How to use calendar marketing

SpaghettiOsPearlHarbor

When I say “calendar marketing”, I’m talking about using the context of historical events and dates, holidays and current events to spice up your marketing.

Done right, you can briefly tie what you do to the event, date or holiday, have a little fun and perhaps get the attention those about to buy.

Like any tactic, there are right and wrong ways to use it. Like any tactic, there are right and wrong ways to use it – as the SpaghettiOs social media team found out on Pearl Harbor Day.

While social media provides good and bad examples, keep in mind that your efforts in this area can be leveraged in almost any media.

Doing it right

Doing it right involves asking yourself a few questions.

Q: Who will see it?
A: If it’s good enough, everyone. If it’s stupid enough, everyone.

With that in mind:

  • How will you feel if everyone sees it?
  • How will your customers react?
  • What will they be inclined to do?
  • Will it makes things better or worse for your business?

No matter what – Think it through.

Oreo is a good example to watch, but even they slip up now and then:

AMCOreo

How do I know I’m about to do it wrong?

If your thought process is “Let’s use their memory, our logo and wrap them together in the flag in our marketing”, that would be wrong. Stupidly wrong.

This shouldn’t have to be explained to you.

Anyone who isn’t doing this in a strictly robotic fashion has to have this thought process going on:

  • Remembering Pearl Harbor – Good.
  • Slapping your flag-wrapped logo on it – Dumb.

While SpaghettiOs managed to apologize (and delete the earlier tweet), your goal is not to put yourself in this position. Some found it offensive, some stupid or at the least – felt the message could have done without the cheesy brand + flag graphic.

No matter what, it distracted from the reason for the post in the first place – to encourage their customers to take a moment to remember.

SpaghettiOsPearlHarborApology

Numerous major brands have misfired on things like this. In each case, you will see calls for whoever wrote the original tweet to be fired, or for their agency to be fired. That doesn’t make it any better – it just makes a few angry people feel better for a few minutes.

For a small local business, national outrage is unlikely, but you could provoke a local boycott or worse.

Have a “Reason why”

Earlier this week, USA Today had this headline re: Mandela’s death (hat tip to @JSlarve and @SameMeans for catching it):

MandelaUSAToday

The point is not to point out the mistakes that major brands make. Everyone makes mistakes. There are plenty of examples to learn from.

What you need to keep in mind is WHY you are creating this content (doesn’t have to be an ad) in the first place:

  • To honor someone? Fine. Keep your brand and schtick out of it. Stick to the topic. Say what you feel. The old GoDaddy always remembered Veterans Day and the Marine Corps birthday – and you never saw their typically cheesy stuff in those pieces.
  • To be funny? Make sure it really is funny, rather than funny at the cost of some group or individual.
  • To provoke someone to buy – see the prior two and then consider every bit of copywriting experience you have.

Your message has to be focused on that reason – whatever it is.

Connect rather than being just another “Me too!” marketer

Ill-advised content aside, calendar-based marketing is an effective tool when used thoughtfully.

The temptation is to do “Me too” marketing here. Things like a holiday-themed sale on a holiday weekend are not going to stand out in a crowd of me-too sales.

Sometimes connecting national to your business to local works well. For example, you might have Super Bowl-related promotion or event that encourages people to visit/buy and make note that you’ll be passing along a percentage of Super Bowl related promotion/event sales to a local youth athletic program. It doesn’t have to be football and it doesn’t have to be a percentage.

In Columbia Falls MT (pop 4000ish), Timber Creek assisted living facility hosts the Rotary “Brunch with Santa” community Christmas event in their public areas. While no one is selling assisted living that day, hundreds who would never go inside otherwise get to see how nice the place is – planting a seed that might sprout next week or years from now.

Monkey See, Monkey Don’t?

Do you watch other business owners or mentors use techniques, technologies, strategies or tactics successfully – and then not try them in your business?

This isn’t just the domain of new, first time business owners who might be leery of trying something else, much less being swamped enough as it is.

Not long ago, I was sitting in a room with about 250 very successful business owners. Most of them had purchased the right to attend the seminar during a phone seminar or webinar.

While discussing entrepreneurs’ tendency not to stretch themselves (in particular regarding their sales/marketing), one of the speakers asked this question: “Everyone here bought access to this seminar during a phone seminar or webinar, so you know this selling mechanism works. Given that, how many of you use these types of seminars to sell your products?

No more than 20% of the people in the room raised their hand.

Remember, these are not new business owners. Most of them are running seven figure businesses. Yet most of them were not modeling the successful strategies that were working right in front of them – and in this case, strategies that had worked to sell them something.

What’s working right in front of you that you aren’t using?

 

Out of Stock

Quais de Seine, Paris
Creative Commons License photo credit: Zigar

When your store is out of stock on an item…what does your staff do and say?

When I was out of state not long ago, I looked around for a pair of light hikers for everyday wear. I knew exactly what I wanted right down to the model name.

I visited a locally owned store, but they didn’t have my size in stock. A few days later, I visited a box store. They had the shoe on the wall (which is never my size), but they didn’t have any others. They didn’t even have the match to the one on the wall.

As I got into the car in the box store parking lot, I called the locally owned store again just in case they had some new arrivals. Nope.

They offered to order a pair for me, but I told them I was visiting from elsewhere and wouldn’t be around when they arrived.

At this point, they had choices:  Focus on the sale, focus on the customer or try harder.

What’s your focus?

If your sales people are trained to focus on the sale, they might say “Nope, we don’t have any” and be disappointed that they didn’t get a sale. If that’s the end of the conversation, your customer might go elsewhere – losing the sale and the customer.

If your sales people are trained to focus on the customer, they might say “Nope, we don’t have any. Have you looked at (competitor number one) or (competitor number two)? They both carry that brand.

If your sales people are trained to focus on keeping your customers happy, they might say “Nope, we don’t have any. If you come by and let us fit you in a similar shoe in that brand, I can order that model in your size and have it shipped to you. If it doesn’t fit like you want, we’ll take care of you until you’re happy or we’ll give your money back.

What they did was refer me to two of their competitors (one was the store whose parking lot I was in). The second one had my size in stock, so 20 minutes later, I had my shoes and was heading for the in-laws place.

The “try harder” choice might not have been what I wanted, but I wasn’t given a choice. Keep in mind that you can always fall back from the “try harder” position if the customer isn’t interested in or cannot use that kind of help.

The important thing

You might think that the locally owned retailer lost a sale, but that isn’t as important as keeping the customer over the long term.

While I wasn’t able to buy the shoes from the place I wanted, they were able to help me find them.

They could’ve run me off quickly by saying “We don’t have that size.”

They didn’t do that. I suspect their handling of the call was the result of training driven by a management decision.

I wasn’t a familiar voice calling them on the phone. While I’ve bought from their store on and off for 20 years, they don’t know that because they keep paper sales tickets. I’m not there often enough to be a familiar face / voice and had not been in their town for two years.

Yet they treated me like someone they want to come back.

Do you treat your customers that way? Do your online competitors?

Competition from tomorrow?

Sometimes business owners complain about online competition.

Yet online stores can rarely provide instant gratification. It’s difficult for them to help you buy something you need today for a meal, event, dinner, date, meeting or presentation happening later today.

They can rarely deliver the kind of service a local, customer-focused business can offer.

Online often gets a foothold when local service and/or selection are poor and focused on the wrong thing. Even with online pricing, a product isn’t delivered until tomorrow.

When you aren’t competing strongly against tomorrow, you really aren’t even competing against today.

Focus on helping them get what they want and need. Whether they are local or remote, customers just want to be well taken care of and get what they came for.

Groping for opportunity – a gift from the #TSA

Russet
Creative Commons License photo credit: Nicholas_T

Much noise has been made of the mess that has become airport security.

The recent introduction of TSA’s high resolution body scanners and the “pat downs” (formerly known as “getting to second base”) have stirred up a hornet’s nest of grass roots discontent.

As you might expect, there has been much hand-wringing in political circles over the issue.

Attempts have been made to position the changes as part of the political agenda of both parties, but anyone with a brain has watched these changes develop during the recent domain of each.

Flathead Beacon editor Kellyn Brown noted earlier this week that a recent New Yorker blog post revealing editorial cartoons dating back to the 1930’s predicted exactly what we’re seeing today.

You’ll find people on both sides of the aisle that aren’t too happy about the situation…but today’s post isn’t about politics.

It’s about opportunity.

Opportunity? What opportunity?

It’s a chance to say “look at me!” for the thousands of communities that you can visit and have a great time in with your family and/or friends – without getting groped by someone who has worn the same pair of gloves to check the last 42 people through the line.

I’m talking about every town whose hub airport doesn’t have the full body scanners and therefore doesn’t (currently) have the “pat down”.

It’s a silly little thing in some ways, but it’s at the top of the news these days – which is why I bring it up as a tool for your use.

Whether we’re talking about parents with young kids and/or teenagers, or those who aren’t so sure about the conflicting claims of doctors and Federal agencies regarding the radiation the scanners utilize, it’s a sticking point for a lot of folks.

If you want your beds filled, your restaurant tables turning twice as often, or your attraction filled to the gills, how you feel about the scanners and pat downs isn’t nearly as important as how your potential customers feel about them.

Yes, that goes for most things, but in this case, it’s an angle that big city tourism cannot use.

Getting started

So…open a map and a browser and a few airline and train schedules and make a list of the communities that can get to and from your place without encountering the latex glove – and without umpteen changes of planes and airlines.

Just because they can get there with planes, trains and automobiles doesn’t mean they want that kind of hassle.

Next, and this is the part a lot of folks will skip, look at your existing visitor history. I hope you already know this, but if you don’t, you should still have the data.

What are the top three, five, ten (whatever) most-visitors-from cities in your visitor history that are *also* on the list of “no-scan, no-grope” communities?

Do unto others

It’s becoming obvious now: Some cooperative advertising is in the cards.

Can your small town (or not) Chamber and/or tourism board contact theirs? You could do it on your own.

Trade out some tit-for-tat advertising.

For example, their chamber can send an email blast to their members and include an insert in their print newsletter about the fun stuff that you can do in your beautiful area. Your chamber can return the favor.

I hear the objections already. But they won’t cooperate. Or they have fewer members than we do so it isn’t fair.

Horse biscuits.

Chase down those dozen communities, even if you have to approach similar competition in those areas. Each of you have something to gain from adventures such as these.

Who knows, you might even find some synergy that outlasts the TSA ridiculousness and allows you to create an annual program for cross promotion.

It isn’t about egos. It’s about visitors.

Money loves speed

It’s also about speed. You can’t wait 90 days to make this happen.

TSA is top of the news now and on peoples’ minds now, so you must grab the train as it goes by and climb aboard.

Next month or next week, there might be something else you can latch onto. Perhaps what you learn from this exercise will make that effort even more successful.

Finally, you don’t need to wait for someone to make news. You can create your own, but it still requires lots of coordination and low egos to benefit.

Selling The Right Thing

Happy Customer
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ash-rly

A couple of weeks back, I received an email from a website owner asking for one of my OpenLine sessions (which are currently booked about two weeks out).

In essence, the question was “Why aren’t our clients registering for our services?”

The situation required more discussion (in detail, anyhow) than I could cover in 15 minutes, but it also screamed for a blog post – because some of the things their site needs to attend to are core things that all of us need to think about.

It’s a great looking site, but the conversation with their real customers’ core thought process just isn’t there.

The reason for that might not be obvious, especially since the site looks nice and invites you to dive right in to do a search.

Problem is, there’s more than one customer population, and the second isn’t getting much attention on their website.

The site is a service directory, so by nature that means there are going to be at least TWO populations of customers: people wanting to list something in the directory and people wanting to find that something. Maybe more.

Because you might have other ideas, take a look at RentMyChurch.com and comment here if you feel I’ve missed something.

Customer #2?

The churches listed there.

If I’m renting my building to “strangers”, I’ve got a lot of questions.

Most rentals tend to be to church member families or friends of the family and this helps break down a lot of obvious barriers. Even so, many church boards require a vote at a council meeting before a rental is approved.

Now we’re talking about starting to commit to rentals to just about anyone who clicks a link.

At the very least, there’s needs to be a section that addresses all the what-if’s, questions, concerns and risk factors for a church who wants to start renting their facility in this manner. Something that describes the process step by step.

So what else is missing?

Let me put my church lady hat on…

I’d like to see a serious guarantee for the church listing their property/facility. A guarantee needs to make me feel like I’ve got as little as possible (or nothing) to risk and everything to gain, but in this case, the risk reversal just isn’t there. The current guarantee might be reworded this way: “If we don’t do anything for you in an entire year, we’ll do that again for nothing!”  Sounds different when you look at it that way.

Sales objections aren’t addressed. Try to hit them in advance, before you ever hear them from the prospect.

How does RentMyChurch get prospects in my local area to look at the site?

What are common signs I should look for to know I’ve got a good renter? Likewise, what warning signs should I look for?

Do you have sample rental agreements for churches who are just starting to dip their toe in this water.

If I’m a little church in a town of 5000 people, do I pay the same as the Lakewood, North Point or Willow Creek? (all are huge churches)

What about insurance and bonding?

Do you have sample check lists for check-in/check-out?

What paperwork should we need to create a successful rental?

What works and doesn’t work when creating my church’s “bio”?

What about photos? Can you refer me to a good building photographer in my area? (that is a gift, btw)

How do I know what dates are available?

Testimonials – there isn’t a single one from a renter or a church.

Where are the social aspects of a service? The 3 R’s: rankings, referrals and reviews

That’s just a start, but I think you get the idea. These aren’t things to be addressed AFTER the sale, these are things to show up front that show you DESERVE the sale.

Make a case

As we talked about with the compelling discussion the other day, make a case such that this is a no-brainer. What makes it clear that I’d be nuts not to list my facility on this site?

As for everyone else – what makes it clear that you are the only choice for what you sell or do?

There’s needs to be a section that addresses all the what-if’s, questions, concerns and risk factors for a church who wants to start renting their facility in this manner.

Mining shoeboxes for customers

Prospector
Creative Commons License photo credit: ToOliver2

In these days of oil spills and mine disasters, it might seem a little off-base to ask about mining, but I think you need to become an expert at it – and do it regularly.

It’s a critical skill if you’re concerned about keeping your business pump primed with new and returning customers – especially returning ones.

When I say mining, I mean mining your customer/order database.

Yellow pads and shoeboxes

No matter what you use to keep track of this stuff; a yellow pad, QuickBooks, a ledger book, your CRM (customer relationship management system) if you’re using that tool like a shoebox, you’re likely making a five or six figure mistake.

What I mean is by shoebox is stuffing receipts and sales data and similar info into it all year long and never referencing it again until it’s time to do your taxes.

That shoebox is your gold mine. It’s the asset that many businesses ignore – often at their own risk.

Missing out

Let’s talk about Mary. She owns her own business and has 14 employees.

You would typically know this because you saw a profile of her business in the paper. How do you remember that fact?

You put it into your CRM (again, customer relationship management system), tickler file or *something* that organizes your data so that you can search for it later (I’ll get back to that).

Out of nothing more than gut feel, you know that she visits your restaurant 3 times a month and you also see her occasionally at events you cater.

What you may not know is that Mary’s business entertains clients twice a month and has an in-office staff appreciation lunch every other Friday.

Have you ever catered those events?

If not, does she know that you cater? She should, because she attends events you’ve catered – so why doesn’t she use you once in awhile?

Have you asked her?

It’s possible that her current caterer rocks the house *so well* that you might not ever get a chance to show your stuff.

One thing is certain – if you don’t ask, you won’t likely get a shot. Tantamount to that is *knowing that you should ask*.

The who

A message that is in context to the proper person is miles ahead of a generic message to everyone.

Have you made any effort to let your regular customers know that you offer catering for their special events? More importantly, do you know exactly which regulars would have a use for those services?

Do you know how to get in contact with them? Do you know when they last visited your restaurant? Do you know what kind of experience they had during their last visit?

Your customer / order tracking system should allow you to store info that lets you find out such things. If yours doesn’t, get a new one or at the very least, find a way to export the data into something that allows you to search this info.

Things you’d like to know:

  • Who has reservations this weekend who also owns a business?
  • Who has reservations this weekend who hasn’t visited in two or three times their normal visit frequency?
  • What regulars have we not seen in a month or more?

The answers to these questions will yield info about your customers and more importantly, about what you’re doing, how well you’re doing it and best of all – what customers you should have a catering conversation with.

If they do, who else does?

Here’s where the mining comes in handy…

If your catering gig database is sorted by “What do the businesses do?” and then you ask to see only those businesses that use you monthly, what do you ask for next?

Let’s sort them by what they do. Maybe the top 3 types of businesses are architects, real estate brokers and luxury home builders.  You can guess, but you won’t know until actually you collect this data.

Now take a look at your entire restaurant database of regulars. How many of them are in those 3 lines of work?

Hmmm. Wonder if any of them need catering?

PS: If you don’t have a restaurant, look at this through the lens / terminology of what you do. The same concepts apply no matter what.

A yummy bowlful of dongles

/doh
Creative Commons License photo credit: striatic

Sometimes, competitors hand you a gift.

Back in the software biz days, one of our competitors used an antiquated hardware ‘dongle’ to prove to the software that you had the right to use it.

We knew their users *hated* the dongle. It plugged into the printer port, which caused printer problems. It kept the business owner from using the software from home and it was a subtle reminder that they didn’t trust their paying customers.

We decided it was time to make an issue of it at the next trade show, so we came up with an irresistible, advance notice competitive upgrade offer to users of the dongle-controlled software who would be attending that show.

There was only one catch: You had to give us the dongle.

We wanted the dongle for several reasons:

  • We didn’t want them using both programs.
  • We didn’t want them giving the dongle away. We wanted it off the market. Forever.
  • We wanted to get people talking (we did something almost every year to stir the pot).

We decided to use the dongles in our booth, but not to run their software.

Sitting on top of an eye-level pedestal at the front of our booth…was a fishbowl half-full of dongles.

Shredding mad pow in my driveway

So far it’s been an incredible year for snow in the Northwest.

Two feet in the Washington DC area is a Snowpocalypse?

That’s nothing.

We have 8 feet of fresh pow* in Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. It’s so deep, we’re carving mad turns in our driveways and carrying avalanche beacons when we go out to get the mail.

Come out and join us and ski and ride your brains out!

Oh wait. Maybe not that much snow, but come on out anyhow.

Which truth is real?

As with other markets where misinformation can lead a customer astray, the internet has a way of finding the truth, even about mad pow*.

When skiers and snowboarders hop off the lift expecting to find the foot of fresh powder mentioned in the snow report and instead, find a couple inches of popcorn**, it doesn’t excite them.

When skiers and snowboard riders find a few feet of waist-deep powdery goodness, they can now use their cell phones to report snow conditions via Facebook, Twitter and this killer skier/snowboarder snow report app.

This app has forced resorts to come clean on their snow reports.

Thing is, it isn’t just snow conditions that are available in (close to) real-time from a source that’s cutting turns in it right now. Whatever you do, there is likely an enthusiast community talking about it

Whether we’re talking about stream flows, fish and wildlife migration, trail conditions, road conditions, whiter whites and brighter brights, parking availability, meal quality, service quality and more…it’s out there on the net for the savvy customer who wants to check you out before buying.

Help them find it – and don’t claim to be shredding pow in your driveway unless you really are

* Translation: Fresh, deep, powdery snow, often blamed for high levels of absenteeism at work and/or school.

** Translation: smallish, hard popcorn-looking snow that looks like that stuff sprayed on ceilings in office buildings and homes. Not really what you want to ski/ride on, but still better than a good day at work.

Baiting the hook with opera

Note the sign at the end of the video: “Ves como te gusta la opera?”, which translated roughly means “See how you like opera?”

Point being – how many of those shoppers had ever been to the opera? And how many *more* will consider it after that performance?

Brilliant, guerrilla marketing. Just flippin’ brilliant.

Before you think “I could never do that”…start planning how you could turn your business into performance art, some how, some way.

When the stream in your backyard doesn’t have any fish, fish where the fish are.