Marketing Politics The Slight Edge

Statistics don’t lie, can they point out which politicians do?

Ok, maybe “statistically accurate” statistics don’t lie 🙂 No irony there, right?

I was talking with a friend today about a certain very wealthy 2008 Presidential candidate, the size of his home (quite large), what his reality is, how that relates to his voting record and most importantly, his ability to relate to “our” reality.

For example, it might make an interesting study to correlate the size of the primary residence of each president vs his voting record. I’m not sure it would be all that meaningful, but it’s no worse than American Idol in that department.

Perhaps more importantly, correlate the size of the primary home (in square feet) for each member of Congress against that person’s voting record.

Or perhaps against their earned income (vs 1099-DIV or -B income).

Or the size of the town where they grew up.

Or the size of the town where they live (in-session DC residences don’t count).

Lots of numbers out there. It’s going to be an interesting 18 months or so.

Is there a set of numbers in your business that you can correlate that seemingly don’t make sense? Might be worthwhile, but you won’t know until you look.

Competition Marketing Wal-Mart

Tom Peters, Geeks, Women and WalMart

Hey, I promised Id get back to WallyWorld and Hamilton. And yes, I know its about time, but before I step back into the step by step system we’ve been discussing, I wanted to go over a list that Tom Peters put together on this same topic.

Over at, Tom talks about what he things the small business has to do to compete with WalMart.

Tom says his “WallopWalmart16” list is focused on “eating the big guy’s lunch”. Seems to me that none of us are necessarily going to run WalMart, Target, HomeDepot, Lowe’s or Costco out of town, which is what I would call eating their lunch – but that really isn’t the point.

One of your goals should be to regularly and systematically identify and carve off pieces of their business that they simply don’t pay enough attention to. Yeah, a niche.

Tom notes that you have to be in a niche, never attack them head-on (which in most cases means price), repeats the don’t compete on price thing and offers a few other tidbits are worth listening to. As you might expect, he refers to “In Pursuit of Excellence” by closing with the advice that you have to win these clients away one experience and one thrilled customer at a time.

In my experience, the two gems in there that seems to be missed by so many businesses are “Sophisticated use of information technology” and “Focus on Women-as-clients”.

Sophisticated use of information technology means a little more than “buy cool new computers”. It means keeping track of things that most businesses don’t capture, much less measure, monitor and use when making business decisions. For example, I’ll bet if I asked you to produce a set of mailing labels for your top 25 clients, based on lifetime sales, you couldn’t do it in less than 5 minutes. If I asked you to tell me which of your clients are “overdue” for a visit based on their historical purchases, could you produce this list? If you can answer those questions, then you know things about your clients that enable you to make wiser choices about your marketing. You know WHEN to follow up on each customer. Do you think Walmart knows when you havent been in the store for 45 days and your average is every 22 days? Depending on what you use to pay for your purchases, they probably know. The difference is…they wont do anything about it (yet).

What are you doing with your systems? What are you measuring? How are you using that information?

In the 1950’s, women make 80% or more of the purchases for the home. Since then, women have been (mostly) emancipated, have broken through tons of barriers and are climbing corporate ladders and experiencing entrepreneurial success everywhere. And guess what…they still make 80% of the purchases.

Despite this, few retail or service businesses do anything about it. Their store, their marketing, their follow up systems..none of that takes the “woman factor” into consideration. Certainly, there are businesses whose clientele is not primarily women, but there are still ways those businesses can cater differently to the women they do serve – and lock those ladies in as a lifetime customer.

What are you doing to make doing business with you easier and more pleasant for clients who are women?

Marketing Rotary

Pale, Male and Stale?

Sometimes, lessons come when you least expect them.

A noted business speaker came here last year and did a great job talking about things that a community needs to do in order to attract young people to work, play and stay in their community.

This morning, I went through my mail pile from the last 4-5 days and noted that the speaker was quoted as saying something along the lines of “Look at your company. Is it ‘pale, male and stale?’ When a Gen X or (etc) applicant walks in, do they see anyone else their age?” The article went on to talk about employment and strategies to make your business more interesting to the new, young prospective employee.

That reminded me of how I spent my weekend.

Competition Marketing

Competition is a funny thing

Competition is a funny thing. The reactions by different businesses are almost always educational.

For example, a local business has their shorts in a bunch because the local high school bought a machine that (sorta) does what their expensive engraving equipment does. The owners went to the board and complained that the school was competing with them.

As you might expect, it’s been splattered all over our weekly newspaper on and off for a few weeks, including accusations that the school district is doing work for local businesses. Iâ??m not aware of any proof being offered, but itâ??s really beside the point. Then they complained that the school district might eventually stop buying $3000 worth of stuff from them each year.

A few points to consider…

1) They stand to lose $3000 worth of business across an entire year? Look, if 3 grand is the difference between success and failure for your business this year, you need to get a job.

2) Did you really think you would endear yourself to the public by moaning about this in the paper and to the school board? Next I suppose the local newspaper will complain because the students are writing news stories in journalism class. Or the local metal shops, cabinet shops and programmers will ask them to lose the metal shop, wood shop and computer lab? Look, I *LIKE* when businesses mention that they could get a kid to do their work for “10 bucks an hour”. Why? Because I KNOW they’ll be back, ready for me to clean up the mess. Think about it. What happens when your system goes down and your little genius is busy studying because he has a chemistry test the next day? Or when she’s out of town on a band trip? Or when he can’t skip football practice? Or when his girlfriend threatens to break up with him if he doesn’t come over RIGHT NOW?

3) Anyone who would get engraving made at the high school isn’t likely to buy â??real engravingâ? from a business. The quality difference is apparent, if nothing else because the machine is different. Iâ??ve seen work from both machines. The real biz does far better work. Of course, its far less convenient to drop by their business now that theyâ??ve moved out of town to a rural location (DUH), but it beats going into the high school, checking in as a visitor, or meeting the kid in the evening.

4) Whereâ??s your marketing? Instead of fighting this, take advantage of it. Do most â??freebieâ? jobs get done on time? No. (Think “cheap, fast or good, pick any 2”) Do they have all the various stock emblems for engraving at the high school? No. Can you just drop something off with a brief note, say â??make this happenâ? & know itâ??ll be done professionally & on time? TODAY? Not likely. Can you get “rush service”? Probably not. All â??weaponsâ? for your marketing.

Market more and complain less. Youâ??ll have less to complain about. Bonus: you won’t look like a putz in the local paper.


The public makes it SO easy on us marketing types

I was at the NY Times site today and stumbled across this little box of info.

Keywords most frequently searched by readers.

  1. sex
  2. immigration
  3. anna nicole smith
  4. china
  5. global warming
  6. iraq
  7. health
  8. obama
  9. india
  10. education

This is actually a tad more serious than the keyword list offered up by the major search engines, but it speaks directly to how easy the public makes it on marketers. Even the dowdy NYT (despite its really cool online reader) manages to be a source for info about sex and Anna Nicole. Or Britney, or Brad and Angelina, or whatever.

This is what appears to be on the minds of those who you target with your marketing. If your market has parallels with the NYT readership, use it. There are plenty of publication websites with the same info. Use it to make your message fit the readership.
Just a random thought here, but exactly who thinks of the New York Times and sex in the same sentence?


Small Business Blogging 101

I wrote a quick little ebook today for my newsletter clients to get them started on the road to blogging. I suspect it’ll end up being a series for them.

I figured I might as well share it with my blog readers too.
You (or your clients) can claim your own personal copy of my Small Business Blogging 101 ebook by going to and fill out the form. The ebook is actually very small, but it IS a 101 course, so you don’t want it to be too big.

It’s not geeky, it’s just the why, what and how of getting started.

All that’s required to get the ebook is name and email address. However, if you include a mailing address, you’ll get our free monthly marketing and business strategies newsletter. It’s called “Main Street Success”. Most of my clients tend to be smallish, “Main Street” businesses (but not all of em), so it seemed like a natural name for the newsletter.

Marketing Strategy

Small Business Blogging 101

Without whacking you about the head and shoulders like the penguin lady with her ruler (in the movie, The Blues Brothers), it’s clear that there are some businesses out there who need to pay a little bit of attention to blogging – and understand why it’s important – and then get started. This is not about the Swift Boat Vets, or Britney, etc.

It’s about being visible when someone does a Google search (still, submit a Google Local entry as well).

It’s about positioning you and your business as experts, authority figures and the like – and having the info in your blog to prove it.

It’s damage control, if you need it, and of course, if you have the gumption to do it in public where it’ll actually do some good.

It’s about getting rid of that boring “brochure” website and putting up something that HELPS your prospects decide that you are THE place to shop, as well as offering your clients what they need to use what they bought from you, get it fixed, repair it, use it, and eventually, replace it.

It’s marketing. Yes, I said it. The M word. I can feel the lashings already:)

If you look back at a few recent blog posts, both here and over at Glenn’s place at (and those he linked to), you’ll find that folks have done a fairly good job of showing owners of “mundane” businesses who think they have nothing to say, and think they have no reason to blog – exactly why and how a business blog not only makes sense, but offers real value to their clients.

So far, I’ve produced a list for jewelry store owners and outdoor power equipment dealers. Owners of those two types of businesses may think they have nothing in common.

Do you sell insurance? Do you take 300 calls a month answering questions that your client would have liked to get answers to at 9:27pm last Sunday night? Tell Warren and Marge over there in the corporate compliance in Milwaukee to get a real job, and post the info on your blog anyway. You work for the clients, not corporate compliance. I dont mean confidential stuff, just the things that you normally think you have to get the Warren-and-Marge “Stamp of OkeeDokee” on, yet they are no threat to anyone’s privacy, sanity or ability to stay between the lines.

The point is, there IS information that your prospects and clients want, at 9:27pm on a Sunday night – because they aren’t at work, and the kids are finally in bed, and American Idol doesn’t come on for 3 more minutes and they remembered to take care of it. Tomorrow, they’ll be at work, they’ll forget, or they don’t have time to call.

Blogs offer a simple, no-geek-required (after the installation, worst case) way to get your important info on the web where your prospects and clients can find it. If you can type a letter in Microsoft Word, you can blog. It isnt rocket science.

Meanwhile, you’ve got deposit slips sitting around that need something to do. So get blogging.

Marketing The Slight Edge

12 things to blog about if you own an outdoor power equipment store

Yep, a place that sells and services mowers, weed whackers (heee-ya! take that!), chain saws, snow blowers and the like.

1 – A very complete and detailed how-to video section.

For example, how to remove (if necessary) and sharpen the blade on a push mower, how to do the same on a rider, how to change the oil on a mower, blower, and so on (1 video for each), how to change the belts on a rider, a snowblower and anything else with a belt. How to change the line on a weed whacker (heeee-ya! take that!). Winterizing equipment, or “summerizing it” in the case of snowblowers etc.

Bonus points if you have video for every make you sell, and every model whose maintenance procedures are unique from the other videos you’ve created.

Bonus points if you offer some sort of Do-It-Yourself-er Club for clients who use the videos to service their own equipment and buy the parts from you. Royalty Rewards (a loyalty program that puts others to shame) would be a great way to make this happen with very little effort – and get a positive ROI from it.

Bonus points for you if you figured out that people are more likely to bring their equipment to you for servicing once they see what’s really involved in doing the work – and you help plant that thought make pointing out that the technician is factory trained and certified and has been doing this work for 13 years 🙂

2 – A “Smart Consumer” how to choose a dealer / how to choose equipment section

This area will provide a checklist for selecting the right outdoor power equipment dealer for your needs, how to choose the right mower, snowblower, and so on. Ideally, accompanied by video, showing specifics to look for. This is where you would address the “Why you should buy power equipment here and not at Wal-Mart” question.

3 – New trends in outdoor power equipment

There are always new things coming in this area, I suspect it wont be long before mowers have cup holders. Showing that you are on top of the trends – and stating your opinion about them – sends the right message to your clients.

4 – Common mistakes that will cost you money

This area would show common mistakes people make when caring for their power equipment and how to prevent them. Could include video or still images showing the aftermath of these mistakes and the costs involved. Goes back to the “How to” section, but narrows down a bit more on things that cost you money and keep your equipment out of the repair shop.

5 – Be Safe, Not Sorry.

Speaking as someone who whacked up a toe really bad on a mower with no blade when I was a kid, it seems to me that a series of safety videos and posts would prove helpful. I am not sure of the legal conundrum this might create. Let the lawyers argue about that.

6 – Professional Equipment

There are many topics open for discussion that will be relevant for the yard care professional, logger (remember, we carry chain saws), landscaper, tree surgeon, and so on. Again, this is a place to differentiate yourself from the competition, so don’t forget to make the necessary points about why the professional simply has to trust your shop vs all others. This is a good place to discuss industry trends that are of no interest to the consumer, but will be important to the professional who makes a living with the tools you sell and service.

7 – Professional Equipment Service and Maintenance

Like the how to section, this would be focused on similar topics but for professional grade equipment. Videos, still photos, checklists, how to for every piece of pro equipment you sell, and so on. This will showcase the techniques you use to take extra special care of the equipment they make a living from.

8 – Promotions

A place to find out what promotions you are running, grab a coupon, etc. Easy to find.

9 – Services

Describe everything you offer in detail that only Disney could appreciate. Why its different and BETTER than what the other guys do. What it costs (refer to a central pricing page so you aren’t constantly chasing all over your blog correcting prices).

10 – Upcoming Events

Surely you have events at your store that are thinly (or not) veiled marketing opportunities – but are still of value to your clientele.

11 – Manuals for everything

If you’ve ever tried to find the PDF manual for a 3 year old snowblower on the internet, you know what a nightmare it is. The manufacturer web sites change regularly and are geared primarily towards sales, not toward keeping clients happy. Include every PDF you can get your hands on, as soon as you can, ie: before it disappears from the manufacturer’s website. Include your own maintenance checklists for the homeowner and the professional.

12 – About the shop
Who owns it. How you got into the business. What your experience is. Trainings, certifications, etc. Profiles of the staff, their experience and so on. Could include video or still pictures of the staff. Awards from your industry (or anywhere), new training your staff received, any other news you can think of that fits this category.

That’ll keep you busy for a few days. Its just like a big watermelon. Gotta eat it one bite at a time.

Marketing Starbucks

The business lesson in Britney and Anna Nicole

This morning on the way to work, for the umpteenth day in a row, the TOP STORY on the radio news is not Iran, Iraq, the economy or anything remotely important…. its Britney.

Next, Iraq, then Hillary v. Obama, then Anna Nicole.

2 of the top four stories at the top of the hour news (this is not the E! station) are about stupid celebrity issues that are about as important as what color socks I’m wearing today (gray, if you’re taking notes).

The lesson is that the news media has figured out some subset of these things:

  • The majority of the American people think celebrity news is more important than anything
  • The majority of the American people don’t care about “hard” news.
  • The media feels its job is to entertain us, not to inform us (Fox’s Colbert has that part down pat).

Your lesson is this: You need to be using this ridiculous, silly, unimportant news in your marketing, because its what people hear in the news, its what they talk about, its what entertains them. It may annoy the crud out of you, but you are not your customer. If its on the front page of USA Today, find a way to use it. Be creative about it, not boring.

Just as an example, say you own a coffee shop in downtown Billings MT, where the clientele is largely business people from 7-5. How difficult would it be to have stickers for your togo cups that allow your clients to “vote” for the day’s contentious (but silly and inane) issue?

Who will win the Super Bowl? Who likes bald Britney? Who gets Anna Nicole? Who do you think will win the Daytona 500?

The possibilities are limitless. You could even make a contest out of it, drop your biz card in the Chicago Bears bowl, or in the Indy bowl. After the game, draw a card from the winning team’s bowl, award them a cup of coffee – but dont stop there. Get one of those life size cardboard cutouts of the winning QB and take a picture of you (the owner), the person who won, and the cardboard cut out. Blow it up, put it in the store. Use it in your ads.

Just one possibility…

Taking this further, you can make yourself into a local celebrity. “Be somewhere, Be Someone, Do Something”, as Dan says. Write a column for the local paper, do a radio or tv spot, take on a local cause PUBLICLY. Watch what celebrities do to bring attention to themselves. You can do similar things, just dont be a bozo.

Another option: use a celebrity. A mortgage guy in Chicago got the use of “The Fridge” Perry (huge Chicago Bear lineman) for a year for 5k. There are agents you can call and “rent” the use of a celebrity and you’ll find it far less expensive than you think, unless of course you want Paris Hilton at your tool rental shop. A commonly overlooked option is to rent the “most popular” local sportscaster or weather person as your spokesperson. Even these folks are treated as celebrities on a local basis.


Business owners: What would you blog about your biz?

Glenn Ross over at emailed me this afternoon to ask what *I’d* blog about if I owned a jewelry store, in response to his post titled “12 topics I’d blog on if I owned a jewelry store”.

His topics are pretty good and I think I’d use each of them. Since he asked, I’ll see if I can come up with 12 more.

  • How to choose an engagement ring, ie: what in the world do all those buzzwords mean and why should I care? How much should I spend? What’s that 2 months salary thing about, anyhow??? Should I bring her along or surprise her? Trivia: I sold my motorcycle to buy my wife’s ring. Hey, I was young, gimme a break:)
  • How to choose wedding bands, whether you’re on a cheeseburger or a Chateaubriand budget.
  • How do I choose a jeweler? What I should look for in a jeweler? What should scare me off? What doesn’t matter? (is there anything?) How are we different from the box stores? Chain stores vs family stores vs the box stores.
  • Our story. The history of the store, the building we’re in, the owner, the staff, our families, what we do, what we care about. How we got into the jeweler biz and why we stay in it, how my staff got there, how we learned to do what we do, what makes us tick?
  • Celebrity watch. What’s the celebrity-of-the-month wearing and should you care? (You may not care what they are wearing, but look at the subscription numbers for People magazine and ratings for reality shows – someone cares)
  • How to buy a watch. Timex, Casio, Rolex, Piaget? Pocket or wrist? How should I choose one for someone else? (there are clues, where to I find them?)
  • What we do. How we’re different. How we’re the same. What you should expect when doing business with us. Why you’ll do business with us and never go anywhere else.
  • What’s new in the industry? What we learned at the last trade show we attended and why you should care (or not).
  • Stones. Lots of territory to cover here, from price to care, to proper choices, birthstones and their origin, synthetics, famous stones (Hope Diamond, for example), and so on. How to choose, what to watch out for.
  • Metals. Gold, silver, platinum, palladium, junk metals, grades, what to look for, what to avoid.
  • Videos. Watch us create. Watch us repair. Watch us clean. Show your clients how to change batteries, identify fakes, clean and care for jewelry and similar items.
  • Gift selection. Hard not to choose this one, even though Glenn already did:) Not only what the ideal gifts are for holidays, but how to help us help you figure out what to get (metals, stones, sizes, etc).

You may be thinking “My business is different. I cant blog about it.”

I really dont think it matters whether you own a dental practice or a garbage service. There are lots of questions to answer. Questions the search engines love the answers to, but more importantly, questions that your prospective (and current) clients want to know before they pick up the phone.