Thursday, July 27, 2006

Time = Valuable: 10 Seconds & 1 Second to Get to the Point

Time is Valuable
Your time is valuable - you don't like people to waste it.

Your customers' time is valuable. They don't want you to waste it. If you were selling face to face, you wouldn't dream of being late to your sales appointment, right?

Same thing when it comes to marketing.

Problems of Creating Your Own Ads
Most small business owners create their own ads and marketing collateral. Unfortunately, what most of them do is create ads and collateral that reflect their homespun ways.

The result? A lot of wasted money - and, possibly, frustration at lack of results. Lack of results can be particularly harmful if the business is in a competitive industry.

How can a small business owner create ads that are effective and not waste valuable marketing budgets?

Simple Guidelines for Creating More Effective Ads
Marketing 101 says that you have 30 seconds to capture a person's attention and advertise your product or service.

Take that 101 guideline and toss it out. In this hyper Internet Age, 30 seconds is too long. No one pays attention for 30 seconds.

The new guideline is this:
  • 10 seconds to capture a person's attention via TV commercial or face to face
  • 1 second to capture a person's attention via postcard, flyer, etc.
Sounds scary? It should be. But this is reality. Ad clutter is everywhere. Marketers and advertisers are vying for the newest ways to advertise. In a future post, there will be more discussion on ad clutter.

But, don't cry though - there's hope.

How to Capture Attention & Get to the Point
Getting through ad clutter is the challenge of every marketer. Before you go out and spend your valuable marketing/advertising budget, plan your strategy and message first!
  1. Determine your product and your market - write it down, carve it in stone! You will need to refer back to this.
  2. Write down what message you want to get across - you will need to refer back to this.
  3. Write down what action you want your audience to take - you will need to refer back to this.
  4. Write down why your audience will want to take this action - this is the HOOK!
  5. Put #1-4 together and play with it - look for the hook.
  6. Remember - for face to face, TV, or other active/animated medium, you have about 10 seconds or less to hook them.
  7. Remember - you have 1 to 2 seconds to capture attention by printed flyer, postcard, or other printed material. Bright colors, big images, etc.
  8. Quickly Get to the Point! Use FEW words! Short sentences. Less is better!
  9. Present any information your audience needs to take the action you want: call, visit the website, email, time, date, place, etc.
Planning out your advertising is important for managing your precious marketing budget. As a small business, you need to get more bang for your buck. These 9 steps will guide you to do more homework and planning first - before tapping into your budget.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Myspace Advertising & Promotion: Is It for You?

If you have been paying attention to the media recently, Myspace has been all the rage. For both good and bad, Myspace has been gaining tremendous exposure.

On one hand, Myspace has been exposed as a vulnerable marketplace for pedophiles. Stories abound about Myspace encounters between pedophiles and children that, in some instances, had tragic results. Here are some dangers with children using Myspace. Also here and here.

On the other hand, Myspace has been tauted by the online marketing and advertising industry as a god-send. In particular, advertisers and marketers salivate over the access to the coveted teen and young twenties crowd. Here and here are examples of the marketing industry's exploration of using Myspace for ads. And of course it helps when Myspace is rated the #1 website in the US.

But the question stands: is Myspace a valid advertising or promotion place for your business?

There are plenty of individuals who use Myspace as a place to promote their business. Many prolific Myspace promoters are MLM/Network Marketers. Others include realtors, loan officers, and other small business entrepreneurs.

The most visible "businesses" are entertainers. Models, musicians, designers, and others able to display their creative work on their profile. In fact Myspace originally was created to help promote indie bands and musicians.

But the interesting thing about Myspace is that many others are starting to use Myspace as well. Politics is one "industry" getting involved with Myspace. Here and here are examples of politics working with Myspace.

Entertainers, aggressive entrepreneurs, and even politicians are using the site. The social network, the social culture and the "Myspace ecosystem" offers appealing numbers and infrastructure.

So, is Myspace for your business? It's really up to you. Do news reports of Myspace as a predator paradise deter you? Or do the benefits of reaching all those users outweigh the risks?

My personal opinion is that unless you fall into an entertainment industry or offer consumer products that the youth demographic REALLY wants (cellphones, clothing, shoes, accessories, etc.) then don't bother.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Cool Businesses: Rubber Side Walks

This is a new thing I'll be doing on this blog. I call it "Cool Businesses" because I would like to highlight some businesses or sites that really captures my attention, my values, or my imagination.

I'm going to start off with this company called Rubbersidewalks, Inc. I found them through a recent news article.

What the company does is create and market rubber sidewalk panels to replace concrete sidewalks. The rubber sidewalks use recycled car tires. These panels provide a more resilient sidewalk compared to concrete. It is more expensive to install but lasts longer and requires less maintenance than concrete sidewalks.

Like much of what I term "green technology", the costs upfront are higher but long-term savings reduce the lifetime cost of the green technology compared to conventional technology.

These panels lasts better in cold climates between the freeze and thaw temperatures. The softer padding are also said to be better for people's feet and back. I personally would like to run on a stretch of these panels.

But I like the company because it illustrates what is possible with green technology. I am convinced the US MUST take the charge on cutting edge green technology to sustain itself in the future. Eventually, industrialized and developed nations will need to turn to alternative energy and use recycled materials. The US should be at the head of all of that technology and sell it to these nations.

Regardless, I applaud Rubbersidewalks for their work on improving, advancing, and marketing green technology!

Information as a Concierge Service

Think of the term concierge and you probably think of a hotel, luxury, and at demand service. The term has really grown to encompass the idea of extra customer service.

In the real estate industry, concierge has come to mean a selection of home improvement, home repair, and home maintenance services - usually preferred vendors that homeowners can select or request their realtor to find and provide.

The real estate industry illustrates how concierge can be broadened to mean extra or even premium customer service. Which is to say, service the customer, retain the customer, and kill them with customer service.

Likewise, this idea of extra customer service can be applied to information as well. In a previous post, I talked about the virtues of repetition. In the context of information presentation slash information concierge, repetition can be used to service your customers.

Imagine that your customers (or even prospects) are way too busy to remember all the information you want them to remember. (This is probably also the real life case in 99% of your customers) How do you get your customers to do what you want them to do?

The Answer: Pretend you are an information concierge. Attend to them and send them reminders. Present the information right before their face. Lead your customers (and prospects) to take the action YOU want them to take.

As an example, I recently brokered a deal for a contractor friend. He told me he still needed the forms and agreements signed. I said sure, I'll let the client know - send them everything you just told me in an email and I'll be sure that the client gets it and signs it.

The contractor didn't like that and had a problem with it. He felt that everything was in the contract and that it should have been clear. Eventually, the contractor agreed - but what did the contractor fail to see initially?

He failed to see 2 critical things 1) the client is too busy - and made a quick decision and 2) this was an opportunity to engage his customer - the people who are responsible for cutting the check.

What's the lesson? Information concierge is about realizing and assuming that your customer and prospect is too busy for YOUR details. If you have details that are important - take the iniative!

Information concierge is about engaging your customer. The cost of acquiring a customer is higher than retaining one. So once you've acquired once, why not start off right and keep engaging them?

In the case of my contractor friend, all he needed to do was to send a quick email thanking the client for the business, appreciating the opportunity, and that as a reminder, the forms and agreements must be signed before the project begins.

This interaction would have quickly put the contractor in connection with the customer. It is information as a concierge service.

Remember - Information as a Concierge Service:
1) Assume the customer or prospect is too busy
2) Present the important information in a way to LEAD the customer to take the action you want them to take
3) Present the information so that the customer doesn't have to think
4) Engage and engage and engage your customer
5) Repeat yourself and do not hesistate to repeat yourself

Using Repetition for Branding Recall & SEO

Pay attention to the next radio commercial. When they read off a phone number, how many times is it repeated? Now repeat this experiment a few more times and note the repetition pattern.

I personally find radio commercials repeat 3 times. I also find that TV commercials will repeat as well - though in varying ways from radio commercials (naturally - different medium).

Now, one might think radio and commercial are different mediums - but what does that have to do with Internet and SEO?

Well - in years past, SEO was achieved with endless, mindless repetition. Such practice is called keyword stuffing and known to be useless in the major search engines. But, repetition is still important, even in SEO.

When an engine evaluates what your webpage and website is about, it requires enough repetition to understand what your main subject is about. When you do keyword analysis over whether the page you are optimizing is optimized enough, keyword repetition is one of the analysis factors.

So, remember to incorporate repetition into your marketing. Don't repeat slogans or taglines that you think are cute. Repeat ideas, topics, subjects, key points that you want your audience to take away.

Make sure you build repetition and consistent repetition in your website, in your brochures, and throughout all of your marketing material.

Repetitions include text and visual repetitions. Image placement, certain colors, select designs, and others that are part of your marketing should be repeated.

Don't over do the repetition - but don't forget it!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Resources: Updated Free Press Release Websites

Last year, I created a post about free press release sites that lets you submit press releases for free. Many are still free, but some on that list have changed.

Also, free is "free". The ones listed here are free, although you are encouraged to pay for additional services for greater exposure. Is that a good thing? It depends on your goal, the actual newsworthiness of your press release, and of course, your budget!

Try these following sites that I've used with success:
Also, here is a good post from SERountable about the challenges of getting into Google News.