras started to roll, I choked. Like a deer in headlights, in the first round, I stared blankly at the host and then proceeded to do everything in my power to embarrass my unborn children.

Question: What fruit has a green rind, red flesh and black seeds?

I was the first to buzz in with my incorrect answer: Papaya.

Question: Which melon features orange flesh and tan seeds?

My Answer: Papaya.

Question: In what month do most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?

My Answer: Papaya.

To this day, I have no idea why I had papaya on the brain. I don’t even really care for papaya. I also have no idea how, despite my mistakes, Donna and I emerged victorious, taking home a grand total $1,103 for our efforts. But I appreciate the relevance of making sure Mountain Marketing Group clients push past this type of brain freeze when it comes to advertising.

For many, the ability to seize the potential of using social media for lead generation is stifled by one thing and one thing alone: an outdated mindset. Somehow, most of us still think that advertising is advertising and social media is something else. But, in truth, advertising and social media are the same thing. They are both content.

The moment we realize that all marketing equals content, we will finally be able to break through the brain freeze and find new ways to fuel powerful brand interactions so they will lead to sales transactions and charitable donations. And we can do this regardless of budget.

For Free—

The first step to creating valuable content is to understand the shared interests and motivations of your target market. Once you recognize what they need, you can start crafting content to fill those needs. And that content can be created for free. For instance, if your product is hairspray, the most obvious shared trait of your target market is that most people who use it have hair. And while your endgame is to get them to buy your product, first, you must provide them with interesting information.

Content for people with hair might include Facebook posts about healthy hair care tips or hair styling trends. Once you have proven yourself knowledgeable and helpful regarding everything hair, your client base will learn to associate your brand with their haircare-related needs. Just don’t make the mistake of using your voice to hard-sell from the start. In an age where people actively search for content instead of passively listening to whatever you have to say, share-of-voice has to be earned.

On a Limited Budget—

Develop an email newsletter. You can either create the publication in-house using a free or low-cost service such as Constant Contact, RatePoint or MailChimp, or hire a professional to produce content-rich information to distribute on a regular basis. But beware of the most common pitfall to this practice—believing you will have time to do this chore yourself, in addition to running your business or nonprofit organization. The road to social media success is paved with good intentions.

Another budget-friendly, content-heavy idea is to blog. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of writing 300-500 word articles and then pointing to the posts via social media websites. If your tweets and status updates are content-rich and optimized, you will be well on your way to establishing yourself as a trusted leader in your field. And trust is the foundation for establishing lifetime relationships with customers, donors and friends.

The Sky’s the Limit—

Don’t forget about the real world. As reliant on technology as we have become, most people still prefer the warmth of a handshake to the cool touch of a keyboard.

In fact, according to MSNBC New.com, “People prefer colonoscopies to computer upkeep.” So don’t relegate all of your marketing efforts to the Internet.

Here are some real world ideas:

  1. Sponsor a workshop, conference or industry event.
  2. Accept invitations to speak in public about your area of expertise.
  3. Produce an informational brochure. But resist the urge to use the piece to promote your product. Instead, simply provide content along with your logo, slogan and contact information.
  4. Papaya.

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