Duquesne University’s Entrepreneurial Growth Conference

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 7.40.51 PMIf you’re an entrepreneurial led small/medium sized business you should be heading to Duquesne University’s Small Business Development Center’s Entrepreneurial Growth Conference tomorrow, Thursday, June 5.

If you’re going, please connect with me.  As a sponsor, BrandMill will have a demo table and I’ll (Steve Wayhart) be moderating a lunch table discussion about, “How to Profitably Build Sales” and leading a discussion about “Shortcuts to Social Media” at 3:30 p.m.

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15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day

As a 50 percenter of Irish blood and a serial marketing professional, I thought I’d offer you dear reader, my 15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day to help you find your little pot ‘o gold at the end of a rainbow!

And, I’ll offer them quickly because I shouldn’t even be working this hard today as I’m 17 days away from – and preparing for – St. Patrick’s Day which is one of my many “high holy days” – and there’s a Guinness pint with my name of it at my favorite Pittsburgh Irish pub (Riley’s Pour House) and it’s getting warm! So here you go!

1. Green Marketing Lesson One – Making Money. Always keep money (making it or saving it) front and center of any marketing campaign. If you know anything about the Irish (and I do growing up in a large extended family), the majority have experienced challenging economic times and know the value of a dollar. So, incorporating zero based budgeting into your marketing processes will help you become more creative and help you do a lot more for less. 

2. Green Marketing Lesson Two – Sustainability. These days when you hear brands talk about sustainability, it’s related to the environment, but the basic pure definition of sustainability is “the capacity to endure.” Using the same color in your marketing communications reinforces your brand, makes your marketing work harder for you and enables your marketing to endure.

3. Green Marketing Lesson Two – Color. Design and color can help you communicate a great deal. Red – hot, stop; Blue – cool. etc., Keep in mind that all colors also come in a great deal of shades so don’t be boring and predictable.  Green has about 50 unique shades.

4. Create Multi-Sensory Emotional Appeals (e.g., appeal to people’s five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). In a prior post about, “Marketing with Sound,” I discussed the awesome power of sound, but you should also consider all of the ways you can appeal to your customer’s five senses. St. Patrick’s Day appeals them all with color, strong visuals of parades, people having fun; taste of ethnic foods like corned beef and cabbage and drink (pints of Guinness and shots of Jameson) etc.,

5. Appeal to One’s Ethnic Heritage. There’s nothing wrong with appealing to people’s ethnic heritage – net, different strokes for different folks.  In fact, it’s a growing and popular strategy due to our mobile society, immigration, single parent households etc.

Some of this strategy’s keys to success include knowing your market well, being aware of unique cultural nuances, being respectful etc.  Disney’s Epcot Theme Park’s World Showcase is a great example of ethnic marketing, but Denny’s Restaurants’ old Pancake promotion is not.

6. Be Inclusive with Your Marketing. As much of an Irish heritage appeal the holiday provides, St. Patrick’s Day is all-inclusive and welcomes everyone to celebrate – everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

7. Special Event/Thematic/Celebration/Holiday Marketing. Giving a unique thematic association to your marketing messages makes it easier for your customers to understand you and more immediately recognize you too. Tie-ing in to a major holiday celebration gives your promotion authenticity and a “reason why” you’re holding a sales event.

8. Limited Time Appeal.
Having a hard date against a campaign creates urgency, excitement and traffic. Pretty obvious statement, but many marketers leave far too many campaigns without a clear end date and a sense of urgent appeal.

9. Spokesperson/figurehead/celebrity/image appeal. Having a Saint as your celebrity figurehead ain’t too shabby, but it’s the consistency of using the same appealing celebrity with a unique story is what works.

10. Iconic Marketing – Shamrock – brand, sell, profit. Mickey Mouse’s Ears, Ronald McDonald’s big red shoes, McDonald’s Arches and more.

Shamrocks do the same for today’s holiday – it’s the day’s badge of honor and identification. What’s your badge ID?

11. Rule of Threes. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the common Shamrock to teach the Celtic Pagans about the unique Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – 3 in 1 Godhead.

However, the “rule of three” symbolism in the good man’s teaching is relevant today as well because people’s minds are noisy and limited. Using the rule of three enables you to get them to remember you and buy-in a presentation or product mix selection. Small, medium, large; gold, silver, bronze; 3 bears; 3 blind mice; 3 Stooges (see more examples/proof here) – trust me – the rule of three rocks.

12. Be Positive. You won’t find a more positive group of people that the Irish. Despite all of their “Troubles” who else tells you that you can find a pot ‘o gold at the end of a rainbow? At Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade this past Saturday, people throughout the day referred to the cold constant rain as nothing more, “a little Irish mist!”

13. Be Nice. You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer bunch of people than the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day too.

14. Have fun and don’t take yourself so seriously. In this age of “political correctness” the Irish are for the most part a happy and fun bunch and most Irish demeaning jokes bounce of them like water on a duck.

15. Plan Your Luck by Working Hard. In my opinion, “the luck of the Irish” is based on hard work – simple as that. You’ve probably heard the saying, the harder you work the luckier you get!” Well, its true. The majority of Irish are no strangers to hard work and I believe – all things being equal – people that work harder and smarter than their peers will meet with more profitable success in a shorter period of time.

Got to run, my pint is getting warm.

Slan (Gaelic for “farewell for now”)!

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The Marketing Man Who Hates Advertising

The headline in this post comes from a comment that great client and friend of ours said about me a few years ago.

And, he’s repeated it to me on a few other occasions too.

He said, “As someone who’s been in marketing as long as you, why do you hate advertising so much?”

I answered – and continue to defend myself – that it’s not that I hate advertising, it’s just that I hate bad advertising that’s created to try extort people into believing in or buying unremarkable products and services.

It simply doesn’t work. And, it gives my profession a bad name.

Remember…if you put perfume on a pig…it’s still a pig!

The facts support my argument that there has been a crisis going on in mass media for years and most advertisers simply continue to do the same sad things over and over again.  That is, they spend too much money on TV advertising when they should invest those dollars in creating remarkable high-value products and services.

For example consider these facts*:

  • Only 14% of people trust advertising
  • Only 18% of television commercials achieve a positive return on investment
  • The average ROI is just 54 cents per every dollar spent on TV ads

Now, let’s talk about the biggest joke and general waste of advertising dollars – the Super Bowl.

Just another advertising effort that gives my profession a bad name.

I dread tomorrow listening to all of the so-called Advertising experts and pundits on the national news and talk shows discussing which ad was ‘cute and funny.”  Ugh!

For years, I’ve said that advertising on the Super Bowl is a waste of money. It still is a waste.

Back in 2008, E-Trade premiered commercials during Super Bowl XLII featuring a talking baby (the now infamous E-Trade Baby) in front of a Webcam pontificating about investing and finance in an adult voice. The campaign continued into the Super Bowl XLIII piling on with communications on other channels such Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

And, it continues to this day. Why?

It has to be because it’s ‘cute and funny‘ because it hasn’t done anything to build sales and/or turn around its stock price.

For proof, check out this screen capture I took last night comparing the Dow Jones average (blue)  vs. Schwab (green) and E-Trade (red).  Still laughing?

Now back in 2008, I predicted that the E-Trade baby would rock in advertising recall and likeability and I was proven right. The 2008 E-Trade baby Super Bowl ad campaign earned high marks of 7th most liked, 3rd and 8th most recalled.

However, after the premiere of the E-Trade Baby campaign, I cautioned clients that now that the seed is planted, the E-Trade brand needs to ‘show and tell’ how it has helped real people more effectively perform with personal investing.  They would need to show proof! And, to this day I say, “Where’s the proof?”

There is none and that’s one big reason why their stock is performing poorly vs. other averages. The E-Trade marketing folks must be getting away with this charade by saying, “But, look at our Ad recall numbers! Look at how many golfers know the word ‘shankapotomus.‘ 

To that rationale, I say, “Who cares!”

We do a ton of hospitality work. And, I bet you that we’d drive huge recall numbers by putting a dead body in the front window of any one of our restaurants with a banner stating, “People are dying to dine here!” I’d also bet that sales would rapidly fall.

There’s an old saying that, ‘The only person who likes change is a wet baby.’

I agree and also agree that the E-Trade campaign (and possibly product/service too) needs to be changed if it ever hopes to have happy investors.

Enjoy the game and make efficient use of your day today by getting a something to eat or drink or go to the bathroom during the commercial breaks.

*Source: Justin Kirby & Paul Marsden (2006).  Connected marketing.  Oxford, UK:  Butterworth-Heinemann. xix

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10 Profitable Groupon Marketing Tips

I’ve been a fan of Groupon since one of our Pittsburgh restaurant clients launched the city’s first promotional campaign. And, I’ve become a bigger fan since other hospitality clients have achieved success and after discovering that Groupon founder Andrew Mason is a Pittsburgh (Mt. Lebanon) native – you go guy!

If you read the marketing trades you’ll find some complaints about the lack of profitability of using Groupon as a marketing tactic, but I’d bet that those complainers were not prepared to take advantage of the popular loss leader strategy.

Here are ten profitable Groupon marketing tips.

1. Say “NO” if you’re below. Below average that is. In short, you do not want to feature your brand in a Groupon campaign if you don’t “bring it.” That is, if you sell lousy food (even marginally or mediocre OK), have poor service etc., you do not want to do Groupon! If you do not “deliver the goods”, Grouponers may simply put you out of business earlier than you would normally through negative reviews online etc.!

2. Get buy-in to prevent crying. Far in advance of your scheduled launch, talk through the campaign pros/cons of Groupon with your staff. Get their buy-in early on and clearly explain why everyone needs to be engaged in this huge loss leader effort and why you’ll need all hands and minds on deck to flawlessly execute the campaign. Tell them, “what’s in it for them!”

3. Map your cap. Cap the total number of deals you provide to Grouponers. This creates urgency and protects margins since the offer deadlines are long. Plus, you need to make sure you can handle the traffic.  Sure you want to make short term money – you always do – but your eyes need to be on the prize of repeat business!

4. Don’t wreck your average check. Make sure your deal/offer does not match you average check/purchase to allow for upsell and add-on sales opportunities. And, a lower price tag protects you as well on total customer acquisition costs. Keep in mind that you’re earning around 1/4th of what you’d usually make in an average sale which means you’re losing 3/4ths on virtually every sale.

5. Don’t laugh – add staff. Trust me – make sure you add staff to handle increases in store traffic, phone calls and web hits during and after the sale. You’ll need it!

6. Right your Website. It’s highly likely that your Web site has never seen the kind of traffic it will see on your Groupon day. Make certain your brand’s value proposition is clear, meaningful and relevant throughout your Website and especially on your home page because it’s going to get pounded. And, fix your typos, broken links etc., – net, clean it up! Also, monitor your Groupon comments on your “game day” and answer questions there as well on your social media channels.

7. Up-sell, cross sell and do well. Train your customer facing personnel to up-sell and cross-sell and guide all Grouponers to more profitable add-ons. However, make sure you have lots of exciting ones to offer too.

8. Train to explain. Carefully review (and test their knowledge) your Groupon procedures and rules of the game with all team members so they in turn can explain the campaign to customers, friends and family. You need to do this crucial step to ensure viral communications and no surprised/unhappy customer experiences. Make certain everyone is happy to take Groupon customers and consider putting someone in charge to answer escalated questions and make on the spot decisions to satisfy customer concerns.

9. Retain and gain. Since Groupon does not give up its email database and/or the contact information of customers who take advantage of your offer, it’s critical you have a system (recording system and/or additional incentive for customers/staff) in place to capture valuable new customer contact information (e.g., email addresses, mailing addresses, cell phone numbers, birthdays etc.,). You’ll also want to track your success with regard to add-ons, average check/transaction, redemption rates,  repeat business and more to determine your success and key learnings should you do it again – consider a customer survey too!

10. Show how to WOW now. A ton of your Grouponers will be new customers (and might be bringing other new customers in with them) and may be unfamiliar with your unique value proposition, but you have a great – maybe once in a lifetime – opportunity to WOW them, make them repeat customers and spread your good word. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity. Be a servant leader and SERVE lights out!

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How To Profitably Raise Your Prices

In your price increase or decrease discussions always remember this old marketing truism, “Price is only an issue in the absence of value!”

In these tough economic times (and even in good times) so many of us are afraid to raise prices primarily because we know in our hearts that we’re not offering a clear value and unique experience.

If you want to profitably increase your sales, you can start by offering some WOW and then make sure enough people hear, understand and can easily act on your offer!

No matter what times we live in, people do spend money.  Sure, shoppers may be a bit more wary and discriminating during down-times, but when you offer true, visible, demonstrative and meaningful value, you can make more money and be more profitable selling your products and services at higher prices.

Pricing is a skill and an art that requires some planning and testing. You might gain some short-term market share and sales with discounts, but it could take you years to gain back your competitive positioning. And, if you are a luxury brand you could lose your brand identity while competing on low prices and turn your brand into a commodity.

I’m certainly not a fan of taking advantage of customers with higher non-justified pricing, but there are win-win ways to build profits for companies and build customer satisfaction at the same time.

Here are just some of the ways you can increase your pricing. Some good…some not so good.

Change package/serving size. CPGs do this a lot by reducing the package size a bit and related price, but your cost per ounce and/or pound increases.  How does that make you feel when you discover you’re paying more for less?

Bulk/Bundle/Combo pricing/Price a la carte. Pricing your goods or services a la carte is a good way to increase prices and then show some extra value when a customer chooses to buy in bulk (think cable companies, McDonald’s combo meals, ride all day packages at amusement parks).

Raise grandfathered prices. You can rationalize a price increase message to your ‘pioneer’ customers because ‘costs do go up,’ but if/when you do raise prices on these folks, you need to recognize your customer’s loyalty with a little extra added value to soften the blow.

Raise prices for new customers. A much easier way to raise prices instead of a general price increase across the board.

Schedule a price increase. This helps prepare your customers and carefully inform them of the reasons why you’re increasing their cost of doing business with you.

Offer performance based guarantees. Providing performance based assurances on your higher priced products is a great way to justify higher priced goods and services.

Add a little extra value. Again, adding a little extra makes your offering a little bit better and helps people more easily digest price increases.

Be different – be unique. The very best way to sell your offerings at a higher price. In fact, add a guarantee and a little extra value and you’ll become a much admired and desired triple threat.

You can be a unique necessity or discretionary product or service too – it is profitably achievable.  When you strive to be the Apple, Disney, BMW of your industry you’ll be able to command your price and see your profits soar.

I guarantee it!

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3 Secrets to Achieving Social Media Success

If you want to be a successful, profitable brand via Social Media Marketing, first remember one thing above all – it’s not about the tools, so don’t be one!

The secrets to success in life and business are so basically simple (certainly putting them to practice requires focus, hard work ) that we get so caught up in tools, investments and processes that we lose sight of the easiest ways to get from Point A to Point B.

For example:

  • If you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more. Burn up more calories than you consume.
  • To find love in your life, first be a loving person. Give and you shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened etc.
  • If you want to be treated nice, follow the Golden Rule and on and on

Brands today get so caught up in the the “new new” tools of Social Media (Blogs, Twitter Facebook etc.,) that they lose sight of the true secrets of success. The reason I call them secrets is because most brands are unaware of them, avoid them or think they’ve already uncovered and accomplished them, but they’re not even close.

And, these secrets are not tasks you complete once and move on, rather they’re they’re three pillars of success that need to be strengthened every day through a brand’s daily actions.

Here are my three secrets to Social Media Success.

1. Build a Rock Solid Brand of Character and Integrity – Are you a stand up brand when no one is watching? Do you keep and deliver on your promises? Do you follow your ethical standards in tough times? Not easy to do, but certainly doable.

Check out Gallup Ethical Standards ranking of people in the various fields listed below. Take for example, “business people” – only 12% say they have very high/high standards. Don’t you think we can all work a bit harder on building our reputations than another Facebook Fan Page?

If/when you do, your customers and acquaintances in the Social Media world will be banging their Social Media Marketing drums, praising your name!

Gallup Ethical Standards 11.09

2. Deliver REMARKable Products and Services – Do you simply produce a product or service to get by or do you really “bring it and WOW people!” Are your standards and expectations higher than the norm? Do you sometimes hit them or blow them away all the time? Do you work hard to surprise and delight your team members and customers? Do you deliver a truly unique, meaningful and memorable experience?

When the REMARKable Susan Boyle performed awhile back on Britain’s Got Talent, her authentic, transparent and awesome talent delivered a a truly unique, unexpected (can you say, “WOW”) meaningful and memorable experience?

And, in a few hours/days, 100+ Million Youtube Views were achieved and she became a richer person and a household name.

The REMARKable Brand of Susan Boyle

3. Be a Servant Leader – Lead from Behind

Finally, brand leaders would do well to remember that the most successful ones long-term lead best by serving the needs of their people. In a servant leadership based brand, the leader’s role is one of a resource (people, capital etc.,) steward and encourages leaders to serve others while staying focused on achieving results in line with the organization’s values and integrity.

People (customers, vendors and employees) want to be aligned with brands they respect, value and admire and servant leadership driven brands deliver on every one.

10 Key Servant Leader Traits

If brands today would simply work hard to lead and improve their business in these three key ways, the social media world would take care of the rest and freely spread their good news and great stories using their Social Media Marketing tools!

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New iPad Wine List Rocks

I got my new iPad back in May – a moment in time I’ll always refer to as my “Christmas in May” and am having a love affair with it.

Sure there are things about the iPad that I wished it had, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

When I started to play with the iPad, I started to think thought long and hard about how we can apply it to improve our client’s business.

We do a ton of hospitality marketing work and this past summer, one of our great clients, Kevin Joyce owner of The Carlton Restaurant in Pittsburgh had closed his restaurant for two months for a much needed remodel after 25 years in business.

Kevin called me to go over some new ideas to kick off the new restaurant with a bang –  especially since his reopening was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 18 – opening night of Pittsburgh’s new Consol Energy Center with a concert by Sir Paul McCartney.

One of my first thoughts, was what could we do to:

  1. Reaffirm the fact that The Carlton has the biggest and best wine lists (15+ year Wine Spectator Award winner) – Great Wine is a big USP for the restaurant
  2. Complement The Carlton’s new 450 bottle wine library – the restaurant’s soul
  3. Showcase the fact that The Carlton offers the best wine dinners in Pittsburgh

In a snap, we thought, “Create an iPad Wine List to replace The Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list.” Using an iPad wine list would create a “halo” effect of flawless contemporary execution of the Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list and separate them even more so from the pack of restaurants they compete against.

As an aside – I know I may be biased, but I think The Carlton i the best restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh and I thought that fact to be true long before I started working for them…anyway…

Instinctively back in May, we Googled “iPad wine list” and could not find any U.S. restaurant using iPads for menus, but we found a great story about an Australian restaurant that swapped out its menus for iPads.

Kevin and I must have been doing a “Vulcan Mind Meld” at the time, because when we called him, he said he saw the Aussie story  and was ready to rock.

Our iPad wine list is not as aggressive as the Aussie menu – we prefer to walk before we run with the wine list first then potentially move to the food menu – but I can tell you that the iPad has significantly improved The Carlton’s brand image of Pittsburgh’s premier dining and wine establishment and improved wine sales too – customers love it!

We’ll soon cut a brief video explaining how the wine list works, but know these things:

  1. The iPad can be used to help lift your business
  2. Look for products and/or service executions that create brand “halo” USPs
  3. It’s better to phase in technology improvements to your business to flawlessly execute and gain an immediate WOW from your customers before someone else comes along and steals your marketing thunder and you look like a market follower and/or a “me too” brand**
  4. Great clients make great marketing firms

**Note: In the time we started to work on and launch The Carlton’s iPad wine list, there have been major news articles about iPad wine lists in use at Central Park South Gate restaurant (7.2.10),  Bones in Atlanta (9.13.10), III Forks in Jacksonville (8.11.10), but hey The Carlton had the first iPad wine list in Pennsylvania! More news to come as we continue to improve our iPad wine list effort.

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$6 Google AdWords Campaign Lands Dream Job

For anyone looking for a new job (pay attention college grads) or trying to get that next big sale and running into a roadblock because you can’t get the attention of a key decision maker, check out this brilliant job search strategy by copywriter Alec Brownstein.

  1. Brownstein used Google AdWords to target Ad Agency Creative Directors on Madison Avenue in New York
  2. He bet 15 cents per click that these Creatives were no different than the rest of  us self absorbed people who Google ourselves
  3. What the CD’s saw when they Googled themselves was a personal ad from Brownstein – BRILLIANT!
  4. Young & Rubicam offered him a job!

Note: Brownstein’s Google Job Experiment YouTube video has been viewed over 500,000 times!  Rock on Alec!

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You Take Dollars to the Bank

…not percentages.

Following yesterday’s post about testing, someone asked me about testing promotional offers and wanted to know which has more appeal, a dollar off coupon or a percent off coupon.

After saying, “Test them both,” I told him that in my experience a “dollar off” promotion typically outsells a percent off promotion. Dollar offs, BOGOs (buy one get one free, cash rebates etc.,) rock harder than a simple percent off promotion.

Why?

One big reason.

Money talks and you know the rest.

It’s far easier for busy people (aren’t we all) to understand the value of a dollar figure vs. calculating percentages.

But hey, don’t take my word for it

Check out this Marketing Sherpa article which supports my view and highlights how one brand’s test proved that its dollar off promo delivered 170% more revenue.

Test people test.  And, always remember you take dollars to the bank not percentages.
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The Unique Selling Proposition of Brand Jesus

I’ve been a practicing (and far from perfect) Roman Catholic and Christian all my life, and for over 25 years, I’ve been a practicing (also far from perfect) marketing professional.

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a lot of brand positioning exercises and marketing audits as well as attending a weekly bible study. As I’m preparing to enter Holy Week and Easter – my favorite time of the year – my professional and personal life is colliding in an interesting way.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ ministry and his time on earth a lot lately. And, I’ve been thinking about him as a brand too. And, when I think of him as a brand, his radical and remarkable message and unique selling proposition is clearly one of unconditional love, tolerance and forgiveness – but, love is his foundational core message. And, he demonstrated his core message of love by living it out loud through his actions and by making the ultimate sacrifice.

I say radical and remarkable because if you closely study The Sermon on the Mount, you’ll see what I mean. C’mon…turning the other cheek is one heck of a radical concept! Even today!

When I try to stand outside of my faith and look at Christianity as a product,  it’s amazing that it has spread throughout the world and has welcomed 2 billion adherents without depending on large scale ad campaigns, social media and the like.

Christianity has spread because one person – Jesus – started it by speaking his message of truth, being authentic, transparent and following a singular focused devout message of pure unconditional love for everyone.

It’s a great lesson for all of us people of the world and marketers too.

Happy Easter to all of you.

P.S.: With all due respect, this post is not meant to be sacrilegious at all, but merely an essay in effective branding/messaging. Also, for those of you interested in religious marketing lessons, I came across this Blog – Church Marketing Sucks – and found it pretty interesting. The site’s goal as stated is to…“frustate, educate and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ.” Another interesting post is here, Jesus Is Not a Brand; Why it is dangerous to make evangelism another form of marketing, by Tyler Wigg Stevenson.

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