Creativity Marketing Media Public Relations Word of mouth marketing

Using Libby’s good news to promote your wood stove business

woodstove2.jpg Last week, the EPA announced that air quality in Libby, Montana had significantly increased. Libby is the home of Montana’s asbestos Superfund site thanks to the W.R. Grace company’s vermiculite mine located there.

The AP article included comments from University of Montana professors who have studied pollution levels in Libby, from industry spokespeople, and from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

The article continued, speaking of the improved indoor air quality and efficiency of the stoves, and how they burn much less wood than in the past.

Again, this was NEWS, not a press release from the wood stove industry.

If you own a wood stove store, this is an ideal time to comment on the article to your local paper. Issue a press release to the local radio and TV stations with your slant on the article. You just might get called for a brief interview.

By the way…they don’t charge for airtime when they interview you. They simply make you the apparent expert on the topic. I mean, what self-respecting radio station would call the “dumb stove guy” to ask questions on the air?

What are you waiting for?

How do you use the news to promote your business?

Creativity Marketing

Viral marketing doesn’t work

charlotte1.jpg Ever seen that t-shirt? In big letters, it says “Viral marketing doesn’t work”. The rest of the shirt says “tell everyone you know”. You know, just like direct mail doesn’t work and Google AdWords doesn’t work.

Neither do electrical circuits, if you don’t know how to design them. Skills required to use these tools aren’t second nature, or instinct. They require study.

Want to learn about direct mail that works? Start by reading Dick Benson’s book (available at Boardroom books). Want to learn about AdWords? Start with Perry Marshall’s book and email series. Want to learn about viral marketing? Read Seth Godin’s books, among others.

Viral marketing sells pork. It sells cars. It sells marketing and business consulting work. It sells coffee. It sells a ton of things.

Viral marketing sells pork?

Yeah. Remember a spider named Charlotte? Her viral marketing message was… “Some Pig”.

E.B. White knew about viral marketing way back when. His character used it when she weaved those words into a spider web in the barn where a little pig named Wilbur lived.

Viral marketing does work, if you know how to use it. Seth didn’t invent it, he just fine tuned it and uses it very effectively. There’s no reason why you can’t do the same. Just takes a little effort, whether it’s direct mail, viral, AdWords or some other skill.

Update: Another example of viral “marketing”,
the recent Virginia snow day episode.

Corporate America Creativity Marketing Word of mouth marketing

Flying with Tim the Moose

alaska12.jpgIt’s hard to find anyone in the airline business these days who has a sense of humor. Not even Southwest Airlines is even close to as much fun as they used to be. But…at least one is trying.

I recently made reservations for the Rotary President-Elect Training Seminar (PETS) in Seattle (yes, they talked me into it again), and rather than spend 16-20 hours driving it in March, I decided to fly.

Imagine my surprise when my browser showed the image above. It’s the ‘waiting message’ displayed in your browser while their system looks up plane seats, flight costs, etc. The little hoof prints even go left to right as you wait. There were plenty more, all different, none boring, most at least mildly entertaining.

Inane? Hardly. When I confirmed my booking, I was actually looking forward to what they’d do next, plus they were smart enough to customize the wait message for my destination. My wait message referred to Seattle and said that Tim (that’s the moose) always looked for parks with tall grass. They are paying attention to the little details, which gives me high hopes for the flight experience as well.

Word of mouth has already gotten Tim’s message to you. I’ll bet if you saw the messages, you’d mention them to someone else.

All this, from an airline? What a pleasant surprise.

If they can be fun and avoid being boring, surely you can too. Surprise your customers.

Competition Creativity Marketing Web 2.0

Can your site handle 12 people an hour?

If 100,000 potential customers were brought to the â??doorstepâ? of your Web site â?? right now â?? how would you capture and hold their attention? Ok, maybe 100k in one day is a little much for you.

How about 12 people every hour, all day today? Could you keep the attention of that trickle of people?

Do that for 364 more days, and you’ll have an idea how to keep the attention of 100,000 visitors.

How long do they stay on your site now? How do you get them to come back? Of the ones who did return, what made them want to come back? If you don’t know, isn’t it time to get to work on finding those things out? The reasons are obvious.

Which reminds me. Yesterday’s post was my 400th blog post at Business is Personal, and we’re not even 3 years old yet (awww, isn’t it cuuuuute?)

If you’re keeping score, the post count looks something like this…

121 relating to marketing
82 on competition
66 on management
57 on entrepreneurs
53 on corporate America
47 relating to continuous improvement (aka the slight edge)
45 on strategy
38 on customer service (Glenn, how you let me get away with that?)
35 on getting it (as in, people/businesses who “get it”, it being how to run their business well)
23 book reviews (way over due on these)
22 on Wal-Mart (seems like more)
20 on media
17 on automation
16 on Montana
14 on software
14 on politics (related to business)
12 on technology
12 on sales
12 on good examples
10 on employees

and a smattering of others elsewhere. The totals don’t add up to 400, as many posts are tagged with multiple categories.

I’d be interested in what you’d like to hear more about, or if the current mix is about right for what your business needs.

Creativity Entrepreneurs

The Feds create opportunity. Really.

canon40d.jpgWhen the TSA declared that lithium batteries are the next almost-verboten baggage item, media people all over the U.S. started buzzing about the impact it’ll have on their ability to perform their work.

Somewhere, there’s an entrepreneur working behind the scenes to figure out a way to put photographers, video and other media people back into the safe zone.

Competition Creativity Entrepreneurs Productivity

Entrepreneurs: Are you fried? Maybe this is why.

timer.jpgI was scouring around the net the other night and stumbled across this post by Jonathan Fields.

When I’m not operating strictly by the Outlook calendar, you can quite often paint the letters CNF on my forehead.

I combat CNF by using Outlook appointments as ToDos. Rather than having a list a mile long, I prioritize the todos, pitch the garbage and SCHEDULE the todos into the days on my calendar.

One guy told me recently that when he *has* to get stuff done, he’ll even schedule the bathroom breaks in his day. And hold it till the time comes.

Something I learned accidentally from KenMcCarthy was to use a $5 kitchen timer. You know, the one that goes up to an hour, almost… Low-tech, but it makes you deadly aware of your time because every 55 minutes, it goes off with a jaw-chattering DING.

No matter what you and your laptop are doing, the DING is coming. Some days, it is AMAZING how fast those dings come.

It doesn’t take long for repeated snoozes of Outlook ToDo appointments and a chorus of DINGs to motivate you to focus.

Best of all, you’ll get stuff done, hopefully without being fried.

Creativity Marketing Montana The Slight Edge

Billings, Frogger & the Other “N Word”

Glacier Park, McDonald LakeAs you read this, I should be hopping down the Swan Highway (MT 83) towards Seeley Lake while trying to miss the gauntlet of 4 legged body shop revenue generators (ie: deer). Driving the Swan in the early morning or early evening – and especially after dark is like being the frog in a reality-show-version of Frogger where the logs, cars and turtles that the frog has to dodge have been replaced with deer, elk and moose. And I’m the frog.

Yep, I’m on the road today to Billings for my monthly GKIC coaching group there, which is always a highlight of my month.

In Billings, we have the meeting at coffee heaven, so by the time the meeting is over, I’ve got 2 things:

  1. A serious coffee buzz, which I didn’t really need after driving all day to Billings, because the method of preparation I use takes care of being jazzed and alert, and
  2. A tall cup of plain, black, but certainly not boring Joe that even at the end of the day is so good that I can drink it the next morning ice cold and it’s still terrific. Try that at StarBleahs.

But I digress:)

Since I’m on the road today, I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite Jonathan Fields posts today.

First, this trip is partly about losing a little bit of sleep, so I’ll include one about sleep (note the coffee thread above): (careful, the OTHER N word is in here)

Next, this trip is definitely about getting your brain in gear (what the 2nd Thursday of the month is always about), so I’ll also include

Normally the drive to Billings (and back) along with the monthly campout with the troop takes care of this last part for me, but there’s some good stuff in here too – except for #7. XBox-360 is fun to play with my kids but it burns holes in my old creaky eyes – not a stress reducer for me. Maybe I need a Wii, though Im not sure how that would help. Sure looks like fun though.

See you tomorrow.

PS: That’s no stock photo, it’s from last weekend’s troop campout in Glacier Park.

Competition Corporate America Creativity Marketing Starbucks

A free extra shot for every neighborhood coffee shop in the U.S.

A free extra shot at Starbucks’ expense, that is.

This week and last, the news feeds and blogs are abuzz (sorry…) with stories about the defective Chinese-made mugs that Starbucks (SBUX) is selling in their stores (I wonder if the ones I saw in the Staples gift packs last Monday are on the list…)

Eventually, the Feds (via the Consumer Product Safety Commission) got involved and a recall resulted.

The problem: when hot coffee is put into the mugs, the handles detach. Result: hot coffee + gravity = something not normally suited for 140-180 degree F coffee might get SingeBucked. Ouch.

Oddly enough, Reuters called it a “minor burn hazard”, but from where I sit (literally), a cup full of 140 degree coffee suddenly dropped in my lap isn’t exactly a MINOR issue. That’s enough to make Austin Powers lose his MoJo(e).

The marketing opportunities for those who compete with Starbucks are limitless.

For example, I haven’t yet seen a marketing piece that notes that Starbucks wasn’t satisfied with burning their beans, now they sell mugs that let you burn YOURS as well.

“New gift packs from Starbucks include the defective Chinese mugs and asbestos-lined boxers.”

Quality control would be a good topic.

“We steam the milk, they steam your clothes.”

You get the idea. The independent coffee shop could have as much fun with that as they like. I haven’t heard Leno in a while, but I suspect he might give you some ideas as well – unless the writers’ strike decaffeinates the jokes.

Competition Creativity Legal Management Marketing Strategy

Immune from change? Better check with your lawmakers.

Be Prepared is the Scout Motto, but it should also be on your short list in business.

Some telemarketers found their business temporarily shut down after the Do Not Call law was implemented. They had to adapt and market to groups who either had permission to call (politicians and non-profit groups), or already had a business relationship with the person being called. Or they had to stick to business-to-business calling, which isn’t restricted by the DNC law.

Fax marketing was shut down after the “fax spam” law was implemented (thank goodness for that one). Some businesses who were doing this kind of communication legitimately had to make adjustments.

If these businesses using these services were communicating with a diverse set of tools, they came out ok. Those who only used fax to get cold leads (ugh) had to scramble to remake their business.

As a recent Wall Street Journal story discusses, no one is immune to changes that you might never have seen coming.

Several communities in California and elsewhere are considering BANNING home car washing, or any car washing on the street. Some already have outlawed businesses use of a hose to wash off sidewalks, even if a pet leaves a pile on them. Still others are considering laws covering the soaps and recycling that commercial car washes can use.

If you own a car wash, your business is going to change.

If you raise money for your organization with outdoor parking lot car washes, your fundraising is going to change.

If you sell car wash supplies to the general public, your business is going to change.

Just one example that no one is immune. Be Prepared.

Competition Creativity

Reach out. Regularly. Or they’ll forget about you.

This post is a team play. I point you guys to Kipfer’s blog, and Ian finds this awesome video. Today, it’s my turn to return the favor. Not only is it funny, but there’s a great lesson in there.

Think about what it was like to communicate with your clients 15 years ago, then…watch this video:

In so many ways, it’s so much easier to do business now than it used to be. 15 years ago, that video wouldn’t have been even remotely funny. Today, it’s a riot.

So many improvements in communications. Yet many companies (much less anyone else) seem to communicate fewer times than ever before – particularly on a personal level.

It isn’t AOL’s fault. Likewise, you can’t blame Prodigy, Compuserve or the local BBS. It’s you, Sparky.

Send a card. Write a newsletter. Email em. Write em a short note. Worst case, fax a picture of your face that you pressed against the glass on the copier if you have to. But keep in touch with them. Regularly.

Just like when you fail to communicate with distant family, failing to communicate with distant customers makes the distance grow longer. Makes it harder for you to get them back into your store (online or otherwise), or on the phone. Losing familiarity with your business makes it that much easier for them to choose someone else.

Already doing a great job of communicating? Great, that’ll give you time to think about the creative side of this video.

Every time someone tells you to “think outside the box” and you want to scream…

Every time you think “there’s nothing new we can do for our clients”…

Every time a competitor does something you didn’t think of first…

Maybe this video will motivate you to think of a few new things that your customers need. Maybe we’ll even laugh about them 15 years from now.