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How to get results from newspaper advertising?

This has been in the queue for a while, and the source of the discussion is, which I’ve read regularly for years (yes, that’s a hint).

While there are some good points in this piece, some parts of it read as if it was written by a Yellow Pages salesperson (not traditionally a person experienced in running a small business, nor in results-oriented marketing).

Here I quote the author’s advice (which isn’t all bad) in plain type and include in bold my thoughts on their “6 fundamental points”.

  1. People buy based on familiarity. That said, the primary value of advertising is branding and name recognition. In other words, you cannot control timing â?? when a person needs what you sell â?? but you can heavily influence who they think of first. This means that you should not invest in any advertising media unless you are willing to commit to a minimum of six months, and preferably a year, of consistent, repetitive messaging to your targeted demographic. Print publications are still king when it comes to reaching the local audience â?? but people need to see your message repeatedly if they are going to remember you when it is time to buy. We’re familiar with a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean we buy them. Give me a compelling case to buy, not “familiarity”.

    No question that timing advertising to purchase time is difficult (exception: search-based advertising), and no doubt, you can and should be invested in influencing who people think of when they consider what you sell (what I call “top of mind” positioning). Consistent messaging to your targeted demographic is part of creating that top-of-mind positioning. This is one of the reasons I remind you to consider using direct mail (among other things).

    But to claim that newspapers do such targeting is crazy in most cases. Further, the implication that you shouldn’t expect success for 6 months to a year is unacceptable. In some markets, large papers (often via national newspaper insertion service vendors) have successfully used insertion technology that lets you target demographics quite narrowly. In most markets, this kind of targeted marketing is not available to newspaper advertisers.

    The real shame is that this kind of targeting does not extend to display ads or classifieds, though given the nature of newspaper print technology, it is understandable. The large service vendors I mentioned above are not built to service your local town daily or weekly newspaper.

    Newspaper advertising performs best in small communities. The why should be obvious and it explains the numbers you see on the continued success of weekly papers vs. big city dailies.

  2. Mix up your marketing channels. Print publications today are the only media resource that can provide you with multiple reach products â?? print ads, inserts, online campaigns, Post-It notes, specialty magazines, etc. â?? in ways that are customized to attain specific marketing objectives.The “only” resource of multiple reach products? Direct mail houses, web designers, email vendors and a number of others would be surprised to learn that. You don’t “mix up your channels” just for the sake of doing so. You choose them strategically. Who reads that? Who watches (and when)? Who listens to that (and when)?

    Each media/each piece, while integrated with the overall plan/message still needs to perform. It still must be measurable and produce a desired result (financial or otherwise). It still must make an offer or induce the next desired behavior.

  3. Work with a qualified expert. A skilled, well-trained newspaper ad rep can replace your need for an ad agency by providing well-designed, targeted ideas to attract new customers to your door â?? at no additional cost to you. While it is true that using their design department can save you some money in the short term, newspaper ad reps are primarily concerned with design from a designer / artistic perspective. Sure, the agent wants you to come back and buy more ads (see #1 above) so they are tangentially vested in your success, but they are not typically well-versed in direct marketing, and have rarely owned their own business. The mindset is important.

    Small business owners know that results are what matter over all else. Winning ad contests and design awards mean nothing if the ad DIDN’T produce an acceptable ROI.

  4. Utilize a combination of print and online media. Contrary to conventional wisdom, newspaper readership is not declining, it is simply migrating. More people are reading the newspaper than ever before; the growth in readership is coming from people who are reading the news online instead of in a print product. The point? Newspapers still deliver excellent results, but you must advertise in both print and online to attain maximum reach of your message. Depends on who you are trying to reach. This has traditionally been the difficult thing about newspaper advertising. They have largely been unable to deliver (and thus charge) for ads (for example) that should be sent only to married women 35-55 with a household income of $xx,xxx or more. Instead, they charge a lower rate to advertise to a large portion (or all) subscribers with very little if any targeting.

    In many cases, a zip code, a specific section or a certain day of the week is the best you can get as far as targeted marketing in much of the newspaper world. In some cases, it’s all or nothing. That’s OK, but you must take that into consideration when designing your ad, much less deciding whether or not to place it.

    To business owners that understand and leverage direct marketing and expect more than the tired “1% is typical” response, the inability to target specific types of readers is not acceptable.

    As for the assertion that readership isn’t declining, ask your newspaper to show you Google Analytics to back up their claim that they are recovering lost print readers via *their* online site. Don’t take no for an answer. Ask for references, as you would with any other advertiser.

    Pick a few ads for similar markets and be sure to choose those whose ads are sized much like yours will be. Call them and pin them down. Ask them if their ad is performing, but don’t settle for “yes”. Ask what the return on investment is. Ask how many new customers the ad brings in each issue (or each week). What are your criteria for calling the ad “successful”?

  5. You will get much better results by running a smaller ad for a longer period of time than by running a large one for a shorter duration. When budgetary constraints are an issue, the duration of the campaign is of paramount importance.In general, I agree with smaller ads for a longer period vs larger ads for a shorter period, but the duration of the campaign isn’t the paramount issue. If you put $10 into an ad and get $20 back each time, wouldn’t you want to run the ad until it stops working? Producing results is what matters.

  6. When using online advertising, always include a link to your website in the form of a â??clickâ? button, and include a special offer in your message. This serves as a portal to drive traffic to your website. A button and a text link should both be tested (response varies depending on the audience). The ad’s job is to get you to do the next thing – click through. The page where the click through goes had better be a specific landing page for that ad’s offer, NOT the home page of the website.

    The landing page is your responsibility. The link is theirs, so make sure they include the right analytics parameters and landing page address so that you can measure response, know exactly where it came from and present the proper in-context offer that matches the ad that the prospect clicked. If the paper wants to send clicks to your main website page, they don’t understand online marketing.

  7. During your ad campaign, change your message every four to six weeks, but always include your logo, and maintain a consistent look to your messages. This serves to reinforce your brand. Remaining consistent is fine as it concerns your logo and look (think “Apple”). However, changing your message just because the calendar says so is foolish. There are successful marketing campaigns that have been in use for decades with only trivial changes after initial fine tuning.

    If your ad is returning 20-30% ROI consistently over a long period, why would you change it just because the calendar said so? When you make changes, test them. Every single one of them. Always be trying to beat the current “best performing” ad, not simply swapping it out because you’re tired of it.

  8. Newspapers employ highly skilled design professionals who create thousands of ads for customers â?? at no cost to you. Work closely with your advertising rep and their design team to create high-quality copy that you can utilize in other marketing efforts for your business. Yes, the newspaper does usually have highly-skilled design pros, but are they highly-skilled / trained in direct marketing as well as graphic design? Hopefully so. Would you rather have an ad that wins design contests or an ad that brings in 10x what it costs each week? Id prefer both, but I’ll choose the 10x response if I can only have one of the two.

  9. Take advantage of appropriate special sections as a â??booster shotâ?? to your overall ad campaign. This is an inexpensive way to reinforce your message in a product that has a highly targeted audience and an extended shelf life. Make sure your message and the audience fit the ideal audience for the special section. Ask for placement in the section that complements what you’re selling.

  10. Be patient. Look at any quick sales that you make as a bonus, but not as the primary measurement of advertising effectiveness. Recognize that it takes time to build brand recognition, particularly if you are a new business or are entering a new market.Horsehockey. This is about setting low expectations so they can sell a long ad placement. There’s nothing wrong with a long ad placement that works. Your ad, your offer should be compelling enough to create business the day it appears. If it doesn’t, then it needs work.

  11. Finally, remember that it is the newspaperâ??s job to bring new customers into your door; it is your job to keep them. Word-of-mouth marketing and repeat customers are the lifeblood of your business. These do not depend on advertising; they depend on your ability to provide an outstanding, memorable experience to your new customer. Advertise to bring them in, and the rest is up to you. Couldn’t agree more.

(end of point/counterpoint)

If you think I’m anti-newspaper, keep in mind that I write a successful newspaper column. I’m not anti-newspaper (and in fact, was recently involved in a successful newspaper insert campaign). However, I am against wasteful, ineffective advertising.

Make your advertising decisions for the right reasons so that you can advertise even more. When you can afford to advertise more than your competitors because every advertising dollar produces positive ROI, you’re on the right track.

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Seducing Your Customers

Creative Commons License photo credit: Johnath

How does the flower “seduce” the bee into visiting it and spreading its pollen to others?

Your clientele is a lot like that bee, if not a significant other. They need to be seduced into wanting to be with you (your business).

In order to make that happen, you need to create an environment – or a habit, you might say – of constant seduction. I don’t mean this in an “adult” way though it certainly applies there as well.

The alternative is rust. Like rust appearing on iron/steel that little or no attention is paid to, rust can also be found on a customer or personal relationship.

A restaurant whose customers are regularly seduced to return is less likely to lose a sale to the “I dunno, where do *you* wanna go?” discussion that we’ve all had with someone else.

Ever notice where you end up at the end of those conversations? Usually a place that neither of you were really fired up about visiting. You settle.

What are you doing to create a relationship with your customers that is rock solid?

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Making nothing but customers

sunday morning

One of the reasons that I see businesses struggling (or not doing as well as they could) is that they appear to work as if the profit from a sale to a new customer is more important than getting a new customer itself.

Recognizing the difference is critical to turning one-time visitors into long-time devotees.

Devotees. Not just customers.

What’s a devotee?

A devotee will bring their family to your place when they come from out of town. Not just once, but as many times as they can.

A devotee will suggest your place both to visitors and those new to the area and make the place seem like the only place worth choosing.

A devotee considers your place the (not “a”) dependable solution to fill their wants and needs – and when recommended to others, your work secures their reputation among their circle of influence.

Testing 1-2-3

One of the little things my wife and I do to “test” a new restaurant is stop in (often late in the day) for coffee and a dessert. Sometimes we’ll do this just to get out of the house for a little while after a home-cooked meal or a long day. We get to experience a dessert we probably wouldn’t make at home and escape a little.

When we do this, we’re often asked if it’s our first time to visit their place.

What varies widely (both here and elsewhere) is how the experience goes from that point forward.

Think about how you welcome new guests and how the locals and tourists might be helped differently. Don’t leave this up to chance. TRAIN your employees in the proper ways to pull this off, things to avoid, things to always include and how to add just a little personal touch of their own.

What really gets my attention on these late evening visits is how we are treated – especially the first time – when all we order is a cup of coffee and a slice of pie to share.

What happens next?

Consider the specific differences in your customers’ experience when visiting your place for the first time, when visiting it thereafter, and when visiting it at the point where several employees know your name because you visit so often. It’s important no matter what kind of business you run.

Why is it so important?

Because that first sale – especially that dinky little cuppa joe and slice of pie – is a critical first step to creating a devotee.

You might not feel like those coffee and pie customers are worth fawning over like everyone else (assuming you fawn). The thing is, when they walk out to the parking lot (or leave the drive up) for the first time, the impression in that first-time-customer’s mind usually determines whether or not they will return.

Perhaps with tourists, you don’t care, but you should.

With social review services like Yelp, UrbanSpoon and TripAdvisor (among others) to help *future* customers make purchase decisions, one-time visits by someone with a smartphone can pay big dividends or cost you visitors. Imagine the unseen revenue loss from a few poor (and deservedly so) online reviews. You’ll never know how many people didn’t visit because of a series of unfavorable reviews.

Even if you have no desire to carry the internet in your pocket, consider that as of June 2010, 45 MILLION people in the U.S. currently carry a smartphone. Every one of them is a little review machine just waiting to create (or destroy) your business’ karma. Collectively, those reviews can transform your business.

Keep in mind that’s roughly 1 of every 4 people you see.

Doing the math

A little “What 1 new customer means” math…

  • For your cafe: One visit every other month. Average ticket size: $50 (you already know your average lunch and/or dinner ticket size – if you don’t, you better find out).  That’s $300 a year. Over 20 years, that cup of coffee and pie eventually brings you $6000 worth of business.
  • For your small engine repair shop: 3 visits per year at between $75 and $150 per visit (or whatever your per ticket average is). Call it $100 to make the math easy. That’s $300 per year or $6000 over 20 years.
  • For your oil change shop: 4 visits a year. $40 per visit. Only $160 per year, or maybe twice that if you upsell *wisely* and don’t sell stuff just because you can get away with it.

Those numbers seem almost too small for you to care about, especially over 20 years…until you realize how many first-time customers drop in each day.

Now, with that number (for this month) floating in your head, let’s look at the math again.

How many first impressions do you get to make each day?

Don’t just make the sale. Make a new lifelong customer.

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A bus of a different color

Post-Katrina School Bus
Creative Commons License photo credit: laffy4k

When I say “bus travel”, I’m guessing that many / some / most of you think of things on this list (and maybe some others):

  • Greyhound (et al)
  • Tour buses full of senior citizens
  • A noisy school bus full of kids
  • people of lesser means
  • panhandlers
  • bus terminals
  • when will it arrive?

Here are a few things that I’ll bet you don’t think of when it comes to bus travel:

  • Comfort
  • Productivity
  • Care-free
  • Customer service
  • Wireless
  • Convenience
  • Safety

Red Arrow Motorcoach in Canada thinks a little differently about bus travel. For starters, they don’t even use the word “bus”. Like most companies of their type, they call it “motorcoach service”.

Because they know that you don’t want to sit around their bus terminal waiting an extra 30 to 300 minutes for your friend, family or colleague, they offer visual location tracking of their bus on their website, PLUS they will email and/or text you when the motorcoach is between 5 and 20 minutes (your choice) of reaching its destination.

Think about that benefit. It isn’t for the customer. It’s for someone who hasn’t even bought a ticket: the person meeting the customer at their station.

Not your grandpa’s bus

The customer isn’t ignored, however. Red Arrow’s website includes online reservations and a virtual tour of their coaches, which include a complimentary galley with drinks and snacks.

Their motorcoaches have a choice of plush or leather seats and they are careful to point out that they offer 30% more legroom than on a typical airliner.

For travelers with laptops, their coaches include pulldown tables, electrical plugs and wireless internet. Compare that to an airliner, which is often too cramped to use a laptop unless you’re in first class.

Their on-board magazine points out that you never have to turn off your cell phone and that the positive amenities of air travel (such as they are) are met on their motorcoaches as well.

Things the website missed

  • What’s the environment like at their drop-off/pickup points? Is it well-lit?
  • Does the place look safe if I step off the bus at 10pm or if I have to wait an extra hour due to weather or other delays?Do they have 24 hour security personnel on-site? Cameras? Yes, I know it’s Canada, but bear with me anyway.
  • Which stations have a nearby car rental?  (they do have car rental partners)
  • Do the stations offer wireless?
  • How does the station differ from typical bus stations?

You get the idea.

And the point of all this?

Cracks in the plumbing

What do people automatically think when your type of business is mentioned? Looking for an example? Think “plumbers”.

What are you doing to counteract and/or take advantage of that image? What sets you apart – and not just a little.

What are you doing that will completely change your prospective customer’s perception of your business?

What should you be doing that you just haven’t gotten around to?

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What’s Your Swagger Wagon?

Nothing could be better than a mom and dad rappin’, right?

Ok, maybe there are things better. Still, today’s guest post is this awesome, fun video from Toyota which has managed to get 3.8 million views as of mid-June 2010.

The point? To have a little fun with your marketing – while still getting your point across. Toyota stays on message for the Sienna product, rap or not.

PS: Yes, I meant to post this for Father’s Day.

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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 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.
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Tiger’s conversation

Nike’s new Tiger Woods advertisement came out just in time for the Masters . . . and not without some controversy.

Some are offended. Some shrug and move on, could either take it or leave it. Some are furious.

For example, Fast Company thinks it might be “too early” or that using the voice of a dead man is offensive.

Me? I think it was a good idea – the fact that most of Madison Avenue seems to dislike it solidifies that feeling.

Where it fails: ROI

Long-time readers will surely ask me where the ROI is – as you should. I hear it. “Where’s the call to action? How do I know this ad produces revenue, or at least – the desired action/result?”

Thats where it fails. Those things will largely be unmeasurable in terms we usually talk about.

Where it works: Outing the obvious

It works because it addresses the obvious right up front. It asks the question a lot of people are probably asking about Tiger – maybe even Tiger himself: “What the heck were you thinking?”

They’re going to think it every time they see his face…until they can figure out the answer to that last question (maybe longer).

A certain # of people could care less what Tiger did. This ad is not for them.

A certain # of people despise him, if not hate the ground he walks on – because of what he did.

A certain # of people may never forgive him, maybe because it forces them to relive a dark period of their own lives, even something that still hurts or angers them.

The ad faces up to that and brings up the elephant in the room that no one else wants to discuss.

Not only does the ad out the obvious – it does so in the context of the man’s father. It’s no secret what his dad did for him.  The voice of the one man (other than his father in law, perhaps) that Tiger would least want to disappoint confronts him in the ad.

To be sure, Tiger’s behavior needs to be demonstrably changed for any of this to make a difference. In the meantime, Nike has chosen well when it comes to dealing with it.

I think there’s a reason for that.


When advertisers drop you at the first hint of trouble, it’s a clear sign that you aren’t truly an asset. You’re just a face and a name.

If you look at the vendors who dropped Tiger – regardless of reason – Tiger has no real relationship to the product.

Most corporates run and hide from this sort of trouble. AT&T, Accenture and Buick did.

The thing about Nike is that Tiger actually FITS their products. Meanwhile, why should *anyone* listen to Tiger about buying a Buick or phone service? What does Tiger do to make me want to call in a big NYC consulting firm?

Same answer for both questions: Not one thing.

In Nike’s case, the answer is different.

Nike is all about the mental part of sports. That isnt what they manufacture, but it is what their marketing is totally about.

Address it straightforward. Suck it up, be accountable and go do what you do – with no excuses.

In other words…Just do it.

Nike is all about the conversation going on in the athlete’s head.


I like the ad, but the main reason for that has nothing to do with Tiger.

I like it because it does what few big corporates have the nerve to do these days: Face a touchy subject head on. Call for accountability, while sticking with the guy who totally, royally screwed up.

Add to that, they’ve taken a risk. The risk that Tiger isn’t going to self-destruct.

4-5 strokes in the Masters is not what I mean.

If Tiger self-destructs repeatedly, punches a cameraman, and otherwise submarines Nike’s investment, it’ll be mental – which is Nike’s game.

Place your bets

If you think it was humbling standing there filming the ad, think how it is now. Seeing that ad in every airport. Every hotel lobby. Every golf club lounge TV. To see every look come his way from a peer, knowing they think this is a chink in his armor. To see every woman look at him annoyed, disgusted or worse.

Successful people manage to containerize stuff that’s troubling them long enough to accomplish a task.

Can Tiger containerize everything that’s going while standing over a putt on #15, knowing that Arnie and Jack and others are watching – along with millions of others – just waiting for him to crack?

Time will tell.

To me, the Nike ad says “He’s our guy. He screwed up really bad. Even his late father would have been ashamed. BUT…he’s still our guy, and we’ll be right there while he works through it.”

Nike showed some backbone, loyalty and accountability in a time when few corporates will.

Now we’ll see if Woods can live up to that.

Other opinions:

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iPads important to Montana tourism? HaHaHaHa, RIGHT.

Wild Goose Island and Saint Mary Lake
Creative Commons License photo credit: RTPeat

After reading yesterday’s comments about iPads and your business, if you own a business in Montana, you might have shrugged, rolled your eyes and thought “Yeah, but this is Montana”.

Long-time readers know that comment sends me to the stratosphere in a hurry.

So what made you think that?

It might be that “only” 600 were connected to the internet (for the first time) in Montana in the first week.

It might be that we don’t have decent GSM service, despite what the postcard-tossing guy on TV says. You’re right, we dont…yet.

That seems pretty wimpy compared to other states. It’s almost not worth bothering with, ya think?

Think about this instead

Around 3.5 million people visited Yellowstone last year.

Around 2.3 million people visited Glacier Park last year.

I don’t have to tell you which states they come from. You already know.

Can you afford to be invisible (or less visible than your competitor) to the “mobile, connected affluent” among that population?

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iPads for business? Yes. Start now.

Trust me on this. Your business needs an iPad.

I know what you’re thinking. It goes something like this:

Why does this Apple fanboy think I need this thing? It’s just like a dinky little laptop with no keyboard. I can’t even plug my USB thumb drive into it. There’s no camera.

I hear you, but I ask that you think forward a bit. The iPad available today will seem like a lukewarm joke in 5 years. Your kids won’t even touch it.

If you wait 5 years until “the space is ready”, you’re gonna be 5 years behind – maybe more.

Maybe the winner in 5 years will be an Android-based GooglePad. Maybe it’ll be a Windows-based GatesPad. Maybe it’ll be one of the tablets from the folks at CES this summer. But…


What matters is that you shift your thinking.

This stuff is going to impact your business and your life (and the lives of your clients) – and I can say that not knowing what you do for a living.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

First off, don’t worry about what it won’t do. Focus on what it *can* do for you instead.

There are at least five areas that need some strategic thought on your part:

  • How your staff will use the iPad
  • How your customers will use the iPad (and iPhone/iTouch)
  • How a phone-enabled, GPS-enabled tablet (generally speaking) will change your work, your clients’ work, your clients’ personal lives and so on.
  • How this “intelligent”, connected form factor will change how people consume information – which includes information that brings them to your business.

Note: The same things will apply to the HP Slate and other touch devices already in the pipeline.

Portable, connected – and finally, capable – touch-based interface devices are here to stay. You can either take advantage of them or watch someone else and then whine about the competition.

Answer this 27 part question

The iPad gives you a way to show your clients and prospects touch-navigable information that is *already available* but often poorly presented. That info is rarely displayed in context with anything else.

That’s gonna change.

Here’s an example:

“Show me a map with the locations of the three best italian restaurants on the way to the bed and breakfast we’re staying at tonight (it’s just outside Glacier Park). Include an overall rating from previous reviews, an option to read those reviews, directions to each restaurant, menu items with photos of the food, prices and eliminate the ones that don’t have a table for six at 7:00pm. Oh and a photo of the front of the place so we don’t drive past it.”

27 phone calls or visits to websites later, you *might* have a decent answer. That’s one of the simple, easy to understand examples. There are a TON more. If you’re a client, ask me how you can take advantage of it.

The difference with the pad isn’t just the always-on internet and the GPS/location-enabled functionality. Those are huge, sure.

What changes things is that you get a touch interface that a 5 year old can operate. Don’t discount the impact that has. Most people don’t truly understand it until they use it – I had the same gap in experience with the iPhone/iTouch, despite being a geeky, computer-toolhead kinda guy. This time, I know better.

I have so many ideas about this thing, my head is spinning (some might say it did that before the iPad).

If yours isn’t, think a little harder.

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It’s tough to harvest if you don’t plant

Imagine how ridiculous it would sound if one of the farmers in America’s breadbasket said “How can I get a new crop of winter wheat to harvest tomorrow / next week / next month?”

Maybe someday the science of farming will allow such a thing, but these days, farmers still have to depend on planting, nourishing, weeding, sunshine, rain and especially – the passage of time – before thinking about enjoying the fruits of the harvest.

Consider all the planning, preparation and investment that has to go into that wheat crop. Even if all you do is lease the land to someone else and take part of the crop as your rent, it doesn’t reduce the effort necessary to produce a harvest.

*Someone* has to do the work.

The same is true in businesses outside of farming.

Despite this, I’m still surprised (not sure why) to find many small businesses running their “farm” without an essential component.

These businesses have no written marketing plan. Or worse, no marketing plan at all.

If they were farming, they wouldn’t expect to harvest without the planting. Yet they operate as if “Build it and they will come” is a viable strategy.

It’s easily the most disappointing situation I encounter when talking to business owners about what’s going on in their business. Fortunately, it is easily corrected. In fact, we’re going to do that today.

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

In the worst of situations, someone’s marketing is driven which ad salesperson next walks in the door.

Yes, some of that is rationalized as “Well, that’s why I came to you”, but that isn’t good enough.

Not in this economy (not in any, really).

*Every single business* should have a marketing plan (presumably part of your business plan), even if it’s a very simple one – way before they get around to needing help from me or anyone else who provides business assistance.

Would you head into the wilderness on foot without a map and compass, or at least a GPS? Probably not.

Lewis and Clark may not have had a detailed map of the Northwest, but they had a plan. And Sacagawea.

Today, you can call me your marketing plan Sacagawea (yeah, I’ll probably take a few hits for saying *that*).

I want *every* business to have a marketing plan, even if it’s a simple one.

Let’s put together a basic one right here, right now.

Heading West

One of the things I do when I start working with folks is give them a questionnaire that helps me understand their business.

It asks them a ton of questions and gives them time to put some thought into their answers, rather than trying to hurriedly gather it during an initial consultation.

Here’s a very simple (and abbreviated) version of it:

What do you do?
Describe what you do in the length of a text message. I don’t want to hear four boring, meaningless paragraphs from the corporate buzzword generator. Even the people who read that stuff don’t know what it means.

Why should I get that from you instead of everyone else?
Not some namby-pamby “because we give great service” (so does everyone else – they think) and heaven forbid “because we have the best prices”. Give me a real, compelling argument to use you and no one else.

What are you doing now, marketing-wise?
Describe in detail your efforts to find new customers and bring back existing ones.

Of those things, what works? What doesn’t?
Self-explanatory. If you don’t know, why are you doing those things?

Who is your ideal customer?
The perfect customer. Describe them. What they do, where they live, what they read, demographics, income, business, you name it. Go deeper than you think you should and keep in mind – it won’t be deep enough. I’ll still have questions about them.

Where are these customers?
As I tell you often, it helps to fish where the fish are. Where are yours?

That’s a massive simplification, but for today, it’ll have to do.

The answers will help you form the core of your marketing plan. Get to work, you’ve got planting to do.