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Jim Koch’s Teachable Moment

Yesterday, President Obama sat down in the White House Rose Garden to have a beer and a “teachable moment” with a couple of Cambridge residents and the VP.

The only brewery CEO who managed to use the event for PR during that famous Rose Garden beer party – Jim Koch, the CEO of Sam Adams.

Not only did he let the press know that he’d brew a special beer for the occasion, he (one way or another) managed to get his beer served during the event despite Red Stripe having the early nod from Gates.

Of course he knew full well that every story in the news would likely mention what beer was consumed (amid all the handwringing about that, geez). Even if it meant giving Gates free a 6 of Sam Adams every week for life, it would likely be worth it.

But…that’s all there was.

Silence is not golden

I searched for stories and press releases about Blue Moon – from Blue Moon – about the event. Nothing.

I searched for stories and press releases about Bud Light – from InBev – about the event. Nothing.

I searched for stories and press releases about Sam Adams – from Sam Adams brewery – about the event. Nothing other than the previously mentioned special occasion brew Koch was talking about. To his credit, Koch had managed to the special beer idea into stories from NPR and many others in the mainstream press.

I searched for stories and press releases about Buckler – from the Heineken brewery – about the event, though that was expected since the beer is supposedly being taken off the U.S. market.

None of these breweries had anything on their website about the event or the fact that their beers were chosen.


I searched for stories from pizza stores and chip/dip makers about why the POTUS should serve their food/snacks during this get together. Nothing. Not even the articles mentioned what sort of chip and dip was on the agenda.

Maybe I missed one somewhere, though there were a few stories asking the public what they’d serve.

Teachable moment? Use the news in your marketing and public relations efforts.

You might think that this is a negative moment to tout your brand/product. Not even close.

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Obama’s Pizza War : Get your piece of the pie

Prosciutto, anchovy and onion pizza.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gio JL

The President is hosting a group for dinner at the White House this weekend and pizza is on the menu.

That alone should have you thinking about opportunities to use the news -  if you’re in the pizza or catering business.

But then, it got turned up a notch when Obama chose St. Louis pizza for the dinner rather than pizza from his adopted hometown of Chicago.

And that gave you yet another opportunity. If you’re in Chicago, NY or St. Louis, there are lots of opportunities to use this since those cities all claim to have the best pizza.

With the choice of St. Louis’ Pi pizza to cater the dinner, it just adds to the opportunity.

In fact, even if you have a pizza joint in Ft Benton Montana (population 1459, saaaaa-lute), there’s a ready-made opportunity that just got tossed your way like a thin crust pizza (noting that St Louis-based IMO’s wasn’t invited).

There is always opportunity for those paying attention.

How can you use this while the story is still hot?

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The Parrot Says You Can’t Do That

Close parrot
Creative Commons License photo credit: jsgphoto

Obama made reference to it Tuesday during his Inaugural Address, acknowledging that many say he can’t do all the things he’s got on his agenda.

Maybe so, maybe not.

Admittedly, his obstacles are substantial.

Some might assume they are insurmountable, specifically those 500 or so people in the Capitol building.

The thing is, that’s  just the kind of situation that often makes people succeed well beyond their own expectations, much less the expectations of others who have counted them out.

Ask Joe Namath, Roger Staubach or John Elway about being counted out.

On second thought, do that later. I’m not here to talk to you about those 4 guys – I’m here to talk to you about you.

Got obstacles?

Who’s counted YOU out? Neighbors? Friends? Family? That little parrot on your shoulder?

Your obstacles probably shrink in comparison to the ones faced by Presidents, but they still might be daunting for you.

So what? Act in parallel and make em all wrong.

What exactly do I mean by parallel?

Most people act sequentially. They think “I’ll do this project, then this project, then that project.” We’ve been taught that way, at least most of us. Learning anything different is often something you stumble across. A failed project acted on sequentially is like a losing season.

Most really successful people tend to act in parallel. They often have a dozen or more projects going on at once. If one of them sticks to the wall, fine. If not, those other 11 projects will pick up the slack. A failed project is just one of the many things they’re counting on, rather than an entire losing season, it’s more like an incomplete pass.

Sure, you’re wondering how they get it all done. How do they juggle a dozen projects when one is enough to drive you crazy?

I promise you one thing: it sure doesn’t happen by accident.

How do they get parallel without going postal?

  • They have a mentor. Even *billionaires* have mentors, coaches, confidants or mastermind groups. Don’t imagine for a minute that Bill Gates plays bridge with Warren Buffett just for fun, nor that Buffett does because he can’t find anyone else to play cards with him. Look Tiger Woods can spank any golfer on the planet, yet he still has a coach to help him keep improving. Who do you have?
  • They have systems in place to relieve themselves of tedious crap. I’m talking about the same stuff that bogs down your day, interrupts you during productive stretches (you DO have those, don’t you?) and create piles of minimum wage labor on your desk – work that you end up doing yourself.
  • They’ve surrounded themselves with people as smart or smarter than themselves. Their ego isn’t driving the bus. Quite often, they do this to relieve themselves of time-consuming manual labor – often technical skills like copywriting and web design.

Acknowledging the theme of the day, Abe Lincoln is quoted as saying that if he had 8 hours to cut down a tree, he’d first spend 6 hours sharpening his saw. What sharpens your saw?

Jim Rohn says that “You become the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with.” No, that doesn’t mean you should go stand in a circle of supermodels<g>. Seriously…Who have you surrounded yourself with?

Get Parallel. Show the parrot who’s in charge.

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Election lessons for small business owners

Plenty has been written about the Obama campaign’s use of technology and social media (much less a zillion other things).

I suggest you read all of it, as there are important examples to use in your small business.

For example, this summary of notable social media and technology events during the 2008 Presidential election campaign.

Think back to the coverage in this blog of the candidates’ email and mobile marketing processes. That’s just a small piece of the picture.

The fundamental piece of all of these social marketing tools, technologies, video sources and collaborative sites is message to market match.

Message to market match means speaking to the prospect or customer using the language THEY use when discussing the topic THEY are interested in. Or the need they have. Or the want they have.

Look at the message on MySpace for the Obama campaign and you don’t find just one profile. You find one for *each state*. You don’t find a MySpace-like message in MySpace lingo on LinkedIn (where the audience is all business people) any more than you would talk to a 45 year old customer in the same way you’d talk to your teenage kid.

Are you using the right language and the right lingo for the person you are trying to engage? Or are you trying to use the same message for everyone. It’s easier, but it sure doesn’t sell like a message that’s fine tuned to the audience.

MTV Total Request Live and the Lawrence Welk Show are music shows…with wildly different audiences. If you tried to talk with the MTV crowd about the Lennon Sisters, they’ll look at you like you’re from Mars. Likewise, if you talk about Korn to a Welk viewer, they’re likely to think you mean a crop from Iowa, not a metal band from Bakersfield.

The error in your conversation’s lingo doesn’t have to be that extreme.

Last week I was chatting with the owner of a shop that restores, customizes, sells and locates custom cars after a speaking engagement. She noted that their shop has experts in brakes, electrical and other common car problems, yet no one comes to her shop for these common repairs.

“Why would they?”, I asked. I suggested that no one knows they do that kind of work on normal cars.

Their marketing speaks to the car enthusiast, The name of the shop effectively says “We build and restore custom classic cars”. It doesn’t even begin to send the message “regular shop work is done here on regular cars”.

All the cars parked out front and in the showroom are customs, restore jobs and most are 30 or 40 years old. All the communications you see speak to the motorhead, not the guy with the ’99 Suburban that needs brakes.

If you want to attract the guy who needs brakes for a regular vehicle, you have to speak their language – not say “we do high end custom work”.

The owner I was speaking with grasped the idea quickly once I explained why the message wasn’t even being heard by the average Joe. We discussed several things she needed to do in order to get this other message out to the right group of people.

That’s the key. Quoting Robert Collier (again), “Enter the conversation already going on in the prospect’s mind.”

In the right language.

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President proof your business: Through the eyes of your clients

No matter who is elected as the next President of the United States, things are going to be different over the next 4 to 8 years. Whether Obama or McCain wins, the wind in the business community is going to shift.

Is your business sail going to be set in the right direction to catch that wind? We’re going to talk about “president-proofing” your business on and off for a while, so let’s get started with episode 1.

Whether you do business with the government or not, the change that is taking place now and the changes that will take place starting on January 20th 2009 are going to present a pile of opportunity.

Either you recognize these opportunities as early as possible and set your sail to catch the wind, or you could find yourself tacking against a storm.

Whenever there is change -of any kind – in the air, you will find it accompanied by opportunity.

The problem with these great new opportunities is that they can be frustratingly difficult to detect when you are blinded by the day to day crisis management of your business. Even if you’ve successfully implemented processes and systems in your business that funnel responsibilities to your staff and shield you from what I would call the “daily mundane crisis”, stuff happens.

A critical step in seeing through the day to day fog of business crisis is something we talked about a few weeks ago (Airplane Time). I think we hit that topic hard enough already, so I suggest you review that post as part of your efforts to President-proof your business.

So how do you see those opportunities? Open your eyes.

When I say “Open your eyes”, what I mean is that you need to look really hard at the changes likely to come from a new President and his management (aka the Cabinet and staff), much less from 400+ elected or re-elected Congressional members.

No matter how you vote, examining the middle ground of each candidate’s goals and platform is a safe bet, but is it going to result in a breakthrough for your business? I’m not so sure. On the other hand, expecting massive, immediate change isn’t a reality-based expectation either.

Presidential inertia (voluntary or otherwise) will set in at the White House, as will a realization of how things really work in Congress when you’re no longer a Senator. Even if the same party controls the White House and the Congress, it isn’t necessarily a blank check.

Don’t believe me? Look at the lack of movement that has come as a result of the almost-month-old bailout bill. Life is more complex than Washington sometimes seems to recognize.

So how do you push the envelope and come up with ideas that are going to propel you safely and profitably through 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s gauntlet of *whatever* and create that new, great new thing?

Look at your clients. Look at your market.

Don’t worry so much about how the upcoming changes – whatever they are – will affect you and your business. Look at how these changes will affect your clients and your prospects.

Do any of these changes relate even remotely to what you already do? Deal with it. Create products and services that make the impacts of these annoying little changes simply go away.

Make em scatter like cockroaches suddenly exposed to sunlight.

Put yourself in your clients’ place. Look at the new world through THEIR open eyes, not just yours. Talk to them about their anticipated concerns for the upcoming administration to confirm (or destroy) that their concerns are what you expected.

What is going to make them the most insanely annoyed, angry or crazy about the upcoming administration?

What is going to start making them lose sleep at night? What is simply going to be different, perhaps notably different for them – even if it isn’t going to make them crazy?

Create the magic wand that makes the pain go away and take insanely great care of them through “these difficult times” (whatever that’s gonna mean).

PS: While I really appreciate comments, candidate-specific responses here will be deleted. If that’s on your mind when your comment juices are flowing, you’re missing the point of this post. Read it again.

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31 flavors of marketing: Another election-related marketing campaign

Last weekend, I took my granddaughter home to her mom and dad. As we started back toward the Flathead on a balmy fall afternoon, the Mrs and I stopped for a little ice cream at Baskin-Robbins.

Down in the corner of the ice cream case were a blue flavor and a red flavor (thankfully not colored that way). One was McCain-themed, one was Obama-themed, each with a clever description of the recipe.

I didn’t see a scorecard anywhere, and it really didn’t matter. They put the effort into using the news in their marketing, and in fact, in their product.

Time is running out for your effort in this area, at least for this time around. If you don’t have time to do it now, put a reminder several weeks in advance of the next election.

If you do have time now, use these examples to come up with a campaign IN ADVANCE so it’ll be ready next time.

No matter what, there’s always news that you can use. Just crack open a USA Today or, or whatever your favorite (or least-favorite) news delivery source is. Use what they give you.

Baskin-Robbins’ payoff on Google so far is 13,300 search results for “Baskin Robbins Flavor Debate”. 13,330 discussions about their business. How many ice cream cones did that sell?

Have a little fun with the news and yes, profit from it.