People want to improve. Well, most people do anyway.
They’ll talk the improvement game. They’ll go to conferences. They’ll read those books. Most will target a start date of January – the official biggest improvement month of the year.
The trouble is I see too many people who talk about improving, but, by the month of February, they regress to their tried and true habits. They do the same things the same way they always have. Routines are grounded into most folk’s normal day. And change is hard – really hard.
A friend of mine recently commented in an off-hand way, “If someone never sets aside time to improve, they’ll never improve.” It was a simple statement, but as soon as I heard it I knew I had to write about it. In previous B2Seed entries, I’ve shared about how busy people in the world are today. There are fewer of you working in companies and you’re doing more and the deadlines seem to come quicker and quicker.
You move from crisis to situation to trouble to meeting. It’s just the way it is whether you are in marketing, leadership, medicine, human resources, running a non-profit, or consulting other businesses.
So here is my challenge to you. You’re not going to magically make yourself better. You’re only going to get better if you carve time out of your calendar to do so. Make it a routine and start this week. No matter how much pressure you get from clients, bosses, or the teams you lead, it is critical you create space to actually improve. You owe it to your people, your company, and – most of all – to yourself.
Block out thirty minutes twice a week for the next three weeks. Plan it right after you finish reading this article and before you begin your next task. At this point it doesn’t even really matter what route you select to improve. You’ve marked a start and starting is the most important step. After all, you can always improve at improving once you get that habit changed and make time for it.
You Need2Let Help In
In the early days of my agency my clients would ask me to help them come up with an idea. I would quickly reply “okay,” or “you bet,” or “we’ve got this”.
Then, I would retreat to my car or make the walk back to my office on Kirk Avenue, stare ahead, and think "Oh man, what do I do now?" I always had faith the idea would come, but its arrival frequently included anxiety, questions, and some additional stress.
Frankly, the pressure meant the creative process was bound to be more difficult.
As my firm grew, I started working more closely with creative folks which allowed for the dispersal of some of that pressure. It certainly made life easier. Even still, I had to learn to let go. It was time to let others add their input and ultimately come up with the (usually even better) creative approach.
Honestly, much of the growth of B2C came as other – more talented – creative people got involved in the process.
A Sales (and Leadership) Reminder4Us
Years later, I’ve realized something even more important has stemmed from our creative shift: Not only did the process get less stressful and easier, but I became a better account executive and manager.
Now, when I’m in front of a prospect or client, I simply KNOW my team is going to have an exceptional creative idea. It’s a relief when you know the people working alongside you are going to come through. Relief is significant, but the confidence you have in your team shows in your approach and presentation.
It’s the same reason the star quarterback elects to toss the ball to his favorite receiver, or the editor gives the big assignment to that accomplished reporter.
As sellers and account managers we are a reflection of the team behind us who are doing the work. When they’re doing great work it shows naturally through our demeanor and plays out well for those of us out in front of the public. The confidence you have in your team gives you the ability to leave a meeting and simply know you really do have this covered.
My Dad is probably the biggest fan of my writing – and sometimes my biggest critic. I’ve seen the statistics for this monthly piece and most of you who receive it actually read it. Some of you may muddle through it while others engage with the message, writing to tell me thank you or explain how a point hit them just right. In many cases, my Dad will still give me feedback and tell me how much he liked what I wrote. He’s been reading (and editing) my work since the 1970’s when I was a cub sports reporter at the local town newspaper in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
These columns are submitted because I love to write and because I usually have something helpful to share. Helping people is a passion of mine and this serves as a gateway for that purpose. In the process, it’s also helped me and my business. This monthly tip or thought-starter is definitely an outlet. It’s also a way to keep B2C Enterprises in front of prospective, current, and former clients of our advertising and marketing agency. It’s one of the ways we build top of mind awareness – that’s for sure.
There is a reason to do this. And frankly, it is a reason you should consider yourselves.While you may not love to write like I do, surely there is someone in your organization who does. Consistently creating helpful content is one of the most powerful business development tools your company can employ. The material needn’t be sales focused – in fact it’s often better if it isn’t – but the regular outreach can make a huge impact for your growth.Put those ideas and thoughts out there – as a part of your routine. People love to receive helpful information. Then, when they have other questions or thoughts, you and your organization can become a resource to them. It’s because they remember hearing from you. It’s true I write these pieces because I want to, but now that the secret is out, I also write them to engage people who may have an interest in working with us.
Plus, who doesn’t love getting sweet feedback from their 89-year-old father in their email inbox? (Hi, Dad.)
Just Have2 Say It
There is a commonly seen logo that I simply love.I love everything about it. I love how different divisions have the same branding, but with a significant color variation. I love how simple it is and how the font is direct and clean and vibrant and colorful.It’s true that my attention to this logo in particular (and any logo in general) likely makes me a marketing geek. I’m okay with that.But above all, I love the hidden image in it and over the past decade or so I’ve asked others if they see the cleverly-integrated reverse icon. I’d say at least half can already identify it, but those who haven’t are able to see it right away when it’s pointed out. It’s the arrow inside FedEx.
The best part is, once you see it – you can never “un-see” it. That arrow, situated so smartly between the “e” and the “x” of the delivery giant’s name, becomes so clear it can’t be ignored.
More than a Brand4 You
One of the things we work to do in our marketing and advertising creation is to engage the recipient’s brain. It’s important the branding you use to represent your company or organization has layers with new bits and pieces revealed to the viewer over time. It is one of the best ways to subtly connect with the busy brains you are trying to reach.The creator of the FedEx branding obviously knew what they were doing, but they didn’t scream it. Instead, they left it there for the implied message of speed and accuracy. A deeper look into the optical illusion might suggest that there’s a way forward and a powerful direction with the FedEx branding. And the way the company has used it – so cleanly, so simply, and so directly – only proves up their message.It’s why I love it so much. And why I don’t really care if you think I am geek about all of this marketing stuff.
A Thought4Your Consideration
Unless you are one of a few devout underground music fans, the group Portugal The Man probably hadn’t passed by your ears prior to 2017. Last year, they burst upon the scene with their hit song “Feel It Still” and this band from Alaska became a common name among millions in America.Any guesses why?
For decades, successful marketers have been using music to drive their messaging. If you’re my age (spoiler alert – I’m in my 50’s), you remember Heinz Ketchup using “Anticipation” and Coca-Cola worked to “Teach the World to Sing” in their TV commercials.
Whether the music is original, re-purposed for a specific reason, or picked because an ad person likes it, the fact is many of the commercials we remember are aligned with music that sticks in your brain.
With this particular iPad Pro campaign, Apple, a technology powerhouse pulling in billions of dollars every year, became a vessel for the worldwide fame of Portugal The Man (which is actually a whole band). The funny thing is, this band has been playing music together since the early 2000’s. Hardly a new act, Portugal The Man had already made a name on the festival scene and was being recognized through their years together for their abilities.
They just didn’t become a “household name” until June of last year when Apple used their song in a TV commercial.
I remember watching the iPad Pro commercial and thinking, man, that’s a fun song. Shortly after, I began hearing it on obscure radio stations. It wasn’t long before it was everywhere and being played repeatedly. It peaked at #4 on theBillboardHot 100 songs at one point in 2017.
Imagine that – a catchy tune, combined with clever video and a creative concept, executed by a trendsetting company that makes really cool things. Sounds like a recipe for a winner. And it was for both Apple and Portugal The Man.
Your organization may not have the kind of pull to launch a band into fame. What it does have, though, is the ability to choose original or special music to drive your next big campaign.
Doing2Things at Once
It’s really a made-up phrase. In my mind, I’ve come to the realization I simply cannot do it. (I’m pretty sure those of you who are reading this can’t either, no matter how much you think you can.)
Multitasking? Nah. Sometimes we can do multiple things in a really fast sequence, but when we try to do two jobs at one time neither typically gets the proper attention.
The other night I was listening to the news, while trying to do something else I’m sure, and I heard a statistic – Pedestrian Traffic Deaths are at a 25 Year High in the United States. The anchor stated marijuana has something to do with the increase, but even bigger is the impact of texting and walking. These experts took all the fun out of texting and driving and now they don’t even want us to text and walk.
That’s because it’s not safe. You can’t do two things – especially like that – at once.
They are simple really. One is for advertisers and the other is for people engaged in any kind of business.
1) Your advertising had better interrupt because, if you’re lucky, people are only halfway paying attention to start. Grab their attention first and then try to begin the process of winning over their hearts and minds.
2) Focus on one thing at a time when the one thing is something that requires your attention. Sometimes you can walk and chew gum (or text), but when your mind needs to be engaged it is best to absolutely do one thing at a time. Otherwise you’ll end up doing neither particularly well.
They say advertising isn’t life and death. Generally that’s true, though even that can depend on what multitasking duties you marketing and business people are trying to accomplish. Focus completely instead. You will be better at most everything you do.
About a year and a half ago we hired a business development person at our marketing and advertising firm.
It was a big step for me since prior to that time we had never had an official sales department at our company. I didn’t have to hire someone else to work in that area – we were growing and business was solid. It was just that the right person came along at a time when I was willing to take the chance to grow.
While she hadn’t officially sold marketing and advertising before, I believed she had the tools to be successful – and she has been – besting her first year sales goal and helping our agency grow.
Part of our process with her on board was a weekly meeting with me to review our collective progress on sales projects with which we were each working.
Simply put, knowing we’d have to address each sales opportunity created a desire to make sure our work was done. That’s called accountability and it works in other areas just like in sales.
There were weeks we didn’t feel like meeting and times I am sure I didn’t do what I should or could have – likewise for her. But we press on regardless because there is great value in consistency.
So there you have it – accountability and consistency. Not exactly flashy or exciting, but they are two of the greatest drivers of sales and business growth. They are also two of the easiest things to skip – especially in hard times.
Just adding another person (who also happens to be very capable) not only improved our overall sales, but it also forced me to improve my skills and stay on task…and that drove even more growth. In other words, the addition made me better, too.
Decide2Be an Expert
Things seem to happen so fast these days.Of course that’s what people have been saying for generations so it’s kind of hard to tell if it’s really true or just how it “feels”. This I can say…there are so many new things to process and master I really don’t think the average person can do it all.In the marketing and advertising world we’ve seen a proliferation of platforms and tools and ways to get a client’s message to the interested (and possibly the not-aware-they-are-interested) people who are out there. Whether it is traditional media, social media, new media, digital media, or some other yet-to-be-named media, the fact is there are a lot of things to keep track of and I’m convinced one person simply cannot be an expert at everything.
I’m not saying you should learn everything. And I’m not suggesting you should quit adding new business lines or specialties.
What I am saying is that there is some benefit to “staying in your lane” and focusing on the core business areas that built your organization and sustained it through the years. Once you’ve got those areas under control (I realize that’s a relative term), then yes, you can evaluate the areas in which you can extend.After all, if my company had only bought electronic media like I planned almost nine years ago, we’d never have legitimately added website design and marketing services, video production, print design, event marketing, and even filmmaking to our list of deliverables.Always look to growth and areas of expansion, yes, but realize also that one person (or even one company) cannot do everything. Recognize as a leader when it makes the most sense to go outside your department or company to get a better solution. And be wise about what you add to your key markets.It’s the fastest way to ensure your continued relevance and success – and keep your sanity.
Grumpy. Edgy. Angry. Or just plain ornery.
Sometimes you come across a person who just rubs you the wrong way. It happens to all of us in business (or education or healthcare or not-for-profit foundation work). That’s because those people are everywhere. Hopefully you aren’t one of them! =)
Recently, a few teammates at B2C Enterprises met with someone who came off as bristled before they could even mutter a “Hello” to that person. When they got back to the office they asked me what could make a person act that way.
Surprisingly, I actually had an answer.
Hurt people hurt people.
Sometimes they are protecting their newly-acquired territory or their lower-than-it-should-be esteem. Often, they are themselves the target of some disdain, drama, or workplace anxiety. No matter the cause of their consternation, they are undoubtedly hurtful when they react to your questions, needs, or even your very presence with vitriol.
So, what do you do? Whether you want to or not, you sometimes have to work with these people regardless of the circumstances. You may as well have a plan – some steps to help you down the treacherous path.
It’s tempting to try to brighten their day. Sometimes you can and, if you can, you should. Don’t be surprised if you can’t build a bridge with some of these people, though, and don’t feel defeated if you can’t.
After all, if there’s a bridge, then there’s a way for that negativity to come across to you.
What exactly is marketing and how is it different than advertising?
The answer is often like the reference to the oldest, biggest, revenue-generating internet business, “you know it when you see it”.
The same is true for many stores in Roanoke that do such a good job with their window displays. They are attention-getting, artistic, creative, and beautiful. It’s just a window display, but these shops have a reputation now for great presentation. I look on purpose every time I walk by these shops to see what they’ve done and how it looks.
That's great marketing.
Whether it’s packaging, a floor display, directional signage, sales kits, or brochures, marketing supports the way you do your business and how you want others to both view and engage with you.
Advertising is outreach. Marketing is reaching the hearts and minds of the people with whom you’re already connected. The two elements are perpetually interconnected and it’s critical both work strongly and in unison. Advertise to get the attention of the patient, consumer, or client – then market to more deeply involve them or build their warm feelings about your organization.
The thing about the window display is, like so many parts of the marketing and advertising world, it could possibly be labeled as either. I’m interested and curious about that business and, for me, it’s marketing. You are walking down the street and have no awareness of Urban Gypsy so for you it may be advertising. Either way, the window display is interrupting and reflects the business and how it is perceived. It’s a win-win.
So make the things you do to market and advertise your company consistent and interesting – and call it what you wish.
Your World Series2Win
On the first night of November (which did seem weird), the Houston Astros captured their first-ever baseball World Series Championship. Just four years ago they were the laughingstock of the baseball world and had lost over 100 games – a near record for futility.
How did this magical turnaround happen? How did the Astros end up beating the high-powered Los Angeles Dodgers and my poor brother’s favorite team for about 50 years now?
It’s not a sports question, actually. It’s more of a thought-starter for everyone in commerce.
Talent4The Long Run
The Astros’ rise to the championship started a few years ago with a plan to acquire talent. In business, like sports, talent is the supreme commodity.
Because the Astros had played so poorly in the past, they got to pick the new players first. That happens a lot, but this Houston-based team picked really well by building a foundation that would be both competitive and affordable. Homegrown talent was the most efficient way to get from bad to really good. Later, when the time was right, they dug deep into their wallet and paid bigger money to get a few select veterans and traded a few extra pieces to get even more talent. This move took them from really good to great.
In other words, the Astros mixed training and recruiting to create a supremely talented team. It’s a good formula and one your organization can certainly adopt. Talent drives the best results.
Interestingly enough, on the morning after the Houston Astros won their championship, I noticed a headline in a Virginia magazine noting that unemployment in metro areas in our state is almost a non-issue. Pretty much everyone that wants to work is working, but that also means keeping your talent is harder than ever.
Do you have a plan to recruit, train, and retain your employees? It seems basic, but it’s a foundational element that is often overlooked by busy leaders. Take a moment – today – to evaluate your company’s situation and be mindful of the talent around you and how to get more of it on board.
Money is a great motivator.
Generally we can all agree on that concept and, as the holidays and the end-of-year bonus season approaches, it’s worth noting that most everyone is motivated by mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money. (That’s a 90’s comedy sketch reference for those not as old as I am.)
As important as a generous compensation package may be, there are other ways to encourage success and drive the results you most want to see in your organization. I’m not saying this will only work in sales departments, but I can tell you my background is in that world and I absolutely saw a pattern.
The other day I passed a fellow business owner on Kirk Avenue in downtown Roanoke. He was carrying an old trophy he had picked up somewhere. It reminded me of “Flo”. Before the hugely successful Progressive Insurance campaign, Flo was the name of an old bowling trophy we gave to outstanding performers at WLAJ in Lansing, Michigan. Awarded once a week, Flo congratulated sellers with recognition and rewards, like rights to the prime parking space just outside the door of the TV station (a prize that was particularly valuable during Michigan’s winters – believe me).
This type of acknowledgement continued in Toledo, Ohio when I discovered an Asian figurine in storage at WTVG. We had a name for that masterpiece as well and it came with a fortune cookie and other fun stuff. At WNWO, we used a fancy sports medal. It was always healthy competition – usually the team encouraged one another and acknowledged each other’s success; unifying, fun, and a great way to recap a busy week.
A Marketing Reminder4Us
Celebrate your successes – together. Whether you are in sales, production, healthcare, support, marketing, or some other department, it’s a common way to change a culture. People are motivated by money, yes, but they also like to have fun, enjoy friendly competition, and appreciate the recognition. Sharing the tasks and successes as a team is one of the most important things you can do to build it.
So, you see? Bowling trophies, figurines, fortune cookies, and parking spaces can prove invaluable.
B2C Enterprises is an award-winning advertising, marketing, and business development firm. If you’d like to talk about how we can help you motivate your team, or see some examples of our work, just call 540.904.1229.
We Need2Look Ahead
In the marketing world, we tend to be heavily focused on the next month, quarter, or year. A lot of business is like that – forecasting sales, production, and the sort. You’re wondering what you’re going to need, how your supplies will meet your demands, when you’ll see an increase in patient flow. Everything has to work together.
If you’re in leadership, you will generally find that you’re looking ahead even more often than others. Not only are you out in front thinking about that next campaign, budget, trend, or outlook, but you’re also expected to lead your group in the right direction.
Wherever you fall in your business’s lineup, it’s almost second nature to be thinking about the coming seasons and years. (And that’s all before you even attempt to do your “Five Year Strategic Plan”, right?)
Joy4You in the Journey
The tendency is to be so focused on what’s coming that you can easily miss the opportunity to rest where you are – even momentarily – and appreciate what is happening around you at that particular time.
There’s a reason some wise soul encouraged a young marketing guy somewhere to “stop and smell the roses”.
Perspective is gained during those periods of reflection and reflection is really hard to gather when you’re racing off to the next quarter or year. If you’re like so many – you’re on the go too much. It feels like there is no time to pull over and take a big whiff. In all reality, there isn’t time. You have to make your pause a priority or you’ll never stop going.
Of course, we encourage you to also be forward-thinking and wise in the tool gathering and planning for your time away. While you’re at it, be sure to take a moment along the way to intentionally enjoy what you are doing and bask in the great things that are happening around you.
B2C Enterprises is an award-winning advertising, marketing, and business development firm. If you’d like to talk about how we can help you with your marketing, or see some examples of our work, just call 540.904.1229.
Sorry. I’m not going to produce this month’s B2Seed in poetry.
Like many of you, I grew up hearing nursery rhymes and, while I may not know why the itsy-bitsy spider crawled up the water spout, I can tell you one thing: Most anything that is universally familiar can become fodder for successful advertising.
Three or four years ago I had a client tell me they wanted something different than the normal, usual advertising so we tossed around a wide range of ideas and creative concepts as a team. One of the possibilities we liked a lot was involving stories familiar to most of us – tales like Goldilocks (“this _____ was just right”) or even Peter Piper. You get the idea. It seemed promising, but as we pulled it together it became obvious the concept was too far outside of that client’s comfort zone.
We moved along to the next round of creative concepts and only rarely thought of how much fun that campaign would have been to produce. Until, that is, I saw Geico Insurance using a similar approach in one of their far-out television commercials. They caught the attention of their audience with the first lines of childhood favorites, like Humpty Dumpty and Little Miss Muppet, and then changed the endings to convey the importance of having homeowners and renters insurance. Brilliant.
People love to toss around the “out of the box” terminology, but frequently don’t want the discomfort that comes with implementing or executing that way-out-thereconcept. And that doesn’t just apply to advertising or marketing. It is a common challenge with all kinds of business solutions. People think they want something new or different – until they are exposed to the new or different idea and see the risk associated with it.
To go forward you may just have to embrace something as crazy as a fable or a nursery rhyme. Just ask Geico.
B2C Enterprises is an award-winning advertising, marketing, and business development firm. If you’d like to talk about how we can help you with your marketing, or see some examples of our work, just call 540.904.1229.
There’s nothing like a county fair to distract the average teenager. Besides the bright colors, neon lights, rides, games, and girls (or boys), there is the food and drink. So much to capture one’s attention and, when you’re 15, it’s obvious you have limited amounts of attention to pay.
Earlier this month I picked up my son and his friend from the nearby event. Almost immediately I heard one of them say, “I’m hungry.” Naturally, I wondered why since I had sent them off with some money earlier in the evening. My young friend quickly shared his tale. “I was distracted by the Strawberry-Lemonade.” If you haven’t been to a fair lately, that’s $5 right there. The refill was shortly after and it was another $4 bucks or so. Later on he was tempted by the Watermelon-Lemonade and maybe one game and there you have it. No money left for dinner.
As I was practicing my short-order cooking skills at midnight – I reflected.
A Marketing Reminder4Us
Have you determined the core drivers in your marketing plan? Most of you have or, if pressed, could likely list them. Yet, I’m guessing that newest gadget, social media channel, or fad is distracting you from improving your core strengths. Facebook is a prime example.
For some businesses it is critical, for others I see an awful lot of energy put into a platform that tamps down your ability to communicate with your fans and followers. It’s a fun place and certainly business is done there (especially for some categories), but it’s a time suck for many humans and equally so for a lot of businesses.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend time there, I’m suggesting you make sure your marketing pillars are steady and in place first. Then give some attention to those neon lights and order your Strawberry-Lemonade refreshment.
While waiting for my son’s video game console to be fixed at our local GameStop, I overheard a conversation nearby. The sales clerk was speaking with the next person in his line and, instead of asking the all too familiar question “Did you find everything okay today?”, he had a different approach.
“Is there a game you’re looking forward to getting?” he asked.
My son’s PS4 was in bad shape, so I was able to listen as he asked three different customers the same question. Interestingly enough, two of the three gave him very specific answers. One ended up taking action by signing up to pre-order their highly-anticipated game. All three seemed to appreciate the thought behind the employee’s question and replied in some sort of significant way.
Success – he had broken the retail pattern.
There are patterns in every part of commerce. It’s easier to be robotically repetitive and as businesspeople, shoppers, or office workers, we tend to continue doing what we’re most comfortable with. If you’re going to do the same thing every time, though, you may as well see if your pattern makes sense and is helpful to your goals.
This GameStop sales clerk’s pattern worked. Sales increased, sure. But, more than that, he was also having much more interesting conversations with his prospects and creating a positive energy. That’s powerful stuff.
I was still hanging around (told you that PS4 was in bad shape) when there was a break in his line. I mentioned what a good approach he had and how effective it seemed to be. The clerk quickly pointed to his manager and said “It’s all him.” The whole staff had trained and practiced engaging with customers using these open-ended questions. The clerk told me he was still learning, but it was clear he had figured out a few things already.
Perhaps we could learn a little by taking a closer look at our patterns.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to learning about these days?
Lots of Ways2Learn
I haven’t always been a marketing expert.
No, I haven’t. It’s taken years of observing, stumbling (at times), succeeding, building and developing to become one. It’s been decades of engagement in the advertising, communications, and marketing industry.
Nothing against the communications and marketing programs at colleges and universities…I’ve had the opportunity to address many students and have met with many interesting professors and teachers. Marketing theory is important and the studies released by those types of experts lead a lot of activity and drive many behaviors. It’s interesting stuff.
It’s just that I’ve found, as helpful as that information is, the axiom about rubber meeting the road really drives much more of our plans and the efforts we put in place to build our client’s brands, traffic, and sales. Theories are good, but practical seems to work even better for the medium and small sized organizations we typically work so closely with.
How are we going to sell more of this, bring more people to that, or tell our patients, customers, or clients we are now doing this new thing? Those are the practical questions most businesses are really asking. And those are the types of questions we work hard to solve with marketing (and advertising and communications).
Unlike so many types of industries, it’s not the acquisition of knowledge that helps clients win the battle for top of mind awareness. It’s what you do with that information and how strong your resolve is to stick with it when times get tough or challenges arrive.
Anyone can read books or listen to Podcasts. But does that really make them a marketing expert?
A marketing expert knows the foundational principals that drive business, can communicate them, can create a plan to reach them, and can execute the plan. The marketing expert knows challenges will come and temptations to cut or change the plan (before it may be time to cut or change) the plan will come. They’ll prepare for that and even plan for it, too. Knowledge does help. Experience is even more important.
Like I said, I wasn’t always a marketing expert.
On the Way2the Top (or Back)
About a year ago I worked with some other community leaders in Roanoke to restart a small non-profit music venue (visit TheSpotonKirk.org) and over that chunk of time I’ve observed some interesting things.
One pattern has surfaced pretty consistently.
We get some extremely talented musicians to play in the 120-seat listening room two doors down from our advertising agency. Generally, they are performers who are routing through town and on their way to building their music careers. Some appear talented enough to have very, very successful careers. We’ve also had our share of performers who’ve likely lived some of their lives in the spotlight of some pretty big stages. Let’s just say they’ve had their play on the radio and now they play for the love of music (and to answer the call when audiences ask for that one special song).
Either way, our mostly-volunteer team works really hard to give all of the performers and traveling musicians a welcoming, high-quality experience.
Profound lessons are often found in simple observations.
I will often judge how much we’ll enjoy an act at The Spot based on one natural interaction: I watch how the artist treats our magical, kind, and helpful sound engineer, Travis. If they care for him and treat him well, their performances are almost always extra enjoyable. If they come off as short or unappreciative, it's not as good.
Guess what? People are watching how you interact with others, too: The receptionist, the assistant, the nurse, the salesperson, and everyone else with whom you cross paths. It’s a good reminder.
In business, just like in life these days, we can use a little more kindness and care.
Like so many of you on February 4th, I sat watching the Super Bowl waiting to laugh. I wanted to laugh and I wanted to see advertising that entertained me.
Most of the night, I passed through the :30 second commercials tossed in front of me waiting and hoping for the next one to be a little funnier or more interesting. Usually, I was disappointed.
As a general rule at B2C Enterprises, we like to use our client’s airtime and space to interrupt and get attention. After we’ve caught your eye, we’ll try to educate, promote, sell, or create an action. But first, we have to make sure you’re engaged.
Humor is a wonderful way to break into someone’s space or to capture their interest.
When it’s appropriate, we use humor in our client’s marketing. It’s a fun way to communicate with clients and customers. Ultimately, people want to do business with someone they know or trust. They also want to continue doing business with those same people. Comical advertising that’s also successful can often create a more in-tune and deeper relationship with both your prospects and your current clients.
So, if you want to break things up a little bit or freshen up your outreach – try something new.
Laugh a little. Better yet, make others laugh – out loud if you’re good enough.
(As I wrote this, I couldn't help but also think about the below piece from our Tennessee office at the end of last year. Though it’s officially springtime and not the Christmas Season, I thought I’d wrap things up by passing it along to you.)
Keep it Real4Your Development
Over the past few months I’ve been spending a lot of time discussing, coaching, and observing business development – both within and outside of my organization. My mind has been on it consistently and I’ve been reminded of something I coached many sellers to do through the years.
It’s so easy in the sales process to nod your head, agree with the prospect, and work to keep the peace. After all, it feels better and what kind of position are you in to object or share strong opinions when you’re trying to start a business relationship with someone? The answer is the best position.
While you may not want to upset the proverbial apple cart, it’s really important to establish a truth-telling relationship with a prospect before they become a client. It’s how the framework of your bond will be built. Is it difficult? Yes. But it’s worth it because until you share direct and honest feedback, you can’t get to the issues that are causing your new prospect (or client) their troubles.
And2Help Elsewhere Too
I’m pretty sure my friend Jerry Brown, President of Madison Avenue Marketing Group, didn’t invent the phrase “Authentic Dialogue”, but it resonated with me from the very first time I heard it. And frankly it revolutionized how I helped salespeople approach their work. It’s so important to be real with your prospects.
So maybe you’re still reading this and you’re not in sales – my hope is you’re getting the point of where I am headed. Like so many lessons in life – this one goes deeper.
The genuine exchange of information, vision, and plans extends way beyond the sales process. It’s woven throughout the client relationship. It’s important to stay on top of the down deep feelings and concerns of your clients (and employees, and advisors, etc.). Only through an authentic exchange can you and your team truly accomplish all you desire.
Early on I was going to be a reporter – a television sports reporter, actually. I think someone told me I had a face for radio and, eventually, economics and life caused me to shift from journalism to capitalism. In the TV business we used to say "the journalists and the capitalists never cross paths", but I think I kept at least one habit from my days as a reporter.
I ask questions. A lot of questions.
It could be curiosity or nosiness, but it is a heck of a good way to learn things.
And4Many Other Reasons
It's also a really important part of the business development process. Whether training sellers, information gatherers, or practicing this technique in my own agency's efforts, I know questioning is a critical part of selling. For a long time I heard salespeople were the outgoing, gregarious ones who were the life of the event. In reality, I observed the best sellers were the ones who asked good questions and listened intently to the answers provided.
The power of sales is in the hearing of the problems and the crafting of the solutions. Without questions, you cannot get to the source of the challenge. Good questions should lead to more questions. After learning, the capable seller can then propose an answer that best aligns with their client's needs. Frankly, it's the reason good doctors ask why you're there before they start the examination and provide the diagnosis. Doing it the other way around makes no sense.
Ask questions and get information.
Ask really good questions and get even better information.
It was probably 2003 and I was working at BusinessVoice in Toledo, Ohio. I had one of those little desk calendars with quotes on it, and while I can't remember who said it, I clearly recall the daily message saying "The problem with life is there's no soundtrack." It's an observation that has stayed with me throughout my days...most things are better with music.
In fact, I'm writing this month's Seed with my own "soundtrack" playing in the background.
Nothing like a little Johnny Depp Rockabilly to get me in the writing mood.
Music can propel me to write more, help me to feel better, and sometimes cause a flashback to another period of my life. It impacts my life – and probably yours – in a myriad of ways.
An Application4Your Marketing
Whether it's your father's Firestone Christmas record collection, sheet music for a song you played in your high school band, or the newest song on your playlist (Mine is "Remember Home" by Sebastian Kole), music is intertwined with life.
It stands to reason music can impact your marketing too. If you're doing significant outreach advertising, you'd be smart to put a lot of consideration in what music is used to carry your digital, radio, or television commercial. Just as much as a logo, a combination or colors and fonts, or a tag line...music can and should be a part of your brand. Whether it is a catchy tune from an upcoming indie artist or a custom created five second jingle, music has the power to invoke any number of feelings as well as bring immediate recognition of who you are.
It might be called background music, but it can have a great impact on the foreground of how the world sees you.
The successful organizations and businesses have already figured that out. The ones we work with are at least paying attention to that part of their operation. When thinking of your outreach strategy for 2017, consider making music the soundtrack of your business.
At a recent meeting, I was both listening and minding my own business when the word came drifting across the table. One of my favorite clients told a co-worker I was a “blob”.
Believe it or not, she meant it for good.
Part of me was slightly offended, but the rest of me got exactly what she was saying and I quickly adjusted to a place where I embraced the purple goo that my team had become to them: spreading and taking things over.
The thought took me back in time to my very first project with this same client. It was over seven years ago.
My company was only a few months old and I was building a new relationship with a particular client. Like many prospects, this client wasn’t sure they wanted to engage my services. I knew I could offer a great deal of assistance, but I also realized I needed to take slow and steady steps with them. So, we started with a photo project for an upcoming sale. I successfully completed the project and they were happy with the results.
A year or so later, they asked for help on another project. Then another project. And another. Before long, we were doing several projects at once.
Now, nearly a decade later, we do so much for this same client it gets hard to list: we supervise their website marketing, produce print ads and invitations, handle social media, organize their television interviews, direct public relations efforts, help organize major parties and sales events, interact with their manufacturers, buy digital ads and TV commercials, and I’ve even been known to carry a customer’s purchase to their car.
It’s one thing for a client to break up with a web company, or a PR firm, or a vendor. It’s a very different thing to part ways with a company that does so much to solve problems and build sales. We’re an integral part of their leadership team now and, in this case and many like it, it would be very painful to part ways with our company. That’s called stickiness and it’s an actual goal of ours – we’re entrenched with them.
Like the blob that took over your marketing.
I spend a lot of time on highways watching the mile markers fly by. As I’ve written before, being on the road gives me an opportunity to really think and process. One of my more recent trips reminded me how timing and order play an important role in not only our personal lives but our business lives.
For example, the exit informational signs on highways all follow the same basic pattern. The signs are positioned in a certain order for a reason – attractions, accommodations, restaurants, and gas stations.
Sometimes the reason of the order is more apparent than others.
It just makes sense. When on a trip, there are a variety of decisions you need to make at different intervals.
If you’re going to make an unplanned detour off the highway to visit an attraction, you need a significant amount of time to consider a change in your schedule. Then you may need to decide if you want or need to stay at a hotel for the night. Those two decisions need extra time. That’s why those blue signs come first.
As for the others…You know when you’re hungry and usually what you are craving. In many cases picking a restaurant can be a quick decision. Finally, gas is a necessary stop. When you need it, you need it right away and there’s not a lot of decision making that needs to occur. Now it’s almost time to exit.
What about the marketing you do for the organization? Does it make sense? Does it follow a logical order like the information signs placed as you approach the next exit? Make sure your marketing aligns with the buying process of those who seek out your business or the services you offer. If it doesn’t, it’s time to realign to make it match.
Then think about it again the next time you’re cruising down the interstate.
“I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream.”
That might have been the first food marketing campaign in the history of America (or not).
Over the summer, I was thinking about how I order ice cream. When I’m in line, I think about all the different flavors and options and rattle around the possibilities in my tempted brain. Fruity goodness. Chocolate-chunky creaminess. Strawberry mixed with those bright red little pieces. Tropical coconut varieties. My mind bounces around as the line shortens.
Then – almost every time – I order mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone.
And almost every time - I eat it too fast.
Easy4Me to Pick
I love mint chocolate chip. You may love vanilla, peach, rocky road, or even strawberry cheesecake, but most everyone has a favorite flavor of ice cream.
So why do I order mint chocolate chip? I’ve determined it’s because in my mind I know I like it and it hits the spot every time. It’s my favorite. If I’m going to have ice cream, I feel like I should get my favorite flavor. The funny thing is – there’s no real reason (besides obvious weight gain) why I can’t have pistachio today and mint chocolate chip tomorrow – or the next time.
That’s how patterns develop and how we establish our fallback routine. It’s safe. It’s reliable. It’s trusted.
Well, maybe it’s time to break some patterns. Try a new approach to the way you work. It may just work out even better than you expected. If not, you can always go back to the tried and true pattern of mint chocolate chip ice cream in a waffle cone.
Business, like life, moves in cycles.
After seven years of owning my own company, I was recently at a crossroads. Like Tom Hanks at the end of “Castaway”, I had to make a tough choice (one that ended up being pretty easy to make actually).
Last year we started an advertising campaign in a local newspaper for our advertising agency. Not many businesses in our area of specialty actually advertise very much so it was a significant move. A month or so ago, we collectively decided to shift our focus from print to local television. We were in the process of producing our new commercials when we got some bad news.
We ran out of the yellow Peanut M&M's on set. Sorry Jamie.
One of our clients was backing off. Another client was going in a different direction. While plenty of possibilities were in the “pipeline” and some were on the cusp of using our services, we did have several weeks of uncertainty. Should we pull back our advertising initiative?
The thought of discontinuing our advertising did more than cross my mind…It was a serious consideration.
A "Duh" Moment4Me
Then I realized the mistake I was about to make.
Thousands of times over the past three decades, I’ve encouraged businesses to stretch or hold firm their marketing budgets during the rough times for their business. The studies and statistics support this premise and have for decades. Companies holding or expanding their advertising during challenging times actually catapult out of the struggle way ahead of their competition.
It’s not that advertising is the panacea. However, cutting your advertising budget at the first sign of trouble is never - EVER - the best move. It will only make the problems worse. Even though it was the strategy I had pushed for years, I was briefly tempted to pull back during my own business’ challenging few weeks. Once I caught my breath, I knew it wasn’t the right call.
I am convinced moving forward with our campaign was the right decision – not just because I had been pushing this strategy all these years, but because I know from my personal experience it works.
If you’re in Roanoke you may see our commercials on TV. If you live out of town you can click here to view them.
One of the best meals I’ve ever had was in D.C. at a tapas restaurant. It was late in the evening and the kitchen was about to close. My friends and I simply requested the staff “bring us what you want”. The chef whipped up an amazing array of small plates with all kinds of tastes, textures, and flavors. We tried them all and were blown away. It was so good. And the meal was a memory.
Let the creative people create.
At our shop we often discuss how good advertising “interrupts.” Successful advertising stops people in their tracks and causes a change in their behavior or action. All too frequently, many clients want to be sure the creator lists the products, shows the address(es), talks about how long they’ve been in business, or about how much quality they offer.
While these elements are important, no longer can the creative person do what they do best. They are caged in by client-imposed rules and expectations.
Last year, when I decided to market my advertising agency in the business section of our local newspaper, I turned it over to my team and let them do what they do. It was a good exercise for me and the process created leading-edge advertising that accomplished just what we wanted it to.
Whether your reaction is "TRUMP!" or "TRUMP!?!" or "...trump..."we gotchya, and proved our point.
It’s the same process respectable creative teams usually follow for all clients.
Each piece is created based on the audience, the need, and the target. A custom solution is crafted with a specific goal being the primary driver. That’s the best way to use creative license to get the most effective results.
Every once in a while, let your design team bring you what they want. You may just find it’s exactly what you need.
We all like a good deal. Who doesn’t like to save some money?
B2C Enterprises invests over a million dollars in media most years, while at the same time, interacting with salespeople from at least seven states. That’s a lot of business transactions and a lot of sales appointments.
Sometimes there’s an odd sales quirk within the communication I find to be very interesting, yet somewhat disconcerting.
For some strange reason, on many occasions a salesperson begins reducing their original price, before we even start any discussions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to save money, on behalf of my clients and my company, but when it happens before I even ask for a better price - that’s a red flag.
Oddly, they don't seem to appreciate it when I pull out the flag and throw it across the office.
The negotiation process hasn’t even started and the prices are being lowered. Why?
Believe me, I’m a big supporter of fair pricing – whether I am buying or selling. Odds are you’re often in a place where you are also buying or selling something. Most of us don’t want to pay more than necessary. However, if you’re the one setting the price, it’s important to determine what is fair, right, and reasonable, all the while discerning what will keep you competitive.
A company that immediately (or even before being asked) drops their price sends a message of being out of step. To begin with, they’re either priced too high, in a desperate selling situation, or they are simply afraid of losing the sale. As a buyer it’s up to you to determine which it is. As a seller it’s a valuable reminder to take a good look inward.
Before leaving this subject – there’s an important distinction. It’s okay to offer sales, discounts, or deals --- that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s the base price, the going rate, the usual fare where you establish your value. If you set that correctly – it remains a constant.
Place value in knowing your value. That’s the really good deal.
Outside Advice2Guide You
Proximity breeds repeat patterns.
It seems the closer we get to something, the more we accept it and just move into a routine. Some routines can be good; they can produce fruit that helps us grow and develop. Others trap us into a false sense of comfort. How do you know the difference?
There’s a reason many give the advice to step back and take a fresh look.
We get close to a goal and our perspective gets a little – off. Pulling back and getting a different look from someone could be very beneficial. Using a trusted outside source, who will ask some harder questions, can be even better.
Many of our clients bring us in to help them evaluate a situation or identify a potential problem. A lot of the time, we work directly with the owner or administrator of the business. Sometimes, the relationship is with the marketing manager or director. In either case, direct and honest feedback about a conundrum is one of the most valuable services we can offer.
During the early part of my career, I wasn’t always a fan of the outside consultant. Now that I am one I’ve seen the light (duh). Outside advice and a fresh look can do a few significant things:
A few months ago, I wrote about how rushed we tend to be and how most places of employment have fewer people to share the load. It is not a sign of weakness to reach outside of your department. Quite the opposite, actually, it’s a sign of the times and puts you in a position of strength.
When I was a young salesperson I realized people didn’t want to be told how great my product was, nor did they want to be convinced of something based on raw numbers or statistics. This line of sales is rarely successful.
What works is storytelling.
And then the little girl tried out the half page advertisement and it was just right!
Not made up stories or fables mind you, but real life examples of how a product or service is making a difference for someone else. This kind of example can be quite convincing and can quickly establish credibility.
It’s a powerful approach.
So now you know you need some stories, but you may not have any personal ones to share. It’s okay.
Use someone else’s informative and entertaining story until you create your own to share. I did this when I was younger and I also did it seven years ago when I started my advertising agency. If you’re doing something you’ve never done before, it can be hard to have a story to tell right out of the gate. This is a perfect opportunity to lean on the experiences of others until you find ones to fit your client selling situation. Before too long you will have plenty of your very own stories to share.
Perhaps you’re not in a selling situation – have no fear. This approach works when you’re training employees, altering a culture, or building a relationship. It’s funny, most of us are in the sales profession – whether we will admit it or not.
Either way – many people are much more likely to learn by a relatable tale, word picture, or story than they are a fact.
And that's a fact.
The insincere salesperson.
They’ve ruined the process for many. Certainly they’ve made a lot of work for those who genuinely do put their prospects' best interests first. Typically when a salesperson walks through the door, the potential client leans to the position of distrust. It may be unfortunate, but it’s generally the case.
What I’ve noticed through the years of training sales people, selling, and now being sold to, is it’s pretty easy to spot the ones who care. You can quickly differentiate the sellers who are looking out for you versus the ones who are in it for themselves.
It’s a decision each salesperson must make each day. A choice.
Really Do It4Success
About the only thing worse than a salesperson that doesn’t care, is one who is pretending to care.
It’s obvious to everyone around – except maybe that person themselves.
Keep smiling if you want, we see right through you.
If you think you can fake it, you’re better off going the vendor route and just providing a product when asked. Genuinely caring means taking an interest in the prospect or client, paying attention to the things that really matter to them, listening to their work (and sometimes personal) pain, and providing a real and proactive solution. It starts with caring. Sincerely caring.
It’s one time where you’re never smart to fake it until you make it.
Stretch2Grow Your Place
You get in and settle into your job and before you know it, the realization hits there are lots of other things that need to get done. If these tasks are ignored, a pattern can quickly develop where you concentrate solely on your assigned task and begin to ignore the ones that also need attention. A set of boundaries purposefully or incidentally begins to be built.
You may not see it, but you can feel it.
As an outside consultant for dozens of companies I see this a lot.
People get too set in their routines – or should I say – aren’t willing to get a little uncomfortable in taking on the challenge of new tasks without being asked. Now, I’m not saying you should just go on and tackle all kinds of things without anyone asking you. I am submitting to you, for your consideration, the idea that you can be assertive in even the most conflicted work environment. The is especially true if you have a track record of getting things done and have a plan for the needed accomplishment.
Writers usually take time to build their credibility. If you’ve read my entries before you know I generally do the same. This time, I’d tell you to be sure you get good advice before going forward too far – and not just from me. This month’s Seed springs from an observation.
The work force has changed in the last decade. Most managers and competent leaders are acknowledging there are less people on their teams (and much more work to be done). Rather than protecting territory, managers are begging for someone to step forward and take on more. Could that person be you?
Perhaps you’re asking, “Why would I want to tackle more?”
Well the answers are pretty simple really --- you become a better (and more valuable) employee, you learn more skills, and maybe most importantly, you may find there is something you like doing even more than what you’re currently working on.
That’s a concept that we’ve tried on for years now at B2C Enterprises. And for this marketing and advertising agency – it’s been a pretty darn good fit.
It's basketball season and I love basketball – more than most anything. So it’s a good time to write about basketball. Fear not if you are no hoopster, this month’s Seed is actually about a whole lot more. Controversial NBA Star Kobe Bryant recently announced his retirement. He’s been playing for the same team for 20 years – that’s rare. He’s accomplished so much in his career. Many consider him one of the five greatest players of all time.
Back in October he said something that caught my eye and I saved the article.
“When I came here in 1996, I had the butterflies, and then when I got around everybody it was like, Oh, I’m fine,” said Bryant. “Some of these guys don’t love the game. It’s a job for them. And when something is a job, you can have success for a week, two weeks, a month, maybe a year or even two. Then you’ll fall. It’s inevitable. But if you love it, you can’t be stopped. Because when you love something, you’ll always come to it. You’ll always keep asking questions, and finding answers, and getting in the gym.” (Sports Illustrated, October 26, 2015)
It’s not about Kobe Bryant. It’s not even about his retirement after two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s about you. Do you love what you do professionally? If you do – great – read his quote again and be thankful you’re in your place. If you don’t, ask yourself why. Then take that first step and ask yourself what needs to happen to put you in a love place with your work life.
It’s possible. Not only is it possible – you should accept nothing less in your life.
If you are a human being in a typical office work space, you're probably one who uses email. More likely than not, Yahoo, Gmail, or even AOL email rules your world. It’s as constant as the rising sun. It stands to reason that something so ever-present would have some rules.
Yet, based on the emails I see, it appears the sending and receiving of email communication is still a bit like the “wild, wild west.”
Not like THAT "Wild Wild West"... okay, well maybe a little like that.
Whether others adhere to basic communication principles shouldn’t determine how you approach it.
Do It4Yourself (and those you email)
Once you hit send, that communication, no matter the topic, recipient, purpose, or message, becomes the property of other people. What do you want them to think?
First of all, consider why you’re writing and what you’re trying to say. It sounds basic, but it’s worth a pause at the very least. Often I’ll be typing an email and have a bad feeling. I will purposefully stop and think – “Do I really need/want to send this?” Perhaps a phone call or in-person conversation would work better.
Recently I received an email that had been forwarded seven times. Seven times! Recognize unintended people may be reading what you are sending to one.
Consider the timing. Just because you are working on a Saturday morning or a Sunday night, doesn’t mean your co-workers have to hear from you right then. Most people have smartphones now and getting emails at odd times can shift someone into work mode whether they want to be or not. Most email systems have a “Delay Delivery” feature. If you don't know how to use it, a quick internet search will do the trick. No one likes the showoff who sends random emails at odd times to prove how hard they are working!
Use To: and CC: as they are intended. If you send an actionable email to multiple people (both in the To: line) how will they know who is supposed to actually take the action? To whom is the email really being sent? And is there anyone else you’d like to be on the inside of the communication? That’s how those two buttons are really used.
Finally, remember everything in your email says something about you. Grammar, punctuation, tone, the message itself, details, the salutation, all of it – reflects who you are and how you work. One of the smartest things you can do is quickly recheck the email before clicking on the send button. That’s even harder to do with your thumbs on a smart phone. You want people to receive the message in the spirit in which it was sent AND allow the recipient to see what an incredible person you are.
Or at least know you’re a normal, busy human being – who is clearing their email out like everyone else.
When certain people hear the word salesperson, or seller, or account representative, they get kind of a yucky feeling or feel their stomach turn. Perhaps it’s because I spent most of my adult life observing, training, and coaching sellers, I have a general warmth or kindness for those in that profession.
I have news for you, too.
You are most likely in that profession, or are in charge of people who are in it, or maybe represent a company that ultimately needs to sell. It’s simply a part of commerce. A big part.
A Little Help4You
If you’re going to be a part of the process or help others who are, you will need to know these three things at a minimum.
Unless you are a cute child, then you can skip the rest.
For a patient, prospect, potential customer, or user to actually engage with your business, you are simply going to have to have all three elements present. It’s that simple.
Just like you review who, what, when, where, and why/how when producing an announcement or invitation, a smart businessperson will look for these three elements. If you can’t find a pain, the prospective client doesn’t have an ability to buy what they need to fix it, or if you’re unable to connect with the decision maker, you have a flimsy prospect. No matter how good they may appear in one or two of the areas – without all three you (or your people, or your organization) are simply chasing your tail.
Plans don’t work out and things happen when you least expect them.
As many of you know, not only do I handle marketing and advertising at B2C Enterprises, I also work as a career firefighter/engineer in Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of the things we do is plan for emergency incidents before they happen, or, in firefighter shorthand, pre-plan.
We visit all the commercial buildings in our district to see what unique issues the construction, layout, or materials stored might present. We study the houses as we drive down residential roads to see which are better accessed from the back alley. When we visit a home on a medical call, we even note where bedrooms are located in case we have to make a rescue in zero visibility.
Our job requires us to consider the unthinkable and plan for when the “normal” situations change. The same is true in every other job.
As leaders of our respective businesses, projects, or departments, it doesn’t do us any good to hide our head in the sand and expect our current situations to last forever. Just ask the pay phone repair company.
The Uncomfortable Question must be asked: If this doesn’t work, if the market changes, or the current message isn’t attracting buyers, what do we do? What is our next step?
Don’t be scared off by the discomfort of knowing that your current efforts might be a waste. Take the time to consider possible issues, look at your options, and develop some alternative routes of action.
Embracing the Uncomfortable Question will not only prepare you for when your product stops selling or your database gets hacked, it might also lead to revelations on how to improve and grow your business to the next level right now.
Dan Bryan is the B2C Enterprises representative covering the southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia market. He can be reached at Dan@b2cEnterprises.com.
B2C Enterprises is an award-winning advertising, marketing, and business development firm. If you'd like to talk about how we can help you with a tough problem, schedule a meeting, call 540.904.1229.
With about as much frequency as “How’s it going today?” I am asked “How’s business?”
Immediately I have to decide….Is this a “not sure what to ask you so I’ll just ask the simple how is business question”, or are they genuinely interested in the affairs of the marketing and advertising agency I run? And if they are actually interested in the affairs of the company, how much do I really think they want to know or hear?
Most of the time people just want the basic information – they’re busy and on to the next thing.
The Quick Solution4You
I heard someone say once, “You asked me what time it was and I told you how to make a watch."
There is a time and a place for details, but I’m pretty sure when you’re faced with answering that ever-present question about business, it’s generally neither the time, nor the place. The “how’s business” question requires an answer that is authentic, true, and (maybe most of all) concise.
Here’s a secret – I’ve been working a lot this year on my own answer to that whole “how’s business” query. Thinking through it on my own and with a few trusted advisors led me to the place where I can help you come up with your own standard answer.
So how’s business?
“It’s so great to work for clients who appreciate what we do - with people I love in a comfortable environment. And I get to do it here in Roanoke, Virginia.”
Yep, business is good.
A lot of people think those of us who are outgoing simply arrive that way.
Perhaps there are people in this world who just embrace a social setting, completely feel at ease, and can naturally even "take over" the room.
Most of us are more likely to be uncomfortable. Yet, almost everyone still finds themselves in situations where they have to mingle, network, communicate, or break into a crowd of people. It's not easy, especially if you're not wired for that setting.
It's also a good example with which everyone can identify because we've all been there.
A Plan4Your Next Anxious Moment
So before I go into these types of situations, I generally try to come up with a little plan. It helps me get as comfortable as I can be in a variety of settings. I think about whom I may see and the questions I can ask them. I focus on the other people there - paying attention to their names, thinking about what they may like to talk about, and I remember just about everyone is experiencing things the same way. I may even joke about that.
Simply put I make myself comfortable until I actually get that way. Then before you know it, you've made a friend, found a common connection, heard something inspiring, or learned something new.
A lot of business is that way too. Take that thing you are dreading, the challenge you face, that social situation, that hard-to-conquer problem, and in the midst of your discomfort, make yourself comfortable - until you actually are.
Disney Themes Make4A Fun Attention Getter
The back and forth of converting new business is part "The Circle of Life" and a hint of a "Tale as Old as Time".
The interrupting first line of this month's B2Seed is also a great description of what happens in most companies...
They randomly break into song! Wait... No... that's not right.
Sales blames Marketing and Marketing blames Sales. Either the leads or prospects the sales people are getting from marketing aren't any good, or the leads are great, but those danged sellers can't seem to close any business.
One of my former bosses used to say, "never accept in good times what you wouldn't put up with in bad ones." That means when things are humming along, it's perhaps the best time to evaluate your processes, work flow, leads, and conversions. When times are tough, it's easier to get frustrated or lose your focus due to the pressures of needing to generate sales.
Yes, I just used culture as a verb. It's okay - word creation is allowed in marketing and advertising.
Before you decide where the break down is between sales and marketing - recognize the leader sets the tone and actually determines the way an organization approaches those departments. If you've got departments fighting like that - you should start with a focus there. Fix that.
Then begin that evaluation process. There are all kinds of modern tools - things like dedicated phone lines, customized URLs for your web traffic, UTM tags to track users and prospects. You can use codes, tracking software, client resource management software, and a bunch of other really cool things to help you find your organization's stress points.
Then you can reduce that stress and sing a new song - like "Hakuna Matata"...
Time2Get That Idea
Sometimes I wonder when the idea will hit me.
In late 2009, I wrote my first B2Seed. Since then I've written over 60 columns and even in the months (like last month) when I wonder if I'll have anything to share, something strikes me. It's usually simple, occasionally profound, but whatever it is becomes practical, helpful, and thought provoking.
The goal is to help and to motivate.
The source is unpredictable and without boundaries or times. It could be an observation or a memory. It's been as simple as watching someone parallel park outside my office, or recalling a pearl of wisdom from a friend, business associate, or family member.
Consistently though, the ideas come and each month I (attempt to) convert them into a short message.
Look 4The Big (and Little) Ideas
Paying attention is the first big step. Good ideas are all around you. You just have to see them and notice them. Noticing things is one of the best pieces of practical advice I can give leaders. Too often I am rushing to the next appointment, or the next task, without catching the body language of that co-worker or the glance of my client.
The cues and the details surround us. Many of the concepts that we need to use to simplify our lives and achieve the goals are in front of us. We just have to see them (and write them down) so that we can apply them at a later time.
Look for your next breakthrough. It almost always comes - just not in expected ways or at the usual times.
Take Time2Enjoy the Days
"Don't wish away your summer."
That's what my Mom would tell me as a middle schooler when in early June I'd start talking about our annual family beach trip that wasn't until late August.
We'd pack the little wagon and head to North Carolina's Outer Banks for a two week (remember when two week vacations still existed?) family trip and it was generally the highlight of the summer.
Although there was that one year...
They were great trips, but as Mom so rightly pointed out, they came at the very end of the summer. Before the trip there was wiffle ball to play, swimming to dive into, friends to ride bikes with, girls to meet, smaller family trips to take, and movies to watch. All enjoyable activities and the kind of things kids jam into their summers.
But if you weren't careful, you'd spend so much time looking forward to the beach trip, that you miss those good times and find yourself back in the classroom in September.
Look Up4The Motivation
I've found life to be like that. Often time business imitates life.
You pound the pavement looking for that next client. You relentlessly pursue the completion of the next project. You proudly cross the next item off of your to do list. You build that next building or hire that next employee.
All good things as a general rule.
Just be mindful that in the pursuit of that next big thing there is a pursuit. There is a need deep in us to pause and reflect and enjoy the process. It becomes part of the paycheck in life you can't cash. Building things, creating, leading, helping, producing - those are the big things of life. And they are the things of business. You're accomplishing so much - enjoy it.
Then hit the beach.
Go Back2Go Forward
A few years ago, I realized I had started a company without having a full understanding of the best systems to put in place. As the firm grew, things were done in ways that seemed to make the most sense. The business expanded, new clients joined the portfolio, and employees were hired. With the success of the company, comes a concern of becoming stuck in our ways. Companies that live by an "it's the way we've always done it" mentality often find themselves way behind the times.
You hear "it's the way we've always done it" a lot with established companies, but even fledgling creative organizations can slip into that routine.
There I was, a relatively new business owner, with the sudden realization there may be better ways to do certain things. Not sure how to break that pattern, I decided to make a phone call.
To Mid-Michigan4The Answer
Almost 25 years ago, I did business with an ad man in Saginaw, Michigan who always seemed to have it together. (He'd bristle at me writing that.) He was cordial to me; kind really - and in many ways he took me under his wing and spoke some powerful things into my life - both personally and professionally. We stayed in touch through the past few decades though we hadn't seen each other in person. Sam Britton answered hard questions and let me bounce my situations and crazy ideas off of him. I continued learning.
About eight months ago, we formalized an arrangement with Sam since he had retired from the advertising game. Basically, we've hired Sam to give us honest feedback. He ends up being sort of a quality control step in our creative process. He's also one of the most talented writers I know and has a fine attention to detail.
We had a missing step and an old friend, who's a trusted advisor and a gifted man, was there to fill a hole in our organization. Helpful resources are often in plain sight - sometimes they can come from days gone by.
Right next door.
That's where the downtown Roanoke headquarters for a major regional company is located.
For the past few years we've been doing work for Boxley Materials Company. This isn't a piece about one of our clients, rather an interesting study in how business development, building a network of referring partners, and the power of the internet has made our really big world incredibly small.
We share an office wall with Boxley, but more importantly we share a trusted advisor. Sarah Huddle from the Albright Group works with clients up and down the eastern seaboard. She has roots in Roanoke, but is located in Richmond. For years we've supported her company's efforts and she recently turned to us to partner on a series of projects for Boxley.
Think about the path involved in finishing this major project...
Boxley, my work neighbor, hired the Albright Group in Richmond who brought B2C Enterprises (Roanoke) into help with a specific project. We then turned to our business partner WebArt (Toledo, Ohio) and jointly developed a web site marketing program for Boxley. Our businesses are linked together by experience, expertise, and need. But the foundation is the relationship. That relationship - interwoven with trust - has driven business for everyone.
We're all less than six degrees from our next business opportunity... and Kevin Bacon.
We're all over the Eastern Time Zone - each doing our part - no longer bound by proximity. Think about where your next new business opportunity will come from. It could be next door or from a town far away.
It's a small world after all.
There are so few things that unite us anymore. Attention is spread pretty thin and most people seem to have their own interests, passions, and activities.
In the workplace that often means competing agendas and different directions.
However, March of every year brings one specific activity that breaks this pattern. They are called "Brackets". Those silly sheets of paper that have the NCAA College Basketball tournament pairings with the top 64 (okay 68 now) teams in the country competing for the championship show up at offices all around the nation.
Bosses don't like them. But even the bosses are typically writing in their predictions for who will win the various games that take place all over the country in March and early April. They are a huge distraction - and so are the first round games which are frequently televised during daytime work afternoons.
While I am not promoting gambling at work, there may be some good that comes from these brackets after all.
It's a commonly held opinion that productivity drops dramatically during the NCAA tournament because employees are distracted and focused on basketball and how their picks are going.
Believe it or not, there are articles out there about how productivity actually increases during March. In part it's because people have something in common and interesting to discuss. Joe from accounting can chat with Susie in I.T. about how their picks are doing. And everyone can commiserate about the choices they made that missed.
In a sense it's a community. Many people far smarter than I have looked at the impact a community atmosphere has on overall production. Generally it's a powerful driver. So - separated we accomplish what we do, yet when united we will typically get a lot more done. These brackets somehow unite us.
So this year try something counterintuitive. Have some fun with it, rally around your team, or at least look the other way. It's more than a distraction, it's a potential culture-builder and most of your employees are seeking community in their lives and in their work.
In the five years or so of writing these monthly columns I've been asked a lot of questions and been given a lot of feedback. Therefore, I assumed my readers understood my reasons for sending the B2Seed. Then it occurred to me I could use the B2Seed as a topic of a B2Seed.
Wow. That's Deep.
Except it's not - it's really quite simple. Naturally, I like to write - hopefully you can tell that from the energy that goes into delivering some value to you with these monthly pieces. But it's far more than just being an outlet for my dormant passion for creative writing driving this work. I send these out to you as my own way to keep my company and our work in front of you on a regular basis.
It's a form of top-of-mind awareness that has proven helpful to our company through the years.
Whether you are a good writer, a good speaker, or have some other talent, it's important to have a plan and work on some sort of regular new business outreach. Monthly has been comfortable for me. I know others who like to blog daily or some who speak to groups quarterly. The interval isn't nearly as important as the act of a consistent communication.
It's the same structure that has proven so successful for so many of our clients who practice regular advertising, marketing, or public relations.
People don't always need your help, that's true. When they do, you want to make it easy to find you. With potential B2C Enterprises' clients, they know they are at most about four weeks away from hearing from us again. In addition, they can quickly pull up an old issue or look us up online.
Value. A Pause. A Chance to Connect.
It's been nearly nine years since my mother, Mary Sue Bryan, died.
I constantly think about the many things she taught me over the years. But most recently, one lesson in particular has come to the surface.
It's especially meaningful now that I am nearly 50 years old. She would say, "You have to learn something new every day." Followed by, "You can't go to sleep until you learn something new."
Whether it was through reading or listening or perhaps even watching TV, I'd figure out a new concept then smile and say to mom, "I can go to bed now."
Early on, "learn something new" included day-to-day skills like "using a fork." A skill which Bruce proudly still uses today. Usually.
It's easy to get into a routine. Patterns - good and bad ones both - form before we know it. Before too long they simply become the "way we do things around here". The fastest way to break a routine is to learn new things. As we get older that gets harder to do - not because there is less to learn, but because our approach has been grounded and formed.
New concepts. New forms of media. New ways to message and advertise.
All these options leave us with a basic choice.
Do we keep doing what we've been doing and stay comfortable with the way we've always done business, or do we embrace learning and stretch ourselves? Careful... that's a trick question. You don't really have a choice. You have to adapt and you must embrace learning and the new. Otherwise, you'll be swallowed up and your business left behind. So go ahead and try it. Learn something new.
Then you can go to sleep.
How will you use your marketing budget this coming year?
Recently, I've run into a particularly large number of businesses who are trying to do this on their own. TV? Digital? Radio? Newspapers? Magazines? Direct Mail?
Not to mention ad specialties, shopping carts, and all kinds of other options. Our team does this for a living and it can be a lot to keep up with. It's hard for me to imagine business owners tackling this on their own. Especially when deciding where to advertise is really only half the battle - and possibly not even the most important half...
Finding the most effective way to get your message in front of the right audience is essential. However, using the same advertising mediums you've always used is not a surefire way to grow your company anymore. Once you're confident of where you'll advertise, it's time to figure out what to say to your clients, patients, and prospects.
I spend a lot of time on the road - usually around 22,000 miles a year. When you're in your car as much as I am you notice things. To top it off, I'm in advertising so I tend to pay closer attention to ad campaigns more than most. Invariably the radio commercials, billboards, and outdoor advertising that best capture my attention use room and space to provoke my thoughts.
They interrupt me.
Lamar Advertising (the billboard company) does a particularly good job. Their self-promotion catches my attention. Then I wonder why they don't work harder to convince their advertisers to use similar simple messaging.
How about you? Where will you advertise next year? And what will you say?
You probably answer "busy" when asked that all too familiar question; "how is work going?"
It's the most common response to the question regularly asked by friends, family, and associates. So much so, your reply just spills out before you even know it.
Less of us are in the work force, yet more work is being required - or that's at least how it seems. Add in the ever present smart phones and the needs our co-workers, bosses, and clients have for immediate information and you have a recipe for some extremely busy days.
An experienced palate will note the hint of looming deadlines.
Here's the thing --- busyness doesn't equal business.
You can scurry from task to task - even cross off the plentiful items on your "To Do" list - but that doesn't mean you are successfully navigating your day or the priorities that come with genuine business. Perhaps you've heard me discuss the tyranny of the urgent. Maybe you've paid big bucks for time management classes or systems. Sometimes you could be in servitude to your email inbox.
Those are the very things that keep us busy. They aren't necessarily the things of business.
It's time to focus our efforts on the real facets that make others want to do business with us, the genuine connection that builds lasting relationships.
Last month I had some unusual feelings about how things were going with a few of my key clients. Instead of firing off a series of emails or clicking through my ever-present "To Do" list, I decided to specifically reach out to each of them, meet them where they were, and ask how they thought things were going. Getting honest feedback isn't always fun, but it is a great way to see how you are doing and determine how you can get better.
So get busy with the important part of business.
Tell people who you are and explain what you do.
It seems pretty easy on the surface but many companies struggle to define themselves and do so in a way that others understand. Over the past several months, B2C Enterprises has had the fortune of helping several companies do just that. By creating a name as well as defining their brand, B2C helps companies expand and grow their product or service lines. We use our proprietary Brand2Capture process to walk our clients through the elements that help define them, the look that aligns with who they are, and language that captures what they do.
While the process may be the same, the results never are. They can't be - because no two situations or businesses are exactly alike. What seems to get most people stuck is defining exactly what they do.
Sometimes it is easier than others.
A while back I saw the familiar look of a Chicago Police cruiser. It was the same as I'd seen in movies like the Blues Brothers or Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It remained just like it was on ER and all the other shows throughout the years. I'd seen it hundreds of times - or maybe more. This time, however, something different caught my attention.
On every cruiser is the phrase, "we serve and protect". A very strategic move from a police department rooted in a not-so-appealing past. To overcome this perception, the Chicago Police Department emphasizes and defines their roll to first "serve" the community and then "protect" it. A daily reminder about what those men and women are called to do.
Simple and direct.
How about you? What does your business, medical practice or organization intend to do?
When did advertising become a naughty word?
Most of us skip ads on TV, complain about them in the newspaper, fuss about them on billboards while driving down the highway, change channels when they come on the radio, and get irritated when they pop up on a favorite web site. That isn't even to mention the ones that are displayed in magazines, pulled behind airplanes at football games (starting this weekend), shown on the stalls at the neighborhood restaurant bathrooms, and we're just getting started.
People hate ads.
That's why it's so fun to be in advertising. It's a competition. A game.
How2Play the Game
Can we get your attention and interrupt you? Or will you stay on track and avoid our message?
People actually appreciate the good advertisements. Really. A well placed billboard for a restaurant at an exit when you are hungry is just right. An ad for that perfect pair of shoes on the web site you visited a few weeks back may be just the ticket. A radio spot that uses the "theatre of the mind" or the early February TV commercials that keep getting interrupted by that silly football game are both examples of the appreciation the American public has for advertising.
I've been told I'm weird before so you won't hurt my feelings, but I love advertising. There I said it. I love when a message is clear, clean, and makes me think. I love when someone tells a story or catches me off guard. I am thankful when I am on the highway running too low on gas and the sign up ahead tells me how much it costs.
Admit it - when it's good, you like advertising too. When it's good that is.
So embrace advertising - don't call everything marketing or communications. Advertise. It's good for business - when it is done right, well, and smartly.
Another Help Thought2Share
Our advertising and marketing agency is located in scenic Downtown Roanoke (www.visitroanokeva.com). With our on street entrance, we have the pleasure of watching people parallel park. There are a lot of different ways to tackle this often challenging task. (My dad taught me the right way, so message me if you want some tips.)
I find humor in watching people determined to get their car into a spot even though they are too far away from the curb or too near another vehicle. Sometimes drivers will see an open spot, but they just can't get their cars to do what they want them to. Squeeze. Turn. Squeeze. Turn. It's just not going to work.
The best course of action with parallel parking when you have a bad approach is to pull out of the space and start all over.
Editor's Note: While this is a genuine example of Bruce's fine parallel parking skills, there was no witness to how many tries it took him to get it right.
Use This Idea4Problem Solving
If you've started your parking approach with a bad angle or a missed mark, stop right there. Be bold. Go back to the beginning and take a new line (even if people are watching you or the person in the passenger seat is giving you a hard time).
It's the same with a creative challenge, an issue with one of your clients or a problem you have to solve. Before you get locked into an absolute plan, consider if it wouldn't be wiser to back out from the bad angle and start anew. Often I find a new look on a perplexing situation gives me the inspiration to find the right solution or the perfect fit.
That's a principle that holds true whether it is in my "Imported from Detroit" Chrysler or with a work predicament that has our team stumped.
Another Help Thought2Share
Have you ever tried to help someone who didn't think they needed it? How did that work out for you?
Generally speaking, as we go about our days trying to pay it forward, we are greeted with appreciation and sometimes even acknowledgement. That feels good and it's one of the reasons (if we are honest) many of us help others. Helping others just feels good.
So often the principles that guide us through life translate simply into developing a business and establishing a professional reputation or brand. Here's something that has taken me years to learn. It's a lesson I must remind myself on a (more than I'd like to publicly admit) regular basis.
You can only genuinely help organizations that want your help.
No matter how good your recipe is, how skilled you craft that piece of furniture, how clean you make your store, or how much training you've received to practice your medical procedure, if your recipient isn't ready to accept your help or insights, there is no reason to offer it.
"I'm the best tooth cleaner this side of the swamp.Is that a... feather?"
Through the years I have made the mistake of putting concepts, creative ideas, best practices and new measures in front of scores of people when they were not ready to hear them. Being early is great when it is a 2pm appointment. Being early with guidance and help is not such a good course of action in business.
It's important to be available and willing to help. It's even more important to know when to offer it. Oh, and try not to take it personally when they decide not to ask - that may be the toughest lesson in this month's issue...
When they Ask4Help
Sometimes it's a phone call or an email. Every once in a while someone will text me or stop me on the street.
Usually it starts with, "Hey Bruce, do you know someone who...?"
With a little thought and some memory triggers, I am able to suggest a person who can help with insurance, a great woman who does event planning, a scavenger who can find a hard to track down object, a guy who is amazing at making puppets or murals or whatever else it is.
Generally it takes just a little thought for others to build your library of helpers. Do that first and as you connect resources to the people who need them, you'll get some indirect benefit as well.
When you connect people to others you help both parties. Yes, that's a simple concept. If you want to grow your business, one of the best first steps you can take is selflessly and purposefully linking others. You don't do it to directly build sales. That becomes a bi-product of your development as a resource to others in need.
It's rather transparent if you're in it for yourself. Trust me - that rarely works.
Building your library of trusted helpers and making those connections and introductions is a smart way to bring value to your relationships - in and out of the work place.
Water Goes Where it Wants2Go
Earlier this month Beth Kolnok from our office went on what looked like a really cool hike. Those of you from around Roanoke know there are an amazing number of trails in the area. I was intrigued by this particular one because of two reasons - it was a bit off the beaten path & the payoff was the amazing view of a large waterfall. I decided to pack my backpack and try out this trail myself.
I've always loved waterfalls - I can stare at them for quite a while.
As I sat at the overlook and peered down at the Bottom Creek Gorge, I noticed the water making its own path down the mountain's ledge. Industrious people through history have figured many ways to harness the power of water.
Another Simple Example4Your Business
Our businesses are a lot like the path of water.
Like water, your business may flow in a natural direction, picking up speed as you move forward - often faster than you desire. Until you redirect, harness, and capitalize on the power generated, you're likely to watch it race out of control. Just as it takes planning to build a dam or a canal, you need to put thought into where you want your business to go. Directing your efforts to maximize the power at your disposal, your business will have a better chance to succeed.
Back in my days as a sales manager, I had several reps share concerns in regards to their "account list". If they were serious about improving their list, I'd spend time with them - coaching them to create a different one. Whether you are in sales, management or support, there is no reason to be a victim of the rush of business, instead direct your efforts into where you'd like to see your business thrive.
Let it flow.
Um, You May Want2Tell Someone
Recently a friend invited me to a very interesting wine dinner. I'd never been to one before and didn't really know what to expect until I got there. Basically, the winemaker explains the process of how they create the different flavors in each wine. During the meal, he and chef at the restaurant pair a specific wine designed to bring out the best flavors with each course.
Five amazing food courses.Five delicious wines to taste.
The group was seated at a long table and I happened to be seated near the winemaker. Being naturally curious, I asked him where most of his wine could be purchased. He told me the breakdown of sales - a percentage is sold at restaurants, another through grocery stores around the country, and obviously a large amount is purchased at the winery itself. The owner of the restaurant then chimed in --- "We sell it here." She then pointed to the shelves in the back of the restaurant which were full of bottles of wine.
One of the guests perked up and said, "I didn't know you sold wine here." I thought it was a decoration myself.
The End of the Story Just4You
Other patrons spoke up in agreement. Few knew that the restaurant sold wine for off premises use. A quick survey revealed about 15 of the 18 people had no idea. Most people bought some wine that night. These were some of the best customers of this restaurant - I myself have eaten there at least ten times - and about 80% had no idea they could buy a nice bottle of wine to take home. The lesson was real.
You have to tell people what you do. Then you have to remind them. Then you'd better tell them again. What you think is obvious may actually be news, even to many of your best customers.
There has been a big snow storm in the east and southeast. A lot of my readers from the Midwest think I am overstating it, but we recently got about two feet of snow here in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia. That means there's a lot of shoveling to be done. Doing yard work (or snow removal) is frequently when I do my best thinking.
It's when the good or most creative ideas come. Your brain needs space and time to get into a different place.
Often a good idea - with some editing, revising or tweaking - becomes a great idea. That's how it works. When shared, the creative process lends itself to a tightening or honing of the idea. Whether it is a slight shift here or a font change there, the good becomes great.
Then something else happens - like those times when you stare at a common word long enough it somehow appears almost unrecognizable to you. The simple becomes complex again and the urge to edit more takes over.
A Creative Tip4You
Fight that urge.
Be sure you aren't overanalyzing. The simplicity of a good idea, tightened up and presented is typically your best approach. In these busy days, the beauty and recognition of a swoosh, arches or a straightforward saying like "have it your way" really can be the answer.
While it's critical the branding and messaging be on target and connect with your audience, it isn't always necessary to put everything creative into a committee. Branding by consensus is never a good idea. Put your thought into it and do your research. Improve it and revise it. Then when you reach that magical point, know when to stop thinking.
A Simple Concept2Get
Have you ever been at a party, or perhaps the coffee shop, when you run across someone you know and you just cannot remember their name? Of course you have - it happens to all of us. Sometimes it's the second after they tell it to you and you realize it's a lost cause - their name is gone.
After years of attending work and social events, I started paying attention to this phenomenon and I believe I have a solution for you. It's pretty radical to be prepared for the big shift in thinking...
Here's what you need to do...
Super Hearing Not Necessary
The Big Change4You
Most of us are so concerned about getting our name out, we actually forget to listen (really listen) to the name coming from the other person.
Names are important. Hearing their own name is a sweet sound to a person. It helps them feel significant - even special. Yet too often, we mess them up, forget them, or never even take the time to actually take in the information in the first place.
Start with these changes:
There you go...stop, look and listen.
It's Time2Watch Some TV Commercials
In the almost five years that I've been writing these monthly newsletters, I've repeatedly expressed that the most valuable advertisement interrupts the consumer. Successfully designed ads pull attention to your product or service in a creative and memorable way. Once the attention of the viewer is secured, you then have the opportunity to engage, sell and educate.
For those of us in the creative advertising field, it is part of our job and our entertainment to observe messaging others create and determine its effectiveness. This fall I noted two commercials that work at interrupting and I wanted to share them both with you.
#1 - Subaru
...takes you on a drive. Literally. The commercial pulls you into the relationship between two people. Then when you think you know the story the true hook is revealed. It is successful at creating an appealing experience before revealing the product. The viewer wants to watch it again because the characters are likable and the story clever.
#2 - Subway
Like it or not, they had your attention at Five Dollar...
Subway uses music to get you to remember their offer and their campaign. Music is a powerful tool in advertising. It's been used since the earliest of radio days. Like Subaru uses storytelling to capture interest, Subway has a quick musical hook and it works.
What It Can Mean4You
You have a new year and an opportunity for a fresh advertising approach as well as the chance to build, enhance or shift your branding. Always remember to interrupt THEN share the important messaging you want to convey. How you do it depends a lot on your product, service or specific needs.
The B2Seed is typically reserved for entertaining, edgy and exciting content. This month we're going in a different direction. One of the biggest new stories of the fall has a practical application for anyone in business who interacts with customers on the web. And that's pretty much everyone.
Regardless of your political leaning, it's pretty obvious the President has a problem with Health Care Reform.
Some people think it's a good idea. Some people think it's a bad one. Interested web surfers wanted to see for themselves, but so few could. The ones who actually got to the site found it challenging, confusing and ill conceived. In this case, President Obama is the CEO. Few CEO's are deeply engaged in web site mapping or hosting or navigational decisions. We've learned from this situation that involvement in the infrastructure of your own organization's web site is definitely worth consideration.
A Simple Recommendation4You
In response to the big national news and all the intense scrutiny of the nation's most newsworthy web site, you would be wise to consider the "behind the scenes" elements of your company's web site.
Are you prepared for the volume of visitors who are seeking information? How does your site's hosting work and what are your provider's redundancies? Can you handle a large push to your site?
Is there a logical navigational system? Does your site map reflect the flow of information your potential patients are seeking? Do you even have a plan for how people will use your site?
Finally, is the site reflective of your business' work and culture and product lines? If it is, have you checked it for style issues and spelling errors?
There's nothing glamorous about these topics and questions, but asking them (and driving for answers) would have kept that other web site out of the news and will likely make your user's experience MUCH better.
How2Build It From Scratch
Monday nights are not generally regarded as the most thriving night for downtown restaurants (save the few times there may be a home team football game on TV). A few years back, a Roanoke restaurateur decided he was going to make a change to that mentality. Mondays are now known as "Half Price Burger Night" at Martin's Downtown.
Jason Martin decided he'd had enough sluggish Monday nights. His restaurant stays crowded most days - serving great food Monday-Saturday and turning into a hip live music venue later in the evenings. Patrons usually pay full price for the gourmet burgers --- but on Mondays they get a deal.
So how did it start?
"I just decided to do it," said Martin. "It didn't take off immediately, but people came in and word started to spread. Then we got some publicity and even more people heard about it. Pretty soon it had become a signature night for us."
That's what I call "planting the flag".
What Can It Mean4You
When you look closely at what happened with Martin's Downtown, it comes down to a few simple, practical and logical steps.
First Martin recognized the problem. Next, he evaluated an option for addressing the situation.Third, he analyzed the impact of starting a promotion and decided to move forward.Then he kicked it off and began the process of building it up.Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he stuck with it.
"Half Priced Burger Night" grabbed on and stuck. The evidence of his work is easily seen on most Mondays in Downtown Roanoke. While you may initially shy away from addressing your troubling situation, you'll ultimately be in much better shape if you stare it down and deal with it. Then when you make your decision - move forward and make it happen.
This month Bruce C. Bryan shares a picture of... an empty building.
Why Did He Post a Picture of an Empty Building4Me?
When I arrived in Toledo, Ohio in 1997 as a sales manager at an ABC owned TV station, the top local advertisers in the market were primarily established, well-known retailers. Many in the Midwest would recognize the names that perennially appeared on the rankings - Lion Department Store, Home Depot, Value City Department (and Furniture) Store and a significant local grocery chain called Food Town.
Food Town (their former marketing office is pictured above) was a progressive advertiser engaged in the community and a major player in the local television marketplace. Now, the building is empty and their operations are ceased. The owners decided to go a different direction. I drove by it earlier this month and remembered working with them. Shortly after my arrival in 1997, Lion was bought out by a larger chain and their TV spending disappeared. Home Depot started buying network commercials. Both Value City retail outlets closed their operations... you get the idea.
No one would have forecasted the demise of all these anchor advertisers - in such a short time. No one.
Making It Hard2Budget
It's a basic principal of business. Companies want (and sometimes need) to achieve specific revenue budgets.
No matter how well (or not well) your clients are doing, your company expects to see results. Client closings, cutbacks, or shifting in the base of their business are mere hurdles your company must overcome. You may be sitting at your desk in the fall of 2013 thinking about your 2014 budget. Start by recognizing there is nothing certain. If you're in charge of revenue - review your client's trends, patterns, and potential issues. Then be sure you're focused on replacing the money that is likely sliding away at some point during the year. Don't make the mistake of counting on your top clients always being your top clients.
It will help you prepare for the coming change and respond better when that (often discouraging) news arrives.
This month B2C Ace Artist, Aaron Kelderhouse, takes his first crack as a guest columnist.
It's your identity. It's your way of sharing yourself with the world - who you are, what you do, why you do it. It sets you apart from everyone else and brings you to the forefront of their mind every time they come across it. It's your brand and whether you realize or not you do have one. Question is, are you controlling it or does it control you?
Often when someone thinks of "branding" they think of a logo... colors... a style of font. The truth is, while that may be where your branding begins, everything you do, or don't do, contributes to your brand. How you interact with customers, the type of environment you do your work in, the way you answer the phone, how organized your files are kept... like it or not it is all part of your brand.
A company that has a strong brand not only has a well implemented look and feel to their graphics, but that same look and feel is consistent with how they do business. Maybe someone has a nice, simple, clean logo but every time you interact with them they seem out of control. Or perhaps they have created an ultra-modern image for their company, but all their invoicing is done on a dot matrix printer.
The point is an organization's brand is only as strong as its ability to deliver.
Your brand creates a perception from the inside as well. In the same way that your brand helps others know who you are and what you do, it reminds you and your team who you are. At times in the business of "doing work" it becomes easy to lose sight of your goal and forget what it is you are really trying to accomplish. Your brand should be strong enough to remind you what it is that sets you apart and push you toward continuing to do those things. It should be something that boosts the morale of the people you work with and rallies them toward that common goal.
In the business world there are countless things out of your control. Your brand shouldn't be one of them. As you make decisions be sure they line up with your vision. Treat your customers and partners in ways that are consistent in this vision. Surround yourself with employees that support the overall vision, not with people who frustrate it. And yes... absolutely have a great logo that conveys your image, with colors that compliment it, and a font that reflects your story.
Pardon Me (again). I Want2Show You Something…
Last month I wrote about the power of interrupting when advertising.
This month I decided to show you an example of what I meant.
Two billboards – actually side by side. They are posted in Roanoke, Virginia where my business is located, but they just as easily could have been in your town or on a street near your office.
If you’re like most people your eye is drawn to the right. See what I mean?
There is a clear message – one that engages your brain and gets it going (I personally love the double meaning with creative billboard advertising). It is easy to read and you can generally catch the concept as you go by.
On the left is a confusing series of images, sponsors, copy and general confusion. Even the “all caps” font makes for slower interpretation. There’s too much information and a message that will take way too long to sink in.
It’s a great example of the power of interruption. You can actually see the difference. Perhaps as you review your next advertising sample or work with your creative team you will see this same snapshot and identify it with the power of simplicity.
Fight the urge to put everything you can into your ads – no matter the platform you use – and work hard to keep the messaging simple, provocative and direct. Once you’ve got their attention, you can find ways to market to them as potential customers, clients and patients.
You’ve heard it said and now you can apply the concept to your advertising. “Less is more.” You’ll quickly figure out that not only does Crime Pay, but so does streamlining your message.
Excuse Me. I Want2Tell You Something…
In normal conversation it’s considered rude. In the middle of our work day it’s a barrier to accomplishment.
In advertising it’s exactly what is needed to get your message across to a busy, distracted audience. Attention is at a premium as our society navigates email, smart phones, texting, television, blue tooth technology and everything that competes for our brain space. If you’re message isn’t causing some sort of pattern break, you’re missing the most important of the process.
You can use music, humor, engaging copy, white space, silence or even kids and animals, but you must use something to catch the eye, ear or imagination of the audience. You must. Otherwise the best media buy or biggest audience is squandered.
Too often business-owners and managers want to use their precious time and space to educate or to promote colloquial phrases that rarely align with the needs of the people hearing, seeing or reading the message. Be strong. Avoid that common pattern and find a way – any legitimate way – to connect personally with your key audience. Once you’ve got their attention and they begin to recognize who you are and what you’re promoting, you’re ready to begin the educating and selling process.
After the interruption (advertising) comes the education (marketing). It’s important to know the difference and not to mix your messaging.
The Call4Just a Little More
It was probably a motivational speaker or maybe a magazine, but sometime well before the internet was a regular part of our business day I heard someone say, “You can always do more than you think you can”. People banter that concept around in life, but what if you applied it to your business? If you’re in sales, you may find power in making just one more stop at the end of the day. If you’re in operations, perhaps you can focus your efforts on fixing a broken link in your supply chain. Maybe you care for patients and have recognized there is a better way to enhance their experience.
Whether you are in sales, operations or customer service think about what would happen if you committed to changing a behavior or approaching your work differently.
Make That Change2Day
Really, begin today.
Start by making one more sales call, initiating a fix for a production issue, or integrating a new way to better care for your patients. Here’s the best advice you can get – do something. What I have found professionally is I can more easily tackle a hard to solve problem or finish a major presentation if I simply start it.
Often the work comes together nicely after we’ve made the effort to begin. Starting may be as easy as sketching a drawing, jotting an idea, creating an outline or brainstorming with a co-worker. From there you’re on your way. But it starts with the start and if you begin there --- right now --- who knows how much more you can get done?
The Thought Came2Me
Recently I was watching the movie “Inception”. I had seen it before and understood most of the plot, but this time something else caught my attention. “Inception” is a movie about infiltrating one’s dreams to exhume secret information from the subconscious of important business people. It’s a bit of science fiction, but a fun distraction.
In the main part of the story you’re watching a dream, inside a dream, inside a dream, inside yet another dream. Obviously the viewer must pay close attention. As the action moves through all these different layers it can be a little tricky to track. Let me make the simple connection to this monthly e-newsletter.
I write the B2Seed to share information that will be helpful to people in a wide range of businesses and situations. The information is designed to provoke thought and inspire action. It’s an outlet for me, but there is more to it than to simply pass along tips. I wanted you to know why I write this monthly article.
Making It Work4You
As with “Inception”, B2Seed has this surface level of provoking thought and inspiration, but beneath that there is the deeper level. A message inside a message. It is a marketing tool for my company. There, now you’re inside – seeing why I do this each month. If a potential client subscribes I know I can touch them directly – for a few moments – each month. Over time, they’ll get used to hearing from me, hopefully acknowledge the value of what I write and when they need advertising, marketing or business development assistance, they’ll reach out to my company.
Some current clients get the email and take action themselves or pass it along to others who need help with their advertising. Either way, The B2Seed consistently helps me grow my business and connect with other businesses. Sometimes it’s directly; other times it’s indirectly. Either way – it’s purposeful.
Would it make sense for you to take a similar action in your situation? If you want to regularly connect with prospects or clients in a non-threatening way it would. Then you’ll be living the dream…
Leadership from Which2Learn
For years I have looked for business principles in odd places or at random times. Usually I file them away for some future use. While it might have been smarter for me to read all the leadership books I could find, observing what others were doing shaped me as a businessperson and has worked out okay.
Recently I heard an interview with Jamie Foxx and the famous director Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino wouldn’t be the first person from whom you’d expect to learn leadership concepts, but upon a closer look, it makes a lot of sense. Who could you get to organize hundreds of people – including some with incalculable egos and star power – but a movie director? Foxx was talking about his recent role in the film Django Unchained and Tarantino’s directorial approach to the film.
Two things impacted me:
1) Tarantino had everyone (even celebrities) leave their egos (and their smart phones) off set.
2) The director walked around, spoke with, and cared for the "extras" that were playing such an important role in the movie.
The movie is set in the south during the time of slavery. Actually slavery is more than the backdrop – it is more of a character. Tarantino was concerned the main actor (Jamie Foxx) and others might not be able to fully feel the part if they were wrapped in modern conveniences. Foxx wholeheartedly agreed. Tarantino was also concerned about the impact filming a movie about a slave (a rare topic in Hollywood), would have on those who were playing the parts of slaves in the fields and plantations.
The director’s approach won over Foxx, the rest of the cast, and the crew. During the hour interview the mutual respect was evident between director and his big name actor. It was obvious in the final product too. Now – go lead by paying attention to the atmosphere you create and watching out for everyone.
It’s How You Decide2Look at Things
On two different days last week – Monday and Thursday – the temperatures in the middle of the day here in the Greater Roanoke Valley reached 38 degrees.
When I left the snowy land of Northwestern Ohio on Sunday it was 9 degrees, the snow was blowing and based on the weather that day, it seemed like a good place to be leaving. As I drove south the snow (mostly) stopped and the warmth (mostly) arrived. By Monday it was a “balmy” 38 degrees and I think it actually felt somewhat comfortable.
The middle of the week brought a warming trend – jet stream, winds from the south, or something. I actually have no idea what brought the shift. I just know that one of those days I left my winter coat at home and, in general, it almost felt like spring (while I am pretty sure the cold and snow continued straight through back in Ohio). By Thursday afternoon another cold snap hit and it was back to 38 degrees again. This isn’t a weather blog – so why all the talk about hot and cold?
Something4You to Consider
Both days were 38 degrees in Roanoke. One day felt comfortable, even refreshing. Later in the week, the same exact temperature felt cold, slightly bitter. How can the same surroundings bring such different feelings?
The answer is in how you look at things. The wisdom is in your approach to the challenging boss, tough problem or insurmountable prospect. Are you coming off of a cold spell into the warmth of 38 degrees, or are you adjusting to the “warmth” of the 50’s & 60’s then dealing with 38 degrees. It’s a simple reminder that you determine the climate of your workplace.
How2Block and Tackle
It’s the time of year for planning and strategizing. In your personal life, you may be figuring how to break bad eating habits or get into better exercise patterns. While you’re at it, consider some new approaches to continuing issues you face at work.
Block out time on your calendar to take care of those tasks that always seem to get pushed back. Then actually take the time you’ve set aside and tackle that project you have already prioritized. Everyone has their little tricks – mine is just one way. It works really well for me, and I am confident you’ll find it helpful if you apply it.
In the “old days” I used an index card box with days of the month and months of the year and handwritten notes to stay on top of client work or projects that had deadlines. Today Microsoft Outlook does most of the work for us. When I have something cluttering my mind, I just open an appointment in Outlook and write it down to ensure the task doesn’t “slip away”.
A Practical Example4You
Each month – for three years now - I have sent out this monthly e-newsletter. Some months ideas come quicker than others. Since it is a priority for me, but something I don’t always have the time for, I decided to block time in my calendar to ensure it gets done. In a way you are benefitting from this same technique I am presenting (at least I hope you are). My big shift for 2013 with the B2Seed is to remind myself on the 5th of the month instead of the 11th.
You can look for yourself and see whether I get it out earlier in the month. No matter when it comes, you’ll know it was because I blocked out the time to tackle something that is important for me.
Talk2Whom You Need
Throughout the years I have written a lot about your message and how to craft what you want to say in your marketing, business development and advertising. Here’s a simple B2Seed reminder for your ongoing consideration…
The right message – built and honed – but sent to the wrong audience, will not accomplish the goal.
It’s not enough to be creative or pretty or even “remarkable” if you do not know exactly who you want to receive the advertisement or marketing piece. So much energy by so many people (many in the advertising community) is spent getting the outreach just so. Without the accompanying target work much of it goes to waste.
There are many ways to figure out who needs to receive the messages you are sending. I’d start with the first and simplest way --- look around. Take a break from the chaos of commerce and note who you are already doing business with on a regular basis. Begin to identify who they are and what they have in common – it’s the key to taking that first step OR reminding yourself of who your target really is.
Next, try to find more of those people. Most research and advertising firms can help you access information you can use to customize your approach. In the old days people in advertising grouped potential patients, customers and clients as ages --- 25-54, 50+, 18-34, etc. Go ahead and pay attention to that data, but let that start your target discovery not end it.
There is more information at your disposal than ever before. It’s time for you to start using it.
Went West2Be Reminded
A combination of personal and business reasons took me to California recently. While out there I had two experiences on either end of the “expense” spectrum that drove home a “how you go to market” basic I have long advised my clients to follow.
I spent $5 (or so) to eat an In & Out Burger, fries and a vanilla milkshake. I spent considerably more to stay at a really nice resort as a small part of the visit to LA. Both were amazing encounters and each destination knew exactly how to create the right experience.
The line at the drive through for the world famous burger was around the corner – really – all the way around the block. It was worth it. The people were friendly, the food amazing and the experience everything I had heard it would be. Shutters created an oasis on the ocean in Santa Monica and they thought of everything. There was even a stamped envelope with custom stationery to send your own comments to the CEO. Not one element was left to chance at this incredible hotel.
Determine why you stand out. Execute your plan – know what you are. Be the best at what you do.
Whether you run a $5 burger stand or a 5-Star resort, the key is identifying how you are unique.
Too many organizations try to be too many things to too many people. Figure out what you are, pay attention to caring for your customers, patients or clients, then find ways to do those things even better. Again, it’s simple – that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy.
Notice I said simple – not easy.
Through the years I have kept a series of folders and files labeled “ideas” or “creative concepts”. Whether it was for a talk, a sales concept or a creative idea, when I came across something that really caught my eye or grabbed my attention, I filed it away – never knowing when it might become useful. Those recycled ideas – often rebuilt for a different purpose have served me well.
Earlier this year, I met a man from Minnesota named Jim Link. Jim has written a book Idea-Links: The New Creativity. He has perfected this creative process and is helping Fortune 500 and small organizations alike figure new ways to solve problems.
Creative Solutions4Your Business
His approach capitalizes on experience. According to him, creativity isn’t produced through wacky off-the-wall brainstorming sessions, but through observing experiences to arrive at new solutions to some of these old and troubling problems.
Bolstered by your inner-curiosity and assisted by this fresh approach, you have many more tools at your disposal for solving that troubling issue or finding a new path to deal with that challenge you are facing. While motivational speeches are fun, the impact rarely lasts. The disciplines used in applying Jim’s principles are lasting and relevant to all types of situations. Check out his book and see for yourself – or better yet look into having him come present his ideas in person to your leadership or sales team.
What you need could already be around you – ready to be discovered by observing and then following the New Crea
2In a Row?
There was an internal battle I had to work through. Last month I wrote about Nick Saban and his approach to changing a culture. A few weeks back I read a very interesting article about him in the Wall Street Journal that once again caught my eye. A different publication, but a similar thought starter…
While I was uncomfortable referring to a football coach two months in a row, it was such a revelation and a great example, I decided to push forward regardless. Football fan or not, everyone can appreciate how much our time spent reflect the priorities we set.
Each day Coach Saban and his assistants set aside one hour for recruiting high school football players. They write hand written notes, send texts, make phone calls and do other tasks, according to this article, that help them build the talent base of the program in future years. It’s an investment – of time.
What It Means4You
We talk about how busy we are. Most of us really do have crowded schedules.
Few operate at a more hectic pace than a college football coach…let alone the coach of the defending national champs. Yet, there is Nick Saban, with one of the most talented programs in America, investing an hour of his workday – alongside the rest of his coaches – in development. It is not an accident he’s perennially a top recruiter in his industry.
It takes a strategy, structure, a plan and most of all discipline to break away and focus forward. No one said it was easy, but can you see how a similar approach would work wonders for you?
People in leadership overuse sports vernacular when dealing with business questions. Things like “no pain no gain”, “step up your game”, “hit a home run”, and the rest you have heard. What is interesting to me is when sports people use sound business principals in their programs.
For a few years back in the mid-nineties (yes I am that old) my path crossed with probably the most intense individual I have ever known. Nick Saban was the head football coach at Michigan State University at the time we worked together and has gone on to build a number of very successful college football teams. In fact he has won three of the last nine College Football Championships. I read recently about his approach to installing his “process” everywhere he goes. He sets goals and provides job descriptions for everyone associated with his football program. He brings in the right people, equips them properly, tracks and monitors their growth, and holds them accountable.
That is the proper way to achieve success on the football field and in business.
“You have to pay the price up front,” Saban said (in Sports Illustrated, August 20, 2012). “Everybody wants to do it. Not everybody is willing to do what they have to do to do it.”
Organizations talk a good “change” game and some even bring in a team to help them implement change. Rare is the company that can actually stomach the beginning, middle and end of the process of changing the culture of a business. As Saban says, it’s hard work. Things never stay the same – you simply must adapt and change to succeed. Are you willing to do what is needed to bring the change?
Ok – so no one likes a bragger. On the other hand it’s perfectly fine to talk up someone else, right? Since my company started a little over three years ago, I have been honored to be associated with Member One Federal Credit Union. For two years now they have been selected as one of the top places of employment in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our company is proud to be associated with such a fine organization. Recently the team at Member One decided to branch out.
They secured a new web site – www.loansolution.org – and began a multi-layered advertising campaign to engage their current and prospective member base. The goal was to ask people for their own best loan stories. They’ve clearly hit a hot button in the marketplace. The look of the site is fresh and inviting. The web videos are fun and easy to watch. The feel of the campaign is light, but practical.
Since early May they have also added a Facebook presence, populated a YouTube channel, and they continue to expand their territory.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a microsite built from scratch generate buzz, but it is among the quickest growth curves. In just under three months Member One has had almost 2,600 visitors view almost 9,000 pages on their site. They combine a number of critical elements to drive their success.
What new approaches is your organization using to solve old problems?
A salute to Member One FCU – who’s marketing team isn’t stopping with www.loansolution.org, but continuing with fun new ideas like the @SaveThisBuyThat Twitter feed and other exciting tactics. Where are you going to start?
B2C Enterprises is an award winning advertising, marketing and business development firm. If you’d like to talk about how we can help you find a new solution to an old problem, schedule a meeting, or if you want to be removed from this distribution list, simply reply to this email, or call 540.904.1229. Visit us online at www.b2cEnterprises.com for more information.
It’s usually pretty easy to come up with a mission statement, a distinguishing characteristic of your organization, or even a unique selling proposition for your company. Leaders frequently focus on these concepts. Hours and hours will be spent figuring out what is most important to the company or the organization. Then you’ll typically decide how what you represent is communicated. It starts with the drive is to determine what you and your organization are all about.
Knowing what you represent is clearly important, but so is who represents you.
The other day I took my son for ice cream at a local parlor and we were greeted passive indifference. The clerks had planted themselves at a table – were listening to hard rock music and we seemed to be interrupting their afternoon. We asked for a flavor they had listed, but it was too much trouble to go to the back and bring it out so we just didn’t get it. It wasn’t a big deal for me, but it was a lost sale for them.
Earlier in the day another clerk at a different place was so busy interacting with her manager and fellow employees she totally messed up my order and that was after she had asked me to repeat it - twice.
It’s wise to be sure of what your company represents – at the same time you have to pay close attention to who represents your organization. Are they polite? Are they aware? Are they engaging your customers or patients? How would you even know??? Strategic partners of B2C Enterprises can help you uncover your potential and current client service issues. If there is one thing worse than bad service, it’s not being aware of just how bad it is.
While it’s true a lot of us look to water for perspective or to help us reflect, I want to share a story I heard recently that you may be able to use as a springboard even if you’re landlocked right now. The Sales Manager of a TV station in Central Virginia was telling me he’d had some time off recently. He accompanied his son’s elementary school class on a trip to the Virginia Beach area. They did the usual field trip sites – aquarium and museums, but they made time to see the ocean too.
Some of those kids had never experienced the beach, the tide, the expanse, or even the “sea girls” flying around above. It was a brand new experience.
Using His Story4Perspective
Can you remember the first time you saw the ocean or the grit of the sand between your toes? Probably not, but over time you’ve come to appreciate the expanse, the power, the calm, the beauty, and all the other things that drive so many of us to a shore of some kind.
Imagine the excitement some of those kids felt at seeing the ocean on that spring day in April.
Now capture that same rush and remind yourself why you took the job you currently have or how much you like solving problems or creating a product or a solution. Whatever it is you do on a daily basis could use a jolt of that same freshness. Everyone finds themselves in challenging times in business. The key is to push through them, anchor to a knowledge of why you are passionate about what you do, and take a new look at an old situation.
It’s kind of like you’re seeing it for the first time…
Turn It In2Something Good
Early in my career I worked directly for six different sales managers over a period of about two years. It would have been easy to be distracted by all the various routines, demands, and processes each wanted me to employ as I was getting started in the advertising business.
All had things they could offer a young salesperson. Somewhere in the middle of all the changes I made a decision to try to grab on to some of the strongest elements of each of their styles. I took the prospecting plan of one, the relationship building skill of another and the inventory management strategy of a third. Over time these different managers’ ways were combined with my own experiences to help forge my own management approach. It actually helped me.
How Its Helpful4You
A lot of things may be working against you. There’s no doubt it’s easy to be distracted by things going on around you – mergers, cutbacks, slowdowns, budget freezes and turnover can hold you back from doing your best.
I don’t think you need a rah-rah, go take on the world pep talk. That’s not why I am writing this. Instead, I want to encourage you to pull back and evaluate those things that might be perceived as negatives by others. Take a look at the situations that are dragging down the people with whom you work and make a decision.
First of all – ask yourself if you can fix it. Then do so. If it isn’t fixable; figure out a way to take the negative and become stronger through it. Maybe you can take notes and set them aside for when you are the big boss. Or try using the time to hone specific skills. Perhaps you can get better at observing what people are really trying to say or communicate. Possibly it could be finding a way to be more creative. Whatever the outcome, you set the direction you are going to take through the choppy waters.
It may actually help you in the long run.
I listened to a recent radio broadcast of a college basketball game. The teams were moving up and down the court at a fevered pace. There was lots of movement and action – not any scoring. This went on for a few minutes and the announcer said something that caught my ear. He said, “Don’t ever confuse activity with accomplishment,” and it hit me.
In commerce - especially in sales and business development – that statement is the key to staying ahead of economic struggles and downturns. For years, I have encouraged Account Managers and Clients to review --- really review --- their prospect lists.
There is another big benefit…
Account Managers used to hold up their long list of prospective clients – kind of like a shield – to show me how much they had going and how hard they were working. Over time I learned to help my team evaluate how genuinely interested their prospects were in working with them. It didn’t take long for all involved to determine the list wasn’t as promising as the Account Manager would have hoped.
Never confuse a big prospect list with a good one.
It was scary for the reps to let go of some of the accounts they were working on, but the reality of figuring out who was really interested freed them up to go out and pursue other businesses. That ultimately led to them finding better and more interested prospects. They had a fresh start.
How about you? When was the last time you honestly evaluated who you were targeting?
There was something at the front door. It was the 2012-13 Yellow Book, but it could have just as easily been the Easy to Use One, the Verizon one or some other one. Phone books.
There are so many times people ask me about advertising in the yellow pages (or some equivalent). First of all, let’s agree on one thing – it isn’t advertising. It’s a directory. Next try doing a quick calculation with me…to say you use your yellow page directory 1% of the time would mean you spent about 15 minutes each day reviewing the book. I’m not sure that’s even possible
There are times and places where it can make sense for a business, but those instances are becoming less and less frequent. The book is closed 99.9% of the time.
It did make it into my house, but within hours it was out the back door and being recycled.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with someone who told me their organization spent over $750,000 in directory advertising each year. It is the fear of loss driving that. If you’re not in the yellow pages people won’t know how to find you, what you offer or how to call…
Nonsense. (Otherwise you could show me the McDonald’s, FedEx and Facebook ads in your local book)
Advertising, marketing, public relations, referrals and repeat business are the elements of a successful growth pattern for most all organizations. The web and smart phones have actually made that consumer contact easier. Even the directory representatives will confirm theirs is a shrinking industry. Don’t be afraid --- embrace the new and craft your very own plan.
For the longest time I believed people bought primarily on price. The lower the price the better the chance someone would buy. Everyone loves a bargain right?
These days there are smart phone aps that allow you to stand in one store and check a competitor’s price right then. If the other location has something cheaper – you leave, go across town, and buy the same item for less money. As a retailer – you needn’t be afraid, but it should be on your mind as you do business. Be aware of price.
My Dad is a good consumer and he price shops (he also reads this newsletter). He’d drive across town to buy gas that is five cents per gallon cheaper. But even my Dad has his limits and as price conscious as he may be, it isn’t always the lowest priced place that gets his business.
During the winters he’s out in the Phoenix area and while he could choose a .99 cent tostada from Taco Bell on his Monday Night Mexican dinners, he never does. The tostada at his favorite place probably costs five or ten times as much – and he doesn’t use a smart phone to do a price check analysis.
People can spend less, but can they get what it is you offer? While they can scan a price with their iPhone and see if it is less at the Big Box Store nearby, they can’t necessarily get the specific service you provide, the helpful tip your staff passes along, or the feeling of being known by name. They can’t count the economic velocity of keeping dollars “local”.
If you live by low prices – you’ll quickly learn – there’s probably someone who has them even lower.
Build value, offer a fair price and create an atmosphere people enjoy enough they’d pay a little more for the added experience. Then people will choose to do business with you – on purpose. Perhaps someday, Taco Bell will do fresh tableside guacamole and serve an ice cold margarita, but until then folks like my Dad are going to pay a few bucks more for their tostadas.
I have heard it so many times.
When you are brought in to tidy up and refocus a half dozen advertising sales departments over a few decades you’re bound to notice some consistencies. This is the best time of year to note and begin to change one such pattern in your own business.
Invariably when I started at each place and began to “nose around” my curiosity would kick in and I would ask something like, “Well, why is it done this way?” As you might expect the answer was almost always the same.
“Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Anytime I heard that, I immediately responded with another question --- “why?”
Stop for a moment and think about what you are doing in your business before you do it. Does it make sense? Is it the right next step? Is it putting your client or customer or patient first? Then make the determination if it is the best course of action for you and your organization.
The easiest thing to do is what has always been done.
The principle is the same whether it is in regard to your advertising, marketing, operations, production, or paperwork flow. Different may not be good or even better, but evaluating why you are taking a particular course is critical to your company’s growth and development. Wrestle that persistent urge to follow the path of least resistance and simply do things the way you’ve always done them.
The topic was set, the timeline was in place.
I knew exactly what I was going to write about until I opened the Wall Street Journal one morning and saw the following headline: Cain Never Prepared for the Storm. Herman Cain. Remember him? Only a few weeks ago he was a frontrunner in the Republican Presidential Primary. Regardless of your political leaning, you simply have to agree this was a poorly executed Public Relations problem.
Every business (large or small) should take pause to reflect on a plan for dealing with a crisis. No matter what business you are in – you are exposed to potential liability and the fifteen minutes of fame you do not want. This is the reality of the times in which we live.
Here’s another reality – few companies, organizations or leaders pull back and evaluate what they would do when they face “unforeseen” circumstances. Fewer still put a plan in place.
So, why does an advertising guy have an opinion about PR? Simple. It’s my job to help clients communicate with and best reflect their value to customers. Handling a crisis alone is like being your own lawyer. You’re too close and it isn’t your area of expertise. Frankly it isn’t my strength either.
That’s why I team with crisis communications expert Stephanie Koehler and SAKinterMedia whenever one of my clients has a question in the public relations realm. She can help you craft a plan, practice for those challenging times, and uncover where your potential exposure lies. The key, however, is to make that call before the media calls you. You’ll be out front, prepared and have a strategy. That’ll put you on the leading edge and allow you to rest a bit more comfortably when the media appears at your doorstep.
While I am no expert in the area of Food & Wine, even I know good wine needs time to breathe. A steak fresh off of the grill needs a few moments to settle before being served.
In our busy lives that same space can be most helpful in planning for growth, creating an idea or developing a strategy. It is a part of the normal flow of thinking and in turn a part of every successful organization's culture.
The concept also applies to print advertising. Internally you wrestle with the knowledge you need lots of white space in your ad and the need to shove every possible feature and benefit into what you are selling. It truly is a battle - in this case for space. The purpose of a print ad is to either generate response or to build awareness. In either situation you need to get the attention of the reader.
That is generally best done through space and copy.
Resist the temptation to put another selling feature into your advertisement.
Use some of that white space to create compelling and engaging copy - pull the reader in. Let people who are reading get a break - for a moment - from the information. Then you can communicate a few simple concepts, sales or ideas to them. All the statistics in the world say we are daily overwhelmed by information - use thatinformation to your organization's benefit.
Keep it simple - and clean.
Things have been interesting in the Middle East this year. That’s an understatement.
Like many of you, I have been following the activity over there and watching what happens. Back in the spring Facebook was an integral part of the Egyptian revolution as we witnessed a government in place for decades crumble in days.
Just last week rebels in Libya moved into Tripoli.
What was their first move? They marched right in and took over the state run television station. A lot of media can have a big impact, but even in Libya nothing moves public opinion and communicates with the masses quite like television. It’s the reason those rebels went there first.
Most of my clients use a mix of media and communications.
Public relations, direct mail, social media, email blasts, radio, the web, mobile messaging, outdoor, newspaper, SEO, magazines and even telemarketing can all be successful tools and help you move your image and product. When you need to rapidly establish a brand or product or “win the battle of the mind” with current or prospective clients, nothing moves people like television.
Many organizations are intimidated by the language or production process involved with TV. We can help. If you think you’d like to review your overall marketing plan or want to consider including TV in 2012, let’s start the conversation.
The concept of social media marketing, web site marketing, or even that very first and most simple step of building a web site should start with an even more basic question.
Do I really need a web site?
If you can answer that question in the affirmative, the next important one is "What do I hope to accomplish with my web site?"
It seems sometimes too many companies and organizations are doing "hip" and "cool" new media for the simple purpose of being hip and cool. There doesn't seem to be a vision or a purpose. Like any other business decision a company makes, that's a bad reason to do a good thing.
There Must Be a Reason4It
Recently I saw a TV commercial directing the viewer to a web site for toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper. My daughter and I laughed out loud when we were instructed to "check it out online".
Check out the copy above..."Charmin wants to make going to the bathroom more enjoyable." It's actually kind of funny really.
This is a classic case of a company being told by their advertising people "all current advertising need to have accompanying web sites and Facebook pages". Your's may not.
If you want someone to take a fresh, strategic look at what you are advertising and where you are advertsing it, simply click on the the contact information below or visit my website and begin a conversation.
Remember2CheckThe topics I write about generally percolate for a week or two before they make it to print.
This month, I was all set. Ready to share what was on my mind as usual --- until I saw the following piece in Sports Illustrated. It was a classic case of two well meaning departments not cross checking the master calendar.
“The Huntsville Stars hosted Pleasures Ladies Night (sponsored by a sex toy store) and the North-Central Alabama Girl Scouts sleepover at the same game last week.”
Check4YourselfWe all make mistakes.
Before you put your marketing calendar to rest and before that promotional schedule is printed, it’s a wise idea to check with other departments. It’s an even smarter idea to check the piece one last time yourself. While it may be an intern’s calendar project or something done by someone else in your office, there’s a good chance if you are in the decision process (or at the top of it), the ultimate responsibility is yours.
If you think these things only happen with small or local companies, think again. Shortly after I went to work for an NBC affiliate a piece came out from the television network that highlighted an upcoming special sports presentation. It was titled, “Ray Charles on Ice”. That presents some interesting mental images. Someone in New York had clearly not proof-read that piece before it was distributed either…
Minimize your exposure – have good cross checkers and proof readers. Communicate. Then check it yourself – the way my Mother and Father taught me to do it is still the best. Read it backwards.
Proof your work.
Focus2FinishWe would talk about it.
My managers and I would meet to decide where to shine the flashlight. Everyone, no matter their performance level, has a limited capacity. The concept almost always played out as expected – what you as a manager focus on determines where the team will put its attention. Where you direct your efforts, the team will follow.
It’s why it is so important to regularly decide where your energy should go.
Time4ChangeDecide what needs your focus then use accountability and a sustained gaze to drive the necessary change. If you are in a sales or fundraising operation --- a good manager needs to know when to push forward, when to praise a high performer, and when to ease up on the team. If you are in operations or production, it’s important you constantly monitor where the break downs are happening and how your focus can correct the process.
Your people will do what you drive them to accomplish. Otherwise they aren’t the right people for you.
Too often as leaders we get sidetracked on unimportant or insignificant things – instead practice focusing your efforts and in turn helping your team see where they need to go and on what they need to concentrate.
True change and definable results will follow.
They pile up.
Sometimes it gets to the point where the pile can get so large you simply have to do something about it. Sometimes it’s just one big item. You know what I’m talking about. It’s those things you just don’t really want to do – the very things that eat away at you, cause you to wake up at 4am, or stop you from quickly falling asleep at night. The brain space occupied drags you down and distracts you from doing what you want to do, what you need to do, and what you love.
Those things – those rotten things you have to get done, but put off doing.
Now It’s Time4You to Change
Credit should go to Stan Joplin – he was the Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of Toledo and I had known him when we both worked with Tom Izzo’s staff at Michigan State University. Coach Joplin agreed to address my sales team at WTVG and he shared something I have tried for years to put into practice – something that has stayed with me for about ten years now. He said, “Do the hard things first”. It sounds easy enough and it is simple, but it’s actually far from easy.
If you continue to put something off, simply start tomorrow with it being the first thing on your list and (here’s the hard part) do it. Tough phone call? Make it. Hard conversation? Have it. Uncomfortable email? Proof it and send it. Do it early in the day and get the rest of your day going…it really does work in a very practical way and it will work for you and your organization.
Clear the deck.
B2C Enterprises is an award winning advertising and marketing agency. If you’d like to talk about how we can help you tackle a hard-to-solve problem, see some samples, or be removed from this distribution list, simply call 540.986.8766 (new number).
When you get good news about your business - who do you call? When something exciting or frightening happens to your organization - what number do you initially dial?
A few weeks ago my company had one of those bursts that often accompany a fast growing organization. On Monday it was confirmed B2C Enterprises would be handling all the marketing for a local franchisee of a major national company. Along with my creative partners, two campaigns we built won Western Virginia Addy Awards the following Saturday.
I called Kevin Shaw.
When you are ready to scream – either with joy or because of frustration – do you have a team of people you know are firmly and squarely in your corner? Running a business is hard. Trying to do it alone is nearly impossible. It’s important to have people to connect with who can add perspective, challenge you, or simply listen. Listen and care. I am fortunately to have a number of those people.
Kevin Shaw is a Partner with Wieland-Davco, a Michigan-based construction company and we grew up in the marketing/advertising world together. He took the call, shared my excitement, and reminded me how important it is to celebrate together. Maybe today would be a good day to pick up the phone and call “your Kevin Shaw”. It’s a small action step, but frequently the smallest steps make the largest difference.
All these tools were designed to make things easier.
Blackberries, iPods, iPads, Facebook, Texting and Email all make communication and catching people in a hurry much easier (usually). The problem is we are all going non-stop and the pace of life swirls around us – sometimes even overwhelming us.
With all this time for doing…when do you ever get a chance to think?
If you have read my previous issues, you’ve read as I wrote about the power of the good idea. Some of my best ideas have come during times of quiet. About 12 years ago I was on the tractor when the solution hit me. An advertising agency was spending a huge amount of money on another station and we couldn’t figure out a counter. I loved the idea that flashed in my mind so much, I turned off the mower, got off my tractor, went inside and wrote it down for later.
During the holidays and in early January it is easy for you to get even busier. Resist that temptation and find some thinking time. Gather yourself – unplug that computer one day a week in 2011 – or simply go for a walk. Your brain has ideas in it, they just need time and space and quiet to surface. Make a plan to step back. You’ll be glad you did.
To finish the story that started while I was doing yard work…that advertising agency 12 years ago loved the idea, moved their base buys over to my television station for over ten years (well after I was gone) – keeping the plan in place that came to me in the middle of cutting grass.
What counts as new?
While doing some research on what other marketing companies are doing with their web sites I happened upon a Roanoke-based firm who had a “What’s New” section on theirs. When I clicked on the link it was clear they had a different perspective on what counted as new. The latest entry was from April 2010 – over six months ago.
In a web-based world where current is king and information is expected, out-of-date stale “news” sections are a problem, especially when the site is for a Marketing or Advertising Agency.
It’s critical you have the structure in place to make your web site a relevant, changing and current part of your business model. If you don’t plan for regular web site updates and marketing, it won’t happen. Your site quickly becomes like week-old bread…
We can coordinate a system of regular updates with our Content Management platform and the unique approach we take to proactively updating and marketing your link to internet customers and visitors. Just like someone has to “mind the store,” it just makes sense to constantly work to keep your web site fresh.
Most every one of my clients is in the budget preparation and planning stage…it is the season after all! Many of you are coming out of some tough times and all the expenses that can realistically be cut have been. To best make these cash flow numbers work for everyone you simply must take another look at the revenue side. It’s always “fun” to project big growth, but being practical means figuring out how the revenue will grow in 2011.
Can I be direct?
There are only two ways to grow revenue – increase your Drawing Power or increase your Selling Power. Building your Drawing Power means you’ll need to attract new customers. If you want to pull in new people you’ll need to plan for more advertising, outreach, marketing, public relations or hope for a somewhat random uptick in sales.
You can also make more money by selling more products and services to your current clients, patients or customers. This is called Selling Power. If you want to sell more things to your current customers you’ll need to plan for more training, marketing, education or perhaps some new products or services. There are no shortcuts.
The point is – none of this happens accidentally.
Pretending you’ll magically see a 20% sales increase doesn’t do anyone any favors…especially in these hyper-competitive times. Instead, evaluate what new things you’ll need to do in order to make 2011 a revenue success. Take a fresh look at how you spend your advertising budget, how you equip your sales force, how you market or promote your company and how you can take advantage of all the new ideas out there.
How do you possibly say “a picture is worth a thousand words” without repeating that trite saying?
The answer is you show, demonstrate, create emotion, and build a connection. A top notch photograph as the focal point of your advertising campaign typically does the trick. Don’t get me wrong – engaging copy can do a great job drawing your audience in or helping them to take action, but the value of an integrated photograph is too often underestimated.
This is Libby. She is a six year old cancer survivor from Roanoke, Virginia.
Rather than telling everyone how much good the Children’s Miracle Network is doing, the organization ( www.carilionclinic.org/Carilion/cmn ) made the decision to connect with their audience through Libby. This photograph used in a local billboard campaign, captures the essence of Libby and builds an emotional tie to the Children’s Miracle Network and the Clinic.
If you’d like to evaluate if custom photography or building a “bank of images” for future use by your company or organization would make sense you can visit www.brettwinterlemon.com and see some more of his work and speak with him directly. Using creative photography can make a huge impact…for ideas on integrating photography and other creative concepts.
It was a quiet evening. Just a few nights ago we were on the sofa watching something on television when a commercial came on. It was for State Farm (sorry Robert and Tony) – you’ve probably seen it yourself. My almost nine year old son spoke up and proclaimed, “I don’t like State Farm.” Caught off guard, I asked him why and he told me, “I like Geico.”
To him it wasn’t really anything against State Farm (I breathed a sigh of relief for Big Red). It was that he really liked Geico. That’s the power of television and top of mind awareness. The fact it is driven home before a child reaches nine years old tells you all you really need to know about making an impact with your advertising.
For a nine year old, the dueling insurance company marketing messages were a lot like picking football teams. He really liked the Gecko in the Geico commercials, that’s all. To him it’s like picking a team – just like rooting for the Dallas Cowboys (obviously I am not a perfect parent). I suspect many product and service decisions made by kids and grown-ups alike are quite similar. That’s why your organization or company is in a constant battle for mind space – even with youngsters.
There seems to be a bit of a flurry lately. In the past three or four months I have had a number of companies and organizations reach out to me to ask about their web sites. Everyone in interactive business recognizes the need for a web site as a tool to engage communication and grow a base of business. The problem seems to be related to sites that have been built a few years ago – or before. Back then “programmers” wanted to use complicated language to make clients dependant on them for future changes. Sure the sites may look good and they may even be easy for the user to navigate, but a small little change, or a new picture, or a new employee always seemed to create a hassle because the original web design company had to make all the changes.
That isn’t the way web sites need to work anymore.
You can have a populated, lively, interactive and easy to find and navigate web site that uses the latest technology to make the “back end” edits so much easier. You do not need a degree or have to understand how to write “code” or anything like that to change, edit or update your own web site – by yourself.
We love to help our clients and partners.
In this type of situation, the best help we can provide is to build it right and give you the tools to make small changes as you desire in the timing you want. Plus, by giving you the “keys to drive the web site”, we maintain a good relationship with you and are still available to help with strategy, Search Engine Optimization and any other problems or opportunities you face. It’s the best approach.
Super Bowl Champion Coach Bill Belichick teaches the concept that “ideas should be innocent until proven guilty”. It’s true – really. People are too often afraid of ideas. Fresh ideas are usually followed by change and change is not a friend to many. Ideas in and of themselves are not the culprit. It is what organizations, leaders and people do with those ideas that really determine change.
Does your company value fresh thought? Are your people open to being innovative? Do you usher a spirit of collaboration?
This is the exact right time to begin to open your organization to new and out of the ordinary concepts and thoughts. Whether it is a new product launch, a new approach or continuing business development as before – be open to new ideas and create a culture where fear is set aside and an open mind to how you can grow your business or organization is embraced.
So much is made recently about branding your company. Use logo or name recognition to get that customer in the door or to remind that client to come see you more often. Create top of mind awareness to build traffic and increase sales. They are all good reminders - all good suggestions. Each a powerful part of the business generation plan. Advertising draws those potential clients in – so can marketing and public relations. Where companies sometimes slip off track is in engaging those customers once they have made an initial decision to do business with you or shop at your location.
It’s important to get new customers. It’s even more important to keep those customers. Two current business partners of mine specialize in that. For years Jerry Brown at www.businessvoice.com has been helping literally thousands of locations around the world market to their current base of clients through his Point of Entry Marketing Programs. Whether someone approaches you by calling, clicking or visiting, they want to learn more – now you can connect with them. See how you can extend that initial brand power…email Jerry directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The purpose of the “care card” is to stay in touch with your clients. My old leader Jon Harpst has an interesting program (www.sendoutcards.com/73353) that can help your sales force or marketing team regularly interact with their clients at a very reasonable price. It is a great example of branding carried out to the one-on-one level. Commemorate an anniversary, celebrate a birthday, or send a personal note of recognition. You can sample it free or call Jon directly at 517.202.7849 to learn more about setting up your own program. He’ll walk you through the program personally.
Music Moves People.
It’s especially true in your advertising. Too often businesses or organizations just add music – almost as an afterthought – to their commercial messages. Whether your announcement needs “background” music or you are using the lyric as the hook…give original music a closer examination. Here is an example of a familiar commercial that uses music to effectively drive the message. It runs on network television, but your locally produced campaign needs to sound just as good to get the consumer’s attention.
www.youtube.com/b2ctelevision - click on the “Travelers” commercial to see (and hear) for yourself.
Some commercials cut through the clutter better than others. You hear the first few notes and immediately recognize the advertiser. That impact comes from creative messaging, strategic placement and a consistent presence. If your advertising is missing or going in “fits and starts” in any one of these areas, it might be time for a fresh approach.
Sometimes it’s easier to know the right thing to do than to actually do it.
For years I have explained to clients that it isn’t necessary to put all their information and statistics in a commercial or have the staff standing in front of the business waving --- in order to get viewers to notice them. Everyone knows consumers are assaulted by more images than ever before - the true challenge is to find a way to cut through. As a marketer, your competition isn’t the guy down the street so much as it is the commercial message right before and right after you.
One of my newer clients – Robert Kulp of Blue Ridge Residential and Black Dog Salvage – made a break from the normal commercial and focused on communicating his message directly to his audience. Just like you won’t see a location listing at the end of a UPS commercial or after that “Five Dollar Footlong” jingle, you’ll notice the simplicity of this message. Click on this link and see how Robert had the courage to break away from local commercials done the way they typically are:
Here is a gentle reminder – to get a bigger impact you may have to take a new approach. Communicate more with less clutter.