Don't Be A Part Of This 2010 Marketing Conversation…

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Consultant: “How did you do in meeting the goals of your 2009 marketing plan? Did you stay on budget?

Typical small business person: “Wait, what? Marketing plan did you say? Budget? I was supposed to have a budget?

Consultant: “Let’s review your social media plan. Did you accomplish your goals?”

Typical small business person: “What? Social media strategy? You can do that?

Consultant: “How did the call to action on your marketing collateral work? Did prospects and customers take the steps you wanted to advance the sales process?”

Typical small business person: “I am not sure what you are talking about, but man, my brochures are sure pretty!”

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Consultant: “How did your keywords perform on your website and blog?”

Typical small business person: “I have no idea, but my cousin who designed the site says her friends think the site looks bitchin’!”

Consultant: “So, with your email marketing campaign, did your prospects contact you to learn more or advance the sales process?”

Typical small business person: “No clue, but most of the people I blindly added to my database unsubscribed and gave me lip about ‘spam’.”

Consultant: “So, did you try some new things with your marketing? Try any new tactics, new messaging, any new social media tools?”

Typical small business person: “No. I stuck to the same stuff that hasn’t really worked too well before, but you know, I didn’t have any money to try something new that might work.”

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Consultant: “What good marketing books did you read this year? Did you find any great marketing blogs to help you learn new things?”

Typical small business person: “No, but I think I learned some cool advertising stuff watching Mad Men…”

Consultant: “Did you hone your skills at building community and establishing relationships on tools like Twitter and Facebook?”

Typical small business person: “Huh? No, but I passed along my free e-book, the results of my IQ test, an invite to join my mafia family, and the link to my blog to all new followers and friends!”

Consultant: “Have you narrowed your marketing focus down to a highly specific, easily targeted niche?”

Typical small business owner: “Are you nuts? I am not missing out on hitting all those darn people…”

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Consultant: “Have you narrowed your focus to the right networking groups that are in your target market?”

Typical small business person: “Are you nuts? I am not getting many leads from the bunch of groups I am visiting, so clearly I just need to hit as many darn networking groups as I can…”

Consultant: “Tell me about your lead generation and lead incubation system? How do you feed good solid prospects into your pre-purchase experience?”

Typical small business person: “Huh?”

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

The point here? Thinking strategically and putting a plan on paper is too important NOT to do. Yet, too many small business people jump into their daily routine without so much as a plan on how to proceed. The questions [by no means a complete list of pertinent questions] above serve one purpose: if you can personally identify with even one of those mini scenarios, you need to pull back, take advantage of the quieter holiday season, and think some things through as you prepare for 2010.

Good luck!

j j j

Time For Small Business To Integrate Their Marketing

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUES9s5SoJg]
In this video, I talk about the importance of integrating all the tactical marketing options you may be using to market your small business into a coordinated marketing program. Now that we are less than two months from 2010, it’s time for small business people to start preparing, strategizing, and planning their 2010 marketing plan.

While I appreciate that some entrepreneurs just start trying things and executing on new ideas without a lot of thought, small businesses are so much better off when their efforts are coordinated into a broader strategy. Think about that very carefully as you begin to prepare for 2010…

Good luck. And Be Intrepid.

j j j

A Day In The Creative Life…

create-or-die-jpegA colleague recently told me he wasn’t expected to be creative, since that wasn’t his department. I told him he was wrong. He replied, “Oh please, give me one example over the course of a typical day how little ole me can be creative…”

  1. When a customer calls with a problem.
  2. When a sales call is stalled.
  3. When a prospect asks “what makes you different?”
  4. When you think you need to cut prices to be more competitive.
  5. When you find yourself wanting to blame the economy for things being slow.
  6. When you train new employees.
  7. When a prospect says “Hmmm, I’m just not sure, let me think about this a bit more…”
  8. When your store has a changeable marquee.
  9. When an employee says “I just don’t have enough time to get all that done.”
  10. When you think you have competition.
  11. When your “competition” offers a new product or service.
  12. When you don’t have much money in your marketing budget.
  13. When your latest innovation is still popular and bringing in massive sales.
  14. When you copy other people’s business ideas too often.
  15. Whenever you have a chance to deliver a thirty second elevator speech.
  16. When you design your next business card.
  17. When you answer your business phone.
  18. When you grow tired of networking with the same people at every networking event.
  19. When someone asks you “So, what do you do?”
  20. How you ask for referrals.
  21. How you greet customers when they come into your shop.
  22. When you record the message for the company voice mail.
  23. When you have the chance to record some audio and/or video for your web site.
  24. When you need to update your pricing.
  25. When you decide to support a local charity.
  26. When you need to upgrade the signage outside your shop.
  27. When you can’t understand why blasting spam email just doesn’t seem to be working.
  28. When it’s time to determine a new niche market to target.
  29. When you have to create a mailing list for your next direct response program.
  30. When it’s your turn to treat for lunch, where should you take your client/prospect for a memorable experience.
  31. When it’s time to expand your service or product offering.
  32. When you need to write the next post for the company blog.
  33. What to talk about if you offer a seminar to the local market.
  34. When you add a new tactical option to your marketing program.
  35. Who you invite into your community with your company’s social media program.
  36. What local event you choose to sponsor for your next PR outreach idea.
  37. What to write about if you are invited to share thought leadership in a local newsletter.
  38. What to give away at the next trade show.
  39. What music to play when folks are on hold on your phone system.
  40. When it’s time to rearrange your store floor plan.
  41. How to acknowledge new customers. Old customers. New prospects. Referral partners.
  42. What you can give away for free.
  43. What to do when things are slow in the shop for an hour or two.
  44. What to do/where to go on the next company retreat.
  45. How to reward employees for remarkable work.
  46. When you are working to improve internal communications.
  47. How to make your web site ridiculously easy for customers to use.
  48. When you are coming up with a process for customers to provide feedback.
  49. How to organize and communicate to company prospects.
  50. Oh yeah, how to be creative when designing new fancy schmancy print collateral…

Get the idea? Please share more ideas! Be Intrepid.

j j j

Direct Mail Still Comes Down To The Fundamentals!

FuegoMundoMailer_3_out2Be An Intrepid Marketer – Recommendation No. 27

Some say that in the age of social media, direct response marketing is dead or dying. While I agree that DRM is changing, let me proclaim loudly:

They are wrong. In fact, if done right, DRM can still be a very important piece to your overall marketing strategy.

An Intrepid client just sent out the first of a four-piece direct mail campaign. We are launching a new restaurant, and trying to build awareness of the new joint in surrounding neighborhoods.

To have a successful program, you need THREE things: a compelling message, an easy call-to-action, and a good targeted mailing list. That’s it!

That said, you have to do a lot of work to be sure you achieve all three things. And even then, there are no guarantees. On the FuegoMundo piece (shown above) we simply let people know a new place was coming soon, and that to learn more about it and to receive discounts and promotions – all they had to do was sign-up to join our e-newsletter. Simple.

The response exceeded our expectations! Now, there was nothing exceptional or frankly, unique, about our mailer. But it was simple – and the call to action was clear and easy. And our mailing list was carefully put together. It was sent to precisely who we believe our target audience to be.

I will admit, it was gratifying to see this response. Not because it proved to me that this restaurant concept has a great chance of succeeding. But more importantly, that direct response can still work – if you practice the fundamentals.

What about you? What does direct mail have to offer you for you to take some sort of action?

Be Intrepid.

j j j

Mona Lisa Might Have Been An Innovative Marketer

fuegomundo-logo-revision-38The key to a successful marketing campaign is one that changes the status quo – changes customer behavior – and stands out in the marketplace. Or in other words, innovative.

I have a client that is opening a new restaurant. I am on the team in a marketing capacity – helping them put together a program to reach, interact, and build community with our targeted customer profile. It’s going to be a lot of fun. And an exciting challenge!

Today I wanted to share an innovative marketing idea by my client. I think it rocks. And it is up to me to help make something happen with it! I am calling it our Marketing by Mona Lisa strategy.

They are about to begin construction on the place – and from what I’ve seen of the initial interior design plans – it is going to be a cool & hip environment to have a memorable meal.

But here is where my client is being clever. To add to the uniqueness of the interior design – she is dedicating an entire wall in the establishment to hang artwork by locals artists. And she plans to rotate a new artist and new art once a month.

I think this is really cool – innovative – and full of possibilities.

Why? Well, not for the reason that might immediately come to mind. Yeah, it will be neat to have unique artwork hanging in the place – not the “typical” stuff you might see in a restaurant like this – but artwork from some unique and engaging personalities – whose art will undoubtedly add style and pop to the look and feel.

But this is where I think it is brilliant and innovative:

These artists will want to promote this. They will promote the showing on their Facebook page, MySpace page, Twitter, etc. They will blog about it. They will inform their friends and fans – they will ask their friends, fans, and family to visit the place. This will bring a whole new community of patrons to the place – without really costing us. These artists will become an adjunct marketing team.

And here is what we will do in return:

1. On opening night of the new artist’s exhibit, we will comp a table for the artist to invite their friends & family to have dinner on us. Give the artist a chance to celebrate the new showing with their closest friends [and newest customers of the restaurant!]

1.5 As part of the unique style and design of the place, there will be a large community table that will seat at least 12. This is the table we will comp to the artist and their crew…

2. We will also promote this with our social media tools, such as here.

3. We will write posts about it on our restaurant blog – that will ultimately be found here.

4. We will use the opportunities in a coordinated PR strategy – with the local food section – the people section – the art & style section – whatever “section” of the local paper that might be interested.

5. We might even incorporate this into a precisely targeted direct response campaign.

This strategy should bring in new customers – and once they enjoy the customer experience of the environment AND good food at a good value – they will keep coming back.

I applaud my client for having the foresight to conceive and implement this innovative concept. It is up to me – as their marketing consultant – to take full advantage of the opportunity.

The lesson for you is to be different with your marketing. Think outside-the-box. Think innovative. But then execute. Apply the lessons here to your business. As Seth Godin says, the ideas are in you. Let them come out!

What unique edge can you give yourself to help your business stand out from others?

Be Intrepid.

j j j

10 Questions You Better Ask Your Customer

[NEW! Join this FREE mailing list, and receive DAILY customer service tips DIRECT to your inbox!]

[UPDATE: here is my latest post on the topic, 33 Questions To Ask Your Customer]

Have you noticed that some businesses need reminding that marketing is the art and science of getting and KEEPING profitable customers?

They always seem to forget the “keeping” part…

We are always reminded that getting new business from existing clients is less expensive than finding new customers.

In a blog post from the other day, I suggested a tactic one could do right away to kick off your 2009 marketing – mailing a survey to your existing customers. I want to expand on that idea here.

The survey piece could come in many forms, whether it is a comprehensive survey form that is completed and mailed back, a simple letter inviting responses via email, questions that are answered via the phone, or an online survey. Whatever the format, demonstrating that you care about your customer’s inputs is important – whether they take you up on it or not. But you know as well as I that a dialog generated by the mailer can ultimately lead to new business.

Here are some questions to include in your survey:
1. Ask how their business is going. Show that you care.

2. Find out what their biggest problem is. Identify what is holding them back most.

3. Since they are an existing customer, they have purchased from you. Sincerely ask if your product or service is benefiting them.

4. If your product or service isn’t living up to their expectations, find out how it is falling short (and do something about it).

5. Ask for new ways to improve your customer service. Things like response time, tech support, billing, front desk etiquette, etc.

6. Ask if there are other products or services on the market that intrigue them.

7. Does our product or service fit comfortably into next year’s plans? How can we modify it to continue serving you well?

8. Share ideas on ways to improve on our products or services. Use these answers to identify new ways to cross-sell and develop new offerings.

9. Suggest ways we can improve our communication flow. Blog? E-zines? Monthly reports via mail or email? Other social media tools?

Finally, ask for time to discuss these issues with your customer. Use this time to serve and provide solutions.

At the end of the day, this exercise of reaching out to your customers is just great customer service – service being the key word here. If you take great pains to SERVE your client, they will always be appreciative. And you will find that even if they are not pleased with a particular application of your product or service, the act of understanding how you can IMPROVE that customer experience will go a long way towards them remaining as your customer.

Customer satisfaction isn’t enough anymore. Customer DELIGHT is. And this tactic can help you begin to achieve that. Let me know of other ways you have achieved the same, or other questions to ask of your customer!

[NEW! Join this FREE mailing list, and receive DAILY customer service tips DIRECT to your inbox!]

j j j

3 Things You Can Do NOW To Be Intrepid Marketers

I wonder why some people are so afraid to market their business.

They say they want new customers – they say that want more revenue – they say they are worried about the impact of the economy. But they don’t take decisive action to do anything about it.

I think most of them are dealing with fear – or they are procrastinators – or they don’t have a plan in place to proceed. A fear of failing holds way too many people back from bold action.

I have resolved to JUST DO IT in 2009 – to just DECIDE to take action – to mercilessly kill any evidence of procrastination.

Yes, even I hate to admit – I too sometimes get snagged by procrastination. And it really stresses me out when I catch myself doing it. The only way to fight it? Take action. Smart action, of course, but action nonetheless.

When it comes to boldly marketing your business – here are three things you can do RIGHT NOW:

1. If you haven’t already done so, get active on social media. Start a company blog, get on Twitter, create a company Facebook page. They are free and can be set up in minutes. They are not all time-consuming, and they are a great way to promote your business, build your brand, and make new relationships.

2. Start a direct response campaign to find new customers. Assuming your have your niche target market defined and your marketing message secured, there is no reason not to do a campaign right now. If you have a good product or service, get it out there so that you can help new people. But get out in front – don’t assume your competitors will remain stuck in the goo. Be first in 2009!

3. Send out a survey mailer to your existing customers. Show you care, ask what they need, ask what their current problems are, ask how you can serve them better. [this can be done electronically too - and another reason to get active on social media] Your customers will appreciate the outreach. This will help differentiate you. This will generate action and conversation that will result in cross-sell opportunities AND serve your existing customers.

Well, there are three things you can start working on TODAY. Motion creates emotion. And that first step is the hardest. Choose to take bold, intrepid action in 2009. Good luck!

Todd Schnick. Be Intrepid. www.intrepid-llc.com

j j j

Remove Head From Arse – Adapt and Execute!

Last week I wrote about keeping your marketing strategy simple and flexible (http://intrepid-llc.com/2008/12/16/keep-your-marketing-plan-flexible/).  And I recently wrote on the core elements of your marketing plan (http://intrepid-llc.com/2008/11/23/the-clock-is-ticking-on-2009and-fast-7-steps-to-build-your-intrepid-marketing-plan-today/).

Today I am making a year-end appeal to not only take this process seriously – but to take action.

Assuming you are a small to medium sized business – or an entrepreneur serving all capacities from sales to management to production – you don’t really need me to tell you a marketing plan is essential.

Not because you should have an “on paper” strategy to get and keep profitable customers.  You do.

But as a small to medium-sized business, you have a distinct advantage over the large companies – you are small and nimble and can quickly adapt in this environment.

This is actually exciting!  This is actually a great opportunity!  But ONLY if you get your head out of your fanny and take advantage.

Social media allows you to – cost effectively – build community and convey value and expertise.  Follow that up with a properly-messaged and executed direct response campaign – and you can bring home the prospects you need to build a growth enterprise.

Every day I talk to small business people – most of whom are on edge about the economic environment.  They are nervous about tightening budgets – and they are allowing this fear to paralyze them.

Change your paradigm now. Deep down you know what you do best – and you know who your target market is.  The two hardest things you need to do are adjust (which you can do quickly) and execute (which you can do by just starting).

You know, it is easier than I thought.  So get to it!

j j j

Social Media Verses Traditional Marketing – Daily e-Journal

Old verses New?  New Age verses Old School?  The more things change the more things stay the same? 

If you ask people in marketing whether there is a difference between social media and traditional marketing, you are likely to get different opinions.  And that’s ok.  But keep an eye out on the blogs – cuz this debate will be written about often.

But when my clients ask me about a difference between the two, I say that they are the same, but different.

How are they the same?  For one thing, there really is no difference between interacting with “friends” on Facebook or “followers” on Twitter than interacting with guests at your local Chamber networking event.  You are making relationships, gaining referral sources, and building a community of friends with the long-term intention of helping each other out.  They are both “networking” – one of them is just on-line.

But there is a difference between social media and direct response marketing.  One is networking, but the other is soliciting a direct response from a prospect to take further action, whether that is a sale or seeking more information.  You don’t – and shouldn’t seek to – make hard sales pitches at networking functions.  (You know what I mean – when someone on Facebook is constantly making comments about their products and services - it is annoying).

The point?  Social media is here to stay, and you are a fool to not get on board.  But you are also a foolish to abandon traditional marketing tactics – they aren’t going anywhere.  And if done right, still very effective.  The key is integrating all these tactical tools into your overall marketing plan.

I continue to be amazed at how much traffic is driven to my blog from sources such as Twitter and Facebook.  But I also continue to be pleased with the response I get from direct response.  They are different tactics, but achieving the same goal – building a list of qualified prospects and growing a list of referral partners.

Your customers and prospects all make buying decisions differently.  And employing different tactics may help you cast a wider net to effectively reach everyone in your target niche market.  It’s like using a complete tool box verses fixing every problem with a hammer.

Social media and traditional marketing shouldn’t be a choice of one or the other.  Integrating them is the key to success.  Good luck!

Todd Schnick.  Be Intrepid.

j j j