Marketing 101: The Essentials

You have the business plan, the cool product or killer service. You’ve figured out your business model, your three core strengths. And you’ve got a phone (goes-without-typing essential) you’d love to be ringing off the hook with folks wanting to give you large piles of cashy money.

Next step: tackle that Marketing P known as Promotion. Or not.

I did an ad layout for an Atlanta small biz, and what hit me were the missing pieces I had to find for a basic print ad. Customers may not notice or comment when you have it, but they will notice if you don’t.

Things you can’t NOT have to market your business

someecards.com - Thanks for assuming the corporate logo on my shirt was a ketchup stain Identity. It all starts here. A basic logo, some stylized treatment of the name that wasn’t created in PowerPoint with 10-year-old clip art.

It’s how you “brand” so do it.. just not comic sans. (Designers joke.) That investment shows you mean business, on your “still gotta have them” business cards, print materials, free coffee mugs and this newfangled thingy called the Internet.

Website. First, a counter argument. Rare is the business that with the right product (booze) and right location (intersection shopping center) can do fine and dandy, sans website. I was told, license to print money. True ‘nugh.. and EXCEPTION.

Well what about Facebook?” whines the small business owner. Sigh. Are your customers active on FB or your own site or forums elsewhere? People are social creatures, the trick is finding where.

That said, your website is where YOU have control, a way to tell your story, where people can contact you with your ‘branded’ email. Domains are cheap, WordPress is free, websites still matter.

Images. Can you imagine visiting a website, flipping through a brochure or scanning a magazine without them? Bor-ing! Photos and videos breath life into marketing because they humanize your business.

If your product or service is your custom work, hire a professional for eye catching images. It’s an investment that will pay for itself every time you run an ad, share them on your website and Facebook page, submit them to a magazine for big, fat “free” publicity.

If you’re a reseller or installer, look to your vendors and co-op some marketing, use their product photos. When it’s a “generic” business without need anything custom, there are plenty of royalty-free houses for professional photos; for SMBs on a budget I’ve got two words: iStock account.

Story. Talk to your customers, talk with your employees, your vendors; hone your elevator pitch. You want that great website, that “free” double-page spread in the local living magazine think story, not sales.

Beyond talking points, ass-numbing bullets, your small business has a tale to tell. If you don’t know who and what you are, you’re in big trouble. What you do, how you help others, where, when, why do you offer extra services? W’s are right there, waiting for your answers to tell that story.

What’s another “can’t afford to skimp on” marketing essential?

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That which we call a rose: What’s in a brand?

Big names like AT&T, VW, Kia and more spent millions to produce and air the best promotions they could for the Super Bowl. For the sake of the brand.

What is a brand name?

Define brand” can call up a ton of answers. Run it through Google and you’ll more than a few gagillion hits of blogs defining what “brand” means.

There is the brand and what it represents. Strong brands transcend their products and services. Two of my, everyone’s favorite examples of the brand promise are Apple and Disney.

Apple isn’t just about computers, smartphones and MP3 players. The Apple brand stands for elegant design, intuitive functionality, cool gadgets and so much more.

Walt Disney World doesn’t sell hotel rooms, meals and roller coaster rides. It’s about magic and family, those moments that stay with you. It’s about the experience that you want to relive each generation.

Transformers: from a brand to more, or less

More than a name. So-called genericide is when a brand name becomes the generic term for their industry, product. Kleenex, Zipper, Xerox, the marketing texts are filled with examples. Here in Atlanta, all sodas are Cokes; to me at least.

FedEx has become a verb to ship, to Photoshop is to assault unsuspecting pictures with strutting Leo photobombs, to Google IS to search, period.

When brand becomes a punch line. Valeria Maltoni referenced an old video about what would happen if Microsoft packaged and marketed the iPod. Had never seen it and all I can say is truth really IS funnier, smarter, truer, stranger than fiction. LMAO.

Two tweets caught me eye last week:

Right now, you don’t want your brand to be the Kenneth Cole of anything. UPDATE: You can add Groupon to the bad branding list, per their Super Bowl ads.

Your small business brand matters.

You’re the local choice, the Atlanta option. The “big names” may have size and awareness, you have adaptability, flexibility and drive. You’re the neighbor, the friend, the one with a relationship who gets their needs. Your brand is what what helps make your business different.

Agree, disagree, have a brand joke to share? Please do.

Photo credit: these unmotivational posters always crack me up.

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Super Sunday: Are you ready for some… Advertising!

Super Bowl Sunday is big money. Parties, hotels big boon for the hosting city, with Dallas owner Jerry Jones hoping for a record-setting crowd. But who cares about the game?

Advertising hits the major leagues, big time global brands promoting their names and products to billions around the world. When it’s over there will be winners, losers, consumers replaying their favorites on YouTube to their heart’s content.

One size fits all.

No point in promoting a niche product, a service that only 1 in 10 people can use. That’s not the demographic. At up to $100K per second, Super Bowl advertisers need to hawk their wares to anyone with a wallet. Think drinks, foods, toiler paper. Shit EVERYONE buys and uses.

Boring is a fumble, funny brings it to the house.

The crap you zap on your DVR needs to stay on the bench. Potato chips, beer, know how to get in the game. Think SportsCenter and Anheuser-Busch, Dos Equis as beer commercials bring the funny. Who will be this year’s Betty White? I’ve heard the rumors, but please no Bieber.

A Super Bowl Sunday Poll.

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Keep it simple, stupid.

Apple made an impression with the famous 1984 ad but it’s 2011. Beer-sotted sports fans and party goers don’t want to think too hard, so ads that dish it right over the plate – to mix my sports metaphors – hit the home run.

Monday morning takeaways for small business:

Ready, aim, target. If you’re a niche business, forget pricey print ads in the major daily paper. Think small, local or direct marketing to your referral network.

Stay in the game. Creativity always works. Make your blog posts, videos, ads something people want to read, watch and share.

Forget the trick plays. Don’t outthink yourself or fall for a new, shiny object. Stick with what works, forget what doesn’t and look to the new tools to make the old ones work better. And vice versa.

Feel free to share your favorite ads in the comments on Monday, and please vote in the poll.

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The GAP in the PR vs. Sales Game: The Buyers decide

Will the GAP logo, old or new, make you buy their clothes? NO. That’s what came out in the comments on Spin Sucks post about the GAP crowdsourcing their logo.

A logo–new or old, loved or hated–probably won’t move the sales needle all by itself. It’s about what the logo represents, the brand and its products and services. BTW The people–buyers, bloggers and other snarkers–have spoken. The GAP has gone back to the old logo.

Social media and marketing case studies, dime a dozen.

But I wonder how many people bought a Ford just because of talking with Scott Monty or reading a blog promoting the virtues of the Focus or Fiesta. I’m sure they’re out there, just asking.

There’s a disconnect between PR and Publicity as related to Marketing and Sales. Solution: bring PR into the board room, not as afterthought and have a plan for the publicity and how to turn it back into the marketing program for leads and sales.

Brand loyalty is one thing, personal tastes and preferences another.

I could develop a great relationship with a Dell blogger and Best Buy tweeter. I could read all the blogs, stories and articles about how Microsoft and the Gates Foundation is helping folks around the world. I can hear all the news about how Pepsi may spend $20 million on community service and Yay! for them but the fact remains:

  • You can lead me to water, but you cannot make me buy a PC; I’m sticking with my Mac, even if Apple makes a hideous new logo.
  • If it’s Pepsi on the menu, I order tea or water. I’m a Coke Classic drinker.. unless they try some crappy new formula again.

It comes down to social media marketing strategy.

Are increased sales the ultimate objective? Is it brand worth and value, higher stock prices? Are you rearranging deck chairs with a shiny new logo, but not fixing the product or services? Are you targeting the right people with your viral campaign and increased brand chatter?

The GAP doesn’t make clothes my size, so they didn’t win or lose my business with their recent changes. But the GAP did get me talking about them, and that’s something right?

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You’ve come a long way baby. Or Not.

Gini Dietrich just did a wonderful post on women and equality in the workplace. All about how both genders need to step up to the professionalism, close those gaps. Then there’s this.

The Crime: Summer’s Eve tells women the way to close that pay gap, get that raise is … to douche.

Summer’s Eve placed this ad in Woman’s Day, entitled “How to Ask for a Raise.” Designed as a “how-to,” the ad’s step-by-step solution included douching.

AdRants took the contrarian view, not caring for the ad or the fallout (see below) but also not liking the double standards of being able to tell women how to dress, what jewelry to wear.. but going below the waist was too taboo. In my comment I admitted to be torn.

• It’s not just that “down there” girlie products give folks the willies.

Stand in a room with mixed audience, the second that ED (as in Erectile Disfunction, as in underperforming man parts) commercial appears, things get quiet. You can count the seconds until someone makes a Viagra joke, too hard to ignore truckload of awkward just walked into the room.

• It’s not that I challenge the advertising of such products.

They sell hygiene and market it as personal confidence, which is well and good. But equating job performance, merit, and fair pay with “good” feminine hygiene is just a boatload of fail.

The Accuser: Blog unleashes the dogs of sarcasm, launches awareness campaign.

Social media will call your crap. The Daily Kos rant on the ad was pretty funny and spot on. My favorite part of the rant, the challenge to Tip 7 of the ad: “Don’t make it personal.” You shouldn’t get personal, but get close enough to the boss that she can smell your undies or vagina.

The post also encouraged those displeased with the ad to let their voices be heard by TPTB at Summer’s Eve and Woman’s Day, and was reblogged by several other media outlets and blogs.

Feminist blog post for another day:

Woman’s Day and their decision to run this ad as is. Will go along with a rant on ABC and FOX denying ads on plus-size ladies’ undergarments because they were too offensive to the sensitive viewers of such shy, conservative programming as Dancing with the Stars and American Idol.

The Plea: “Our bad.” How Summer’s Eve is dealing with this.

Good.

  • Replying to blog posts.
  • Making an apology, correcting the mistake by removing the ad.
  • Including contact info in some of the posts, being open to engagement.

Bad.

  • Same the blanket statement everywhere. Social media is about engaging with the audience. So the same comment on AdRants, which challenged the Daily Kos piece, doesn’t work for me.
  • Not sure apology is enough. Pulling the ad, saying your sorry because you didn’t “make the connection” is weak. It’s like they are sorry they got caught, not that they stole.
  • The excuse: They didn’t see the offense? Did they look (focus group, panel test)? That is an even bigger problem IMO. Massive marketing fail.

Yes I have issues with marketing things to women sometimes; I did a mini-call out on the laundry detergent ads, not stopping there.

The Verdict: As a woman I found this ad mostly stupid, but still fairly offensive. As a marketer and Solo PR, I found it criminal. Thoughts?

Photo credit: Jezebel and Daily Kos.

Atlanta Public Relations, Marketing and Social Media

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