Category Archives: marketing

Fairy Godmother of Marketing

For the past few weeks I have been playing a “Fairy Godmother of Marketing”. There are so many small business owners that are good at what they do, but their branding and marketing efforts do not reflect their talent (see previous post for examples).

 

So, with no ulterior motive (okay, maybe I was in the holiday spirit…) I began offering free advice. This has sparked my newest project.

 

Beginning January 1, 2009 I’ll be launching a new challenge, My Marketing Needs Help. It’ll be for small businesses that need assistance with their marketing – online, print, media, etc.

 

People will be able to nominate themselves and/or other businesses that can use some help. I’ll be choosing three winners for a complete marketing makeover.

 

Also, cafe30.com will be devoting the next 6 weeks to basic marketing tips. So, even if you’re not a winner you can get some guidance.

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

Five Marketing Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

Unprofessional materials. This includes everything from business cards on the wrong paper stock to brochures printed on regular copier paper to poorly designed websites. With so many affordable options there really is no excuse.

 

Typos. It will get your resume filed in the trash and it will do the same for your business’ reputation. Hire a proofreader, or at the least get an English-savvy friend to review your writing.

 

Poor phone etiquette. No one wants to call a business and here “Hello.” Maybe “Hello, thank you for calling…”, but not just “Hello.” And we especially don’t want to hear your child answer the phone. If you are running a home-based business, invest in distinguished ring. It’s only a couple of dollars and when the phone rings you’ll know it’s a business call. Plus, you can train your kids not to answer the double ring.

 

Inconsistent message. If your messaging is based on newly designed technology, your CEO should not show up to the pitch meeting with a mobile phone circa 1988.

 

Disregard the customer experience. Your excellent product will not bring loyal customers if the person that answers the phone is rude, orders arrive late or people don’t feel appreciated. A great experience is just as important as a great product.

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

Emails I Read Daily

Vital Juice This is a well-designed email that offers nuggets of health information. It’s not overwhelming, takes a couple of minutes to read, and serves as a daily reminder to live healthy.

 

Ad Age The online version of Advertising Age, this is a compilation of news and opinions. I get a dose of daily news and links to some of my favorite bloggers (check out The Big Tent) in the same email.

 

Daily Candy We all need a little sweetness in our life. Whether it’s an announcement about a new spa opening, a great event coming up or a new product hitting the market, Daily Candy is a great source for “in the know” information. It gives me a break from the “serious” things that try to take over my day and it constantly adds things to my “I WANT THAT” list.

 

HARO (Help A Reporter Out)  I think of HARO as the media matchmaker. Journalists post their source requests and they get responses that are on target! The bonus is that members of the email list are from a variety of industries and backgrounds, not just the traditional media machine.

 

Which are your favorite and why?

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

The Yard Sale Wagon

The “doom and gloom” message of the economy is not helping your marketing campaign. At best, it’s getting lost among the many other products and services using the same message. At worst, it’s just annoying (I received 9 e-mails today with recession specials…).

 

Clients and consumers with a strapped cash flow want to feel like they are getting the best possible product or service for their money. Most people feel this way, even if they have plenty of disposable income!

 

They want to feel like they are purchasing a viable product or service from a viable company, not a yard sale. They want to know if they need further assistance a month or a year from now, you’ll be there to provide it. They want to know that they are getting a premium product, and that the price is reasonable.

 

Instead of jumping on the yard sale wagon, why not accentuate the positive? Tell your current and potential customers what is so great about your product or service. Show them ways that you can help them function more efficiently.

 

Instead of focusing mainly on price, why not focus on the value you add? When price comes up, go into the discussion with all of the information you need to explain why you are worth the quoted price. Negotiations may be inevitable, but price shouldn’t be the door-opener. It should be your great product/service.

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

The Upside of Less

A smaller budget means streamlining our annual marketing plan, using creative strategies to reach our target audience, and closely monitoring how we spend our travel dollars.

 

Downsizing our homes means less to clean, smaller energy bills and less furniture to buy.

 

Wearing less jewelry means the signature pieces will truly stand out.

 

Whether in our professional or personal life, now is an optimum time to evaluate our systems and lifestyles, cut out the slack and be more productive.

 

Efficiency, it’s the Upside of Less.

The Addiction to Twitter

After a few weeks as a Twitterite I will admit, I’m addicted. And for once (okay, maybe twice, because I actually don’t mind the shopping thing…), I am okay with it.

 

My Twitter experience started with my inherent need to be knowledgeable about all things marketing. Articles kept popping up, people I respect sang its praises and so I thought, “Why not?”.

 

Well, now I get it. Twitter is great for many reasons, but here’s my top five:

 

  1. It’s like an AP Wire for those of us not in a newsroom. I follow ABC, NPR & ESPN, to name a few. So, when something happens I know right away. And the news is given to me in 140 characters or less! (Once you join Twitter you can decide whom you want to follow. The updates of these Twitterites then show up on your homepage.).
  2. It feeds my need to be knowledgeable about all things marketing. Twitterites are a diverse group. Many tweet links to very interesting articles, etc. that I would probably not find on my own. It’s not just, “I had a salad for dinner and now I’m going to bed” tweets.
  3. I can tweet about what I’m doing, offer food for thought (i.e. Great marketing does not supersede poor customer service.), or forward links to things I think are interesting.  
  4. The 140 character limit forces me to write succinctly.
  5. It’s kinda cool to see what other people do all day.

Yes, this is my list, but let me know your thoughts. I’m sure I’m not by myself…

 

Towanda Long aka mscafe

(my name on Twitter in case you want to follow me)

 

 

Using the Skills of Your PR Agency

I’ve been debating with a few of my colleagues (not PR professionals) about measuring the effectiveness of a PR agency. My colleagues think media placements are the best way to measure results. I disagree.

PR Agencies are so much more than pitching vehicles for mass and trade media. It is their job to develop and implement a plan that builds a positive relationship with the public. The goal of this relationship is normally to foster goodwill in the office and in the community, to attract clients and to fuel an overall positive perception.

There are many tools a PR Firm can use to do this. Of course, media placements are on the list, but it’s not the only thing. There’s speaking engagements, employee communications, white papers, social media initiatives, sponsorships and the list goes on.

If you are only using your agency for media hits, you are leaving one of your best resources untapped. It’s like going to an accountant once a year for your taxes, but not using him/her for financial and business advice. It just doesn’t make sense.

This is how I think their effectiveness should be measured. What were our sore spots a year ago? Have their initiatives addressed these? Has our image been improved in the marketplace and with our employees? If so, how much so?

These answers tell us if our agency is the right fit. After all, does it really matter how many times we were quoted in the press if our image is the same and we have the same sore spots?

Towanda Long aka Mscafe

(I’m twittering now and mscafe was available, therefore my new alias…)

It’s The Experience

People like experiences. When they go to a restaurant they want good food AND great service. But, they will pay even more for ambiance and to feel special (think The Melting Pot).

 

When people go to a hair salon they want a style that is flattering. But they will pay extra if the salon offers perks (i.e. soothing music and an extra five minute scalp massage).

 

Think about the experience your clients have when they interact with you and your products/services. Then think about how you can make it better.

 

You’ll not only have satisfied customers, you’ll have brand loyalists. People like a brand because they know and like the experience that comes with it. And they’ll talk about it if that experience makes them feel special.

 

Towanda Long aka The Café Lady

 

Hurry Up and Wait

The other night I was shopping when a cashier gave the twenty-minute warning. You know the “XYZ store will be closing in 20 minutes. Please bring your final selections to the register” warning.

 

This sounds like a reasonable request, right? Yeah, I thought so, too. That was until I got to the checkout area.

 

First of all, there was only ONE register open, but there were FOUR employees organizing merchandise on the floor. Okay, do they not see the long line wrapped around the magazines? Do they not see the customers looking at them like “WTF, open a register already.” Is there a reason no one can open another register?

 

Secondly, why does the cashier keep making those announcements every five minutes? Why is she rushing customers to get in line? Her line is already too long and the other employees are STILL organizing the floor… I mean it’s only been 10 minutes, but who’s counting?

 

And lastly, since when did it become more important to clean up the store than to service the customers? I mean really, can you fold those t-shirts when the line gets a little shorter?

 

Here’s the lesson. If you’re going to spend your time, money and energy designing a great store environment and marketing your products, take the time to provide a great shopping experience. And this experience includes everything – from the time your customers enter the store until the time they get in the checkout line until they leave your parking lot and carry your products home. And no one likes to hurry up and wait.

 

Towanda Long aka The Café Lady

What Does Your Follow-Up Say?

A few weeks ago I worked a tradeshow exhibit booth at a convention. While taking my afternoon stroll around the exhibit area (mostly to check out the competition and to find inspiring ideas) I chatted with a possible vendor that was also exhibiting.

 

Her business was a great fit for one of my future marketing projects. I was excited at the possibilities and gave her my contact information. She was to follow-up with me after the show to schedule a meeting.

 

When I hadn’t heard from her in two weeks I figured she must have forgotten about me. I considered calling her, but never got around to it. Over four weeks later she contacted me, but my excitement was gone.

 

Why? Because a call within a week says, “I am on top of my business and I look forward to working with you.” A call within two weeks says, “I am an efficient business person, but not overbearing.”

 

But four weeks? That makes me ask questions. Can I trust her to respond in a timely manner? Will she value my business? Will my products arrive on time? Will she call me with updates? Is she on top of her business details?

 

I’ll still consider a meeting, but my enthusiasm to work with her is gone. Her follow-up has shown me some unflattering things, and she has to overcome that.

 

What does your follow-up say about you?

 

Towanda Long aka The Café Lady