Thursday, December 13, 2007

College Students Come Calling for Google

Thanks to Search Engine Land for the heads up on a new Google program to turn college students loose on local businesses.

According to the always-on-top-of-things Greg Sterling, "You've got to hand it to Google for creativity. It created the local business referral representative program to enlist stay-at-home moms, college students and others to get better data about local businesses and build AdWords awareness. (I was told by Google that the response to the program had been strong.) Now Google has developed the "Google Online Marketing Challenge." According to the site, "student groups will receive US$200 of free online advertising and then work with local businesses to devise effective online marketing campaigns."

Sterling also has a heads-up about an upcoming Simple Ads program, so check out his post.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Optimize - Strategize - It's all "zzzz" to me

A recent project had me examining several dozen web sites, checking out product offerings and company information. Ugh! The state of web marketing and communications is pitiful.

Over 75% of the sites used jargon, but never said what the product was - I see they are all cost effective, revenue enhancing, they all optimize, strategize (and cross-my-eyes). They are all industry-leaders, best-of-breed, they all provide solutions, enhance, enable, and empower. HUH?

They fail to list their products. When products are listed there is not a simple descriptive sentence alongside that product. Want to know what the product does? Well, it's likely state-of-the art something that enables somebody to maximize their revenue potential. (And, like I asked, WHAT is it?). Instead - they have a page of "Solutions" which is poorly written, poorly edited, and minus compelling benefits.

Several don't list any of the names or backgrounds of the people involved, provide no street address, and fail to provide basic company information. Hey, if I'm dealing with Google I don't really need to verify that this company knows what they are doing. If I'm dealing with XYZ Cutie Name Company I want to have a lot of information that tells me they are legit.

Betcha they are thinking, "We'll provide that when they call us. No need to give any information away to our competitors." Problem is, who would care to call such an unprofessional company.

If it was just this one situation, I wouldn't be so peeved. But this is rampant. Go to any major conference, walk the conference floor, look at booths and literature, and tell me what half the companies do and how they are unique among their competitors. It can't be done.

PR these days makes it even worse. Check out this post from Ken Magill. He's on-spot in his analysis about how ineffective it is to think that people will work hard to understand your company.

So this is my mini-rant. I wish every company that wants to succeed would optimize its language, strategize on how to communicate better, enhance their message, enable real people to understand exactly what's being offered, and be the best-of-breed communicators as well as technologists.

Now THAT would be real marketing.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Small Biz and the Web

Two pieces worth noting to help keep your small retail business competitive.

One from the New York Times - Small Merchants Gain Large Presence on Web - pointing out that small- and medium-size retailers selling online has swelled in the last two years, from 21 percent to 32 percent. This article should give you cause to pause if you're thinking about opening a new business as a bricks-and-mortar location. (This sent in by pal and research guru Tim Stehle - thanks, Tim!)

The second from Andrew Shotland's blog, covering keynoter Allison Mnookin's (VP Small Business, Intuit) talk at the recent Kelsey Group Interactive Local Media Conference. She told attendees that company research shows 20% of the small businesses claimed that SEO was by far their “most effective” online marketing tactic. Only about 5% said that online advertising was most effective. Shotland remarks, "Of course 59% said business cards were the most effective form of marketing so we SEO junkies still have some work to do."

The Kelsey Group blogs also had great information from Mnookin's talk - check out Steve Marshall's post which includes hints on how vendors should work with small businesses, as well as tidbits such as, "SMBs spent about $110 billion on marketing last year. But only 22 percent have done any online marketing (in the past 12 months), and less than 5 percent of their marketing budgets are spent on online media. Finally, although 95 percent of SMBs say they want to have a Web site, less than 50 percent currently do."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Distinguished Volunteer Fundraiser

Today, as some of you know, I'm one of the Silicon Valley folks being honored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals as a Distinguished Volunteer Fundraiser.

The recognition is a result of my volunteer work with my nearby YMCA in its annual Community Support campaign. This annual effort supports scholarships to YMCA programs so no one is turned away for lack of funds.

In addition to helping raise funds each February, I try to bring my marketing skills to play during the annual campaign: helping write campaign literature, letters and emails for other volunteers to use, scripts for use on the phone, telephone training, and ideas that raise awareness among the YMCA members.

Thanks again to all who have called and emailed to say "congrats."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

News from the Local Space - NBC Makes Moves and Zillow Partners With Newspapers

TV Week broke the news today that the "English-language, NBC-owned TV stations have been renamed NBC Local Media. The new division [is] important to the station group’s mission to be a full-service local content provider for all digital platforms and to provide a full range of integrated marketing solutions to the local marketplace.

"Brian Buchwald has been named senior VP of local digital media and multiplatform, and Mark French has been named senior VP and general manager of NBC Everywhere, a new unit focusing on the company’s growing digital place-based networks. Both appointments are effective immediately and report directly to NBC Local Media Division President John Wallace." NBC is trying to get a bigger piece of the local advertising pie. Are there new partnerships to look forward to, or will they try to go it alone. Whatever the case, it's worth watching.

And in other local news, check out Peter Krasilovsky's coverage of the announcement Zillow has made its move to partner with newspapers, a good sign that newspapers aren't going to lay down and die when it comes to their part of the online real estate advertising that Borrell Associates estimates will swell to $3 billion by 2010.

What's all this mean for the small local business? More companies trying to build better local sites can only help create healthier advertising platforms. Will big media ever create a digital strategy that is useful and effective for small businesses? We'll have to wait and see.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What Consumers Want

Another report well worth the time: Sterling Commerce and Deloitte issued a report, What Consumers Want in Their Shopping Experience, that discusses what consumers want in online and traditional shopping.

While geared to retail, the findings also have applications all small businesses should put into play. Come to think of it, most of us could name some big dot com companies that would do well to keep these expectations of customer service in mind

Key findings:
  • Both online shoppers and offline shoppers had three major areas of dissatisfaction with their shopping experience: Lack of information availability, out-of–stock items, and lack of assistance/poor customer service from store personnel.
  • Consumers ranked online notifications higher than product rating and review features. Consumers also chose proactive notification of delayed shipments as one of the important features that increases trust in a retailer.
  • Tracking an order across channels is also a necessity, with 57% of consumers stating that it is important for them to be able to monitor the status of their order via the Web, a 1-800 number, or through customer service in a store,regardless of whether that order was placed online, through the catalog, or as a special order in a store.
  • Seventy-two percent of consumers say that finding sale items out of stock decreases their willingness to shop with that retailer. That is a huge number.
  • Sixty-nine percent say it is important for a retailer to be able to locate an out-of-stock product at a different location, and then provide the consumer with various delivery options.
  • Consumers are becoming more familiar with the experience of a single retailer offering products across multiple channels. They expect the communication and service options related to these products to be seamlessly merged.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The End of Advertising As We Know It

IBM Global Business Services has a new report, The End of Advertising As We Know It, that is a great read for those (like me) who care about such things.

It's received lots of press already, but I include it here so you'll have an easy link.

The report has a lot to say to the media and agencies that are engaged in the business side of advertising, but all this certainly impacts local businesses. It's already common to find small local businesses struggling for creative ways to market the business without having to spend all day at the computer watching keywords, listings, consumer reviews, etc.

Now we have a forecast that shows increased consumer control, growing niche media, and reliance on self-serve advertising models.

How can small business survive and thrive in this environment? More to come in future posts.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Newspapers Talk About National Online Ad Market - Again

Story in today's Chicago Tribune: 5 newspaper giants in talks about online ad network

I must be in an endless loop akin to a Groundhog Day scenario, because I've seen this headline before. About a dozen times since 1995. [Heck, I was part of the effort on a few occasions.]

This time, according to the article, the new network is to "help them recapture ad revenue leaking away from their print products." Well! Ok then. I get it. The first kajillion times didn't work because newspapers weren't losing enough money. Most observers thought it was because there was no consistency of audience, content, platform, and quality among the websites and the local staff knew that corporate was putting no teeth into the mandate.

And, yes, the new consortium "would both overlap with and compete against another network set up last year by Yahoo Inc..." The deal with Yahoo wasn't enough, uh, why? "What's missing [in the Yahoo partnership] is the ability for the newspaper companies to sell their own national ads across each other's sites." Wow - now I see the light. Apparently, newspapers are super stars about selling national ads on websites.

I'm a firm believer in monetizing websites. I know that it can be an advertiser's nightmare to try to buy ads in a string of newspaper websites. But the reason it has never happened is not for lack of a dedicated sales team that will "sell for newspapers."

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a dozen times...nope.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Cisco Launches Entrepreneur Contest

It's not local, but the Cisco I-Prize is a pretty cool contest for entrepreneurs and innovators.

Cisco wants to plug its collaboration technologies so they are inviting folks to post ideas and form global teams to create technology business ideas. The lure at the end of the contest is being hired by Cisco as founders of a new business unit with a signing bonus of $250,000 and an investment of up to $10 million over three years.

Here's the press release announcing the competition with links to all the details. To enter the contest: Register on the Cisco I-Prize Website. Post your idea and comment on other ideas posted by fellow entrepreneurs. Use the Human Network to refine your concept and form an idea team of all-stars that can take your idea to the next level. Registration ends Jan 15 - so if this is your cuppa tea, don't delay.

A reminder to those of you who aren't so techie - don't forget the Intuit contest for small businesses with its $50,000 prize. Deadline is December 15, 2007 and even if you don't win you get free software.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Marketing Your Business by Doing Good

This past weekend The Bivings Group launched a site for Living Conversations, an organization for breast cancer survivors. I follow their Bivings Report blog about online media and until this weekend hadn't noticed they also offer web development. I'll bet others noticed their capabilities for the first time as well.

The site, according Todd Zeigler, senior vp for the Bivings Group, was a combo paid/philanthropic project. They dropped their normal rates "significantly because we thought the site was a great idea."

Their blog post gave a look under the hood which was especially interesting. I like that others can learn something from their work.

The site isn't perfect - for instance, I couldn't find a way to contact the founder for comment without registering, which I didn't want to do. But it's a great beginning with a lot of functionality, and instead of mystifying the process (which, face it, too many consultants do) the Bivings team makes the process seem practical for other non-profits and small businesses.

My vote: good marketing for client and consultant, and an example of how companies can support non-profits while showing off their capabilities.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Flying SUX

There's a marketing bonanza in hidden places, as the Sioux (Iowa) Gateway Airport recently discovered. The city really didn't like its FAA moniker SUX, but finally decided to embrace it -- with gusto. "Now the whole world knows about us," says airport direct Rick McElroy.

From USA TODAY's Airport Check-in column: "Airport director Rick McElroy says news reports about the airport's new marketing campaign are no hoax. For years, local officials asked the Federal Aviation Administration to change the airport's SUX three-letter airport identifier to something less, well, embarrassing. Now the airport is celebrating its code with a brash new slogan, 'Fly SUX,' as well as a new website ( and a line of Fly SUX-printed T-shirts and caps. ....

"In a story from last week, the Sioux City Journal notes that the airport's move to embrace its unique identifying code comes after officials there previously "doggedly fought" to dump the code. The paper writes "in 1988, Sioux City officials, enlisting the assistance of its congressional delegation, petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to drop SUX. At one point, the FAA offered the city five different options -- GWU, GYO, GYT, SGV and GAY. Not wild about any of the other choices -- particularly the latter -- airport trustees eventually called the whole thing off."

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Look At Newspapers Online

It was 11 years ago this week that I came to Silicon Valley. I left the Houston Chronicle where I was part of the Hearst Corp. interactive efforts and Houston Chronicle Interactive, to work with Bob Ingle and Knight Ridder New Media (later to become Knight Ridder Digital).

It was, therefore, very timely for me to see the article today in Business Week, A Cautionary Tale for Old Media, a thoughtful but quick recap of Ingle's vision and efforts.

I have a lot of memories, insights and thoughts about that period of time -- all the major newspaper groups were trying to find a place in the emerging media -- but they are all ramblings. I believed then, and still do, that Ingle had set forth the industry's brightest experiments.

It was also interesting to me that just this week, the Houston Chronicle (which early-on had a lot of dynamic thinking about the Internet) announced layoffs. According to publisher Jack Sweeney the layoffs are because in, "this complex and competitive information and media environment, with consumer choices multiplying daily, our new strategic plan calls for more resources to be dedicated to new technology and product development. We need to operate differently..."

I thought the Business Week story was a great read.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Small Business Facts

Some facts from the newly-released Small Business Growth: Searching for Stylized Facts, a report from the US Small Business Administration.

[Why did I choose these facts to reprint? Because small business really IS small business - one to four employees. It's important for folks trying to sell local online advertising to remember just how strapped resources are at most small, local businesses]

  • Only three percent of small businesses are fast growing firms (defined as having a 50 percent or more increase in annual employment with at least a five-employee increase)
  • Most firms start in the 1-4 employment size class and do not grow beyond this size class.
  • Fast growing firms had higher rates of shrinkage in employment following their large one-year employment increase. The year after fast growth, 55 percent of fast growers declined in employment versus the universe’s 25 percent.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Right Brain or Left Brain Marketing

Totally fun - give this quick visual quiz from Brandweek NRX a chance. It's by Peter Rost, M.D. and shows you if you are right brained or left brained.

To me the best part was I could actually see the difference when I focused on using my right brain va. using my left brain.

Just as a reminder: People who are right-brained are thought to be more creative than left-brained people. Left-brained people are more focused on logic and structured activities.

Monday, October 22, 2007

For Christmas Sales, Local Retailers Need to Advertise Online

A great post on SearchEngineWatch detailing how significant "research online, purchase local" has become. Attention local advertisers: you should be placing online local advertising for your Christmas season now.

Citing an Accenture report, the post says
  • 67 percent of survey respondents prefer to make purchases in physical stores
  • 69 percent research product features online
  • 68 percent compare prices online.
  • 58 percent said they locate items online before going to a store to purchase
  • Only 13 percent said the Internet plays no part in their offline shopping

The post also says, "The Kelsey Group research indicates that with purchases over $500, where the Internet is the starting point, over 90 percent of the transactions finish offline. comScore meanwhile reported last year that 63 percent of search related purchases happen offline; and The U.S. Census Bureau reports that e-commerce represents only 2.5 percent of U.S. retail spending."

For the sake of your Christmas season, which this year will start at Halloween according to the National Retail Federation, get your online advertising in gear.

PetSmart - Smart Pets, Dumb Service

Took a quick trip to PetSmart last week to pick up some cat food.

This PetSmart opened two years ago and I loved going there. Well stocked and great staff.

Earlier this year I notice customer service was slipping - Twice I was charged more than the shelf price and they argued with me that they had just forgotten to take down signs. Then last week, they were totally out of the brand I needed...the shelves were there, but no food.

The clerk said there had been a foul-up in ordering. I asked if the food I needed was at another store. They didn't know. Nope, they couldn't check that.

Then, insult to injury, they overcharged me for the food I had bought - I had picked up three cans of a substitute food and was charged for four cans. Whoops, he said.

Top it off with total frustration: They didn't have any pennies so they short changed me without even apologizing. Geesh. I expected them to round down the price so I wouldn't suffer the loss but nope.

Normally I am a crusader about such things, but I was in a rush and had to leave. No time to be a consumer-type "Don Quixote."

But to PetSmart, I say "GET REAL." This is lousy marketing.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ready to "Just Start" a Business? Think "Intuit"

Hey - All you who want to do business with small businesses. Take a page from Intuit.

Intuit takes its positioning with small businesses seriously, and they do it with style. Their report on the Future of Small Business is a must-read.

And today they announced the Intuit Just Start! campaign to help budding entrepreneurs. Part of the campaign is a free "small business" community that allows folks to promote their business and get listed on Web directories. But that's just the beginning.

To help the 72 percent of Americans who dream of starting a business, Intuit is giving away free copies of its popular QuickBooks® Simple Start software so entrepreneurs can easily establish the financial habits that will help them get their business successfully off the ground.

My favorite part of the campaign is the upbeat little pledge that urges folks to "Just Start Something New -- Turn an idea into a business, or take your own thing to the next level. Do what you love." All you have to do it enter your name, and write in your dream. It's your own little "kick-start."

AND, as part of the campaign, there is a contest from October 9 to December 15 with a grand prize of $40K in cash & $10K in expert resources. (Talk about burying the lead! But seriously, I think for most folks, the kick-start-a-dream is the killer app.)

Corporate self-serving? You bet it is! But what makes this "Real Marketing" (vs. "Get Real!" marketing) is that the customer gets real and solid value, both tanglible and intangible. I say "YEA" for Intuit. With all the companies fighting over the local advertising dollar, here's a company that's going to be a leader in the upcoming small business revolution.

Christmas is Underway for Local Retailers

September 20 the National Retail Federation released its forecast for the upcoming 2007 holiday season -- predicting that sales would be weak for all but luxury items. Today begins the NRF series of releases going into more detail.

October 16 - Consumers to Take Conservative Approach to Holiday Shopping
  • U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $816.69 on holiday-related shopping.
  • These shoppers will spend an additional $106.67 on special “non-gift” purchases by taking advantage of special promotions and discounts to treat themselves.
  • This brings total planned holiday-related spending to $923.36, an increase of 3.7 percent from 2006.
  • 40.3 percent of shoppers will begin holiday shopping before Halloween.
  • Discounters can expect the most traffic as 68.4 percent of consumers plan to shop there (compared to 70.3% in 2006).
  • Department Stores will also see a lion’s share of traffic as 58.2 percent will choose this format (vs. 61.6 percent last year).
  • The Internet will once again play a crucial role for retailers this holiday season as consumers, on average, plan to do 30.2 percent of their shopping online compared to 28.9 percent in 2006.

Government Survey on Depression in Workplace

You probably saw the newly releaesd government survey in the news this past weekend about depression in the workplace. If, like me, you're always curious to look at the larger data (which breaks down info by age, gender, and occupation), here's the link:

BTW - U.S. companies lose an estimated $30 to $44 billion dollars per year because of employee depression.

If you didn't see it, here are some highlights:
  • The highest rates of past year Major Depression Episodes among female full-time workers aged 18 to 64 were found in the food preparation and serving related occupations (14.8 percent).
  • The highest rates among male full-time workers aged 18 to 64 were found in the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations (6.7 percent)
  • The highest category overall for employees with depression was Personal Care and Service. The occupations with the least depression: Engineering, Architecture, and Surveyors

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How Your Local Biz Can Benefit from Enviro-Concerns

Matt McGee gets a "real marketing" award for his post on how to get some buzz from the increased interest in "green" businesses. I've reprinted his "how to make this work for you" below, but his entire post is well worth the read, and he explains why now is the time for small businesses to get in on the act.

1.) If you have products in your inventory that can legitimately be called green-friendly, break them off into a new category on your web site and promote it heavily on your front page, to your mailing list, etc.
2.) If you run a service-oriented business … well … I’m not sure how many people will care that you just switched to
compact fluorescent light bulbs, but they might care if you do that, and make your fleet of service trucks eco-friendly, and get your employees involved in an outdoor cleanup/community service-type event.
3.) In either case, once you’ve gone green, contact the media — both online and offline. And by media, I mean TV, newspapers, local independent papers and magazines, and (since you need links), local and regional bloggers.
There you go: Get links and buzz by going green. It’s all the rage. And they say it’s good for the earth, too

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Shady Dealings in Search Engine Sales

MarketingShift has a cautionary tale about shady dealings from a company called ZipWeb. John Gartner writes:

"...the telemarketer insisted it was a risk-free 30 day trial and that we would have great placement on MSN, Google and Yahoo. I'm wary of these "something for nothing" free trials having been burned several times, but since I wasn't asked for a credit card numbered I figured it wouldn't cost me anything. Surprise! This month my phone bill -- my phone bill! -- had a charge of $49.95 from, whom I'd never heard of before."

Gartner says he never authorized the charge, got no leads during the "free trial" which of course turned out not to be free, and was unable to get the charge removed from the phone bill.

As search and online directories become more practical for the local merchant, we're bound to see more of this. Sometimes honest misunderstandings. Sometimes predatory tactics. I'll let you know if I find out more about which this was.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Better Tchotchkes For Airport

Columnist L. A. Chung is 100% correct -- San Jose's airport needs better local tchotchkes!

The Mercury News writer filed a wonderful piece alerting us that the airport is asking for "proposals to provide Mineta San Jose International Airport's new North concourse with the best mix of restaurants and retail outlets...."

What do airport visitors want? Really good, really relevant Silicon Valley Tchotchkes!

So here's your chance. Be inspired by Chung's vision and have your say NOW because when the new terminal opens in 2010, it's too late.

Says Chung, "For all of you who are sick of little Victorian-house refrigerator magnets in the airport gift stores, or dopey mugs depicting outmoded desktop computers, either shut up, or speak up. Hold the airport's feet to the fire."

Chung didn't detail how - but here are some ways to let your voice be heard: the Airport Commission is an advisory body to the San Jose City Council, so email your council member. Here is the webpage with airport contacts/information for retail and food vendors. Here's the email for community input about the airport in general.

Culture Hard-Wires Your Brain and A Look at Generational Recruiting

Some notes on interesting blog pick-ups:

Matthew Busse, a PhD researcher turned science writer, has an ecclectic blog titled Musings on Science that has nothing to do with local, but is filled with science-made-understandable entries. A recent post talked about an article in Scientific American Mind, The Hidden Power of Culture, in which "A study done at the University of Illinois suggests that the culture you grow up in affects the way your brain is wired. It’s not just behavior that culture influences, but also the way your brain processes information." Cool stuff.

Another interesting pick up comes from Job Search Marketing the always entertaining blog about recruitment issues by Matt Martone, in his coverage of the recent OnRec (that's Online Recruiting) Conference. He points to a series of reports Deloitte makes available about generational issues in recruiting. He also gives a good overview of the conference and issues surrounding online recruitment.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Being Honored by Association of Fundraising Professionals

Steady readers will know I'm a huge believer in community service - I feel it's crucial for every business and individual to support local non-profits. Earlier posts, including one from earlier in the year, give my perspective.

Anyway, I try to practice what I preach so I volunteer with a few local groups. One of the causes nearest to my heart is a yearly fundraising commitment I make to my local YMCA - each February we raise money to provide scholarships to Y camps and programs for kids who can't afford them. I'll pitch more about that next February.

The punchline is that the Y nominated me this year to receive an award from the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and I was selected as a Distinguished Volunteer Fundraiser. There's a luncheon (where serious philanthropists and other volunteers are honored) and a little blurb in a local magazine.

The recognition is nice, but of course the work is the real honor. I know a lot of local business people are involved in causes, and would always like to hear about space in this blog is available.

Community service is a value I learned while working at the Houston Chronicle. Execs Richard J. V. Johnson, Jack Sweeney, Joycelyn Marek, and Lainie Gordon, among others at the HC, were incredible role models. As a company, the Chronicle is deeply committed to the community and it is a lesson I will always treasure.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

DEMOfall07 includes innovation for small business

I'm at DEMOfall 07 - the launchpad for emerging technologies - and much to my delight there are several companies here that have products of interest to small and local businesses.

The first one isn't one of the 70 chosen companies that are here to showcase new technology - it's a reporter covering the event. But I talked with him and I think his content would be of great interest to a local or new business...a lot of it is the high tech start up kind of entrepreneurship, but not everything. His name is Gregory Galant, of Venture Voice, a podcast that features entrepreneurship. Check it out at

CashView ( is a solution that lets you focus on your core business by simplifying the way small businesses manage bills, invoices, payments, contracts and other important financial documents. It's simple, painless, fast, and works with Quick Books 2005 and higher. I love anything financial that doesn't make me wish I had a CPA on speed dial.

Myxer lets anyone create a mobile storefront in minutes (really, it's that simple) AND it works on any mobile phone or device. If you've been thinking about how to use mobile to keep in touch with your customers, this one is a no-brainer.

As a further foray into small business, an enterprising group of PR folks here (led by the entertaining Jo Lee of Green Machine Public Relations), put together a statement on behalf of several companies launching at DEMO that establish the ideal criteria for small business tools: affordable, easy-to-use and customizable. The companies that meet these criteria and co-signed their commitment to the criteria in their small business offerings are: BatchBlue Software's Batch Book, FastCall411, Advanta's IdeaBlob, InstaCall's Live Documents, Vello, PlanHQ, and Tungle Corp.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Amazon Contest for Entrepreneurs and Start Ups

Attention: Start-Ups and Entrepreneurs - here's your chance to win money, services and possibly investment funds.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is searching for the next hot start-up that is leveraging AWS to build its infrastructure and business.

If you have a great idea or an existing application that uses services from AWS check out the AWS Start-Up Challenge to win $100,000 in cash and AWS credits, and receive an investment offer from Amazon.

I know this isn't strictly local, but from the email I receive, I know there are a lot of start-ups in the local space that read Get Real Marketing, so I pass this along for your info. Deadline is October 28, 2007. If you know any developers, entrepreneurs, or start-ups pass the word.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Marchex provides basics of online local advertising

There are lots of optimistic reports about local online advertising, and plenty of opinion pieces about what will work (or should work, or ought to work) but I was taken with a new report from Marchex.

Rather than tackle new information, Marchex fills the need for a compilation of basic information in their primer on local advertising: Unlocking the Potential of the Local Internet.

The primer pulls together available data ("The combination of growing consumer usage and capital investment has led analysts to estimate that annual growth rates for local paid search over the next four years will be as high as 42.8% and 15% for the entire local Internet ad market"), defines the types of destinations available (search engines, IYP/directories, local guide, online newspaper, local niche sites), and examines some of the issues facing online advertising as a media category (overcoming fragmentation, evolving functionality, etc).

The report is a good read for local retailers/businesses that want a quick course on local search advertising. It's also a good read if you want a better picture of challenges facing the online media that compete in this space.

So if you've been dangling your feet in the waters of online advertising - but wishing you had a better overview - Marchex has heard your pain.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Want Business? Answer Your Phone.

Duh. It sounds like a no-brainer, but a calling test done by FastCall411 last April showed that 64 percent of businesses called to determine if they were available to help a customer immediately -- weren't!

It's not quite as bad as it's not that all those businesses didn't answer their phones or refused the call or had busy signals (though that was the case for many). The calls were made to businesses in the standard business directory database from which online directories get their listings - and (as anyone who has used online local search knows) - that database gets dated fast.
How fast? "To do a local search is no trivial task, because every day 80,000 companies go into, or out of, business and disappear or appear in the database and have to be adjusted for. "
(Source: Mike McCue's "Vision for the Convergence of the Phone and the Web")

So combine this information with a new survey just released by FastCall411 (full disclosure: I work with this company) that "8 out of 10 Americans have little patience for merchants who don’t answer the phone – especially after repeated attempts to make contact. And when it comes to the key demographic for buying most home and professional services -- adults 35-44 -- that figure rises to nearly 88 percent."

Pretty much, this is a major disconnect between the information available and what the consumer really wants. It's why we settle for large firms that tell us they'll get to our house "next week one day between 9 and 4" - and why we complain bitterly about disintegrating customer service.

FastCall411 is launching at DEMOfall2007, so in the future, I'll be able to write more about how this all fits together, and how the company is designed to connect consumers with local businesses that are ready and available to provide services.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Read/WriteWeb give us "10 Future Web Trends"

So it's not local - my blog, my choice. I just love this post about 10 Future Web Trends, written by Richard MacManus in Read/WriteWeb.

"We're well into the current era of the Web, commonly referred to as Web 2.0. Features of this phase of the Web include search, social networks, online media (music, video, etc), content aggregation and syndication (RSS), mashups (APIs), and much more. Currently the Web is still mostly accessed via a PC, but we're starting to see more Web excitement from mobile devices (e.g. iPhone) and television sets (e.g. XBox Live 360).

"What then can we expect from the next 10 or so years on the Web?"

Well, there will be plenty we can't predict, but here are 10 things that look pretty good, and they include the attention economy, artificial intelligence, semantic web and...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

eMarketer: The promise is greater than the reality in local online advertising

There's an old joke about stockbrokers: "in every transaction, the broker makes money, the brokerage firm makes money, and hey, if the customer loses money, well, two out of three still isn't bad."

That's what I thought of when I saw eMarketer has a new report about local online advertising, titled The Local Online Advertising Report.

It projects that "local online advertising spending in the US will reach $2.9 billion in 2007, only 13.4% of the total Internet market. But as portal giants Yahoo! and Google and major newspaper chains make deals to sell advertising and share content, the sector is set to become a significant growth area for the maturing Internet ad space."

The report then says, "The promise of local online advertising, at this stage, is greater than the reality."

As I see it, this is a double-edged statement. While the context refers to how much money is in the local market to be had by local ad is also true that the promise is greater than the results for most local businesses.

Yes, I know all the examples of local businesses with successful online stories. But what makes these stories notable is that they are still the exception rather than the rule. Online advertising is still time-intensive for local merchants. It works spotty: some categories do well with pay-per-call, others don't. Some categories do well with web sites and e-commerce. Others don't. Some have nurtured review sites and reputation management on the web to develop new business. And so on and so forth.

Local online advertising is a big catch phrase for a lot of online opportunities. So far, there are too many online networks designed by folks too far out of the trenches of the small, local business.

eMarketer concludes that, "several factors are set to accelerate growth of the market: the wealth of small and mid-size companies potentially available as online advertisers, the increased use of local Internet sites and services by individuals, such as local search, and the development of local online ad networks connected with local media, such as newspapers. "

This is certainly titillating to the thousands of entrepreneurs who want to start a company that depends on local ad dollars, but for the thinly-stretched small business owner, it's a target painted on their backs.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Local Business: Promote Your Sale or Special Event

So you have a local business and you're busy. Real busy. But you still need to pay attention to the online local marketing options available to you. Yeh, sure, of course.

But did you realize you can also promote your special events and sales? For free.

Even better news: those options are growing every day.

This is one of those simple, smart, free local "real marketing" opportunities that is easy and helps you reach a new and different audience.

It only takes minutes to post your sale or event on Yelp, zvents, and Upcoming.

And while you're at it, you should check out Look Who's Talking, (Subhead: It's tempting to dismiss online reviews of your business. Tempting, but not smart.) by RIVA RICHMOND. This article is in the free content of the Wall Street Journal and it is about small business management of an online reputation.

Check it out.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Pay Per Call Stats

eStara recently held a webinar, Delivering Quality Leads to Platform Neutral Advertisers, which I missed. But the Praized blog printed stats from the webinar which are interesting if you follow pay-per-call as an ad medium for local businesses.

Praized credits Robyn Rose, Vice President of Marketing for (Robyn's actual title is Vice President of Internet Marketing, Idearc Media Corp.) with five case studies of pay-per-call users and the following data from a florist, satellite TV provider, locksmith, personal injury lawyer, & laser eye surgeon :

  • Average monthly spend went from $300 (locksmith) to $2500 (satellite TV)

  • Average cost per call was spread between $3.70 (laser surgery) to $35.00 (locksmith)

  • The estimated conversion rate went from 30% (lawyer) to 82% (florist)

  • Average sales were between $64 (florist) and $1992 (laser surgery)

I'm a big believer in pay-per-call as a practical way for a local business to monitor advertising and results. Right now, however, there's a lot of clutter and chatter in the field and it's hard to know what's really working for businesses. Real data such as the above is always helpful and if you see other examples, please send them to me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Political Ads Move to the Grocery Aisles

Marketing agency Urban Tiger Marketing (UTM) signed a deal with Gigante USA, a Mexico-based supermarket chain with nine Southern California stores, that allows UTM to place political advertising on carts inside Gigante USA stores.

Roger Stewart, president of Urban Tiger, said he believes this to be the first retailer willing to accept this type of advertising, and told me that deals are in the works right now to add about 500 more stores to what he hopes will an east coast/west coast network of grocery carts ready for the upcoming presidential campaign.

According to Stewart, grocers have shied away from any type of "sticky" situations such as political ads, but "Where we are right now in the country, [it's time for] a good, honest dialogue."
The ads are open to anyone, but so far have been offered to the major presidential candidates as well as the Democratic and Republican National parties. The ad network will allow for a four month buy (copy can be changed out) in either English or Spanish. Cost is based on a per-store basis.

With blogs and videos, and an emphasis on grass-roots advertising, this seems like a guerilla marketing activity whose time has come.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

For Small Businesses - Easier PR, A New Local Directory Model, and More

**There's a new channel for small busines PR. I can't vouch for them, but it's a good pitch. I quote right from their Web site:
Welcome to PRNewsChannel: The first and only news distribution channel created by journalists with small businesses in mind. PRNewsChannel offers unparalleled customer service at a reasonable price... And we offer FREE Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your press release.

**Peter Krasilovsky has a blog post about the local 411 partnership between Say Hello and the Florida Times Union. This is a potentially mighty model, with its strong local promotion, local identity, plus built-in local sales and content.It has all the elements that Google and Yahoo -- and every other national dot com -- work so hard to line up with their local products. Definitely worth checking out Peter's post and watching the product to see where it launches next.

**Ken Doctor has a blog post about the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and the gutting of an integrated local presence in the name of economics. It is an intelligent presentation of what is happening with local newspapers, and one that everyone involved in local marketing should care about.

**Saw a press release from Orange Soda saying they are "a marketing and technology company that empowers businesses with smaller advertising budgets to maximize their online presence." Awful copywriting but I figured, hmmm, agency that specializes in small budgets....and I emailed and asked if they had a blog. They do have one, and it looks like a treasure of information:

**The new Veronis Suhler Stevenson research on media is in, and more info is available here.

Some of their conculusions: 1) consumer media usage will level off; 2) there are strong gains in alternative advertising, marketing, and institutional spending; 3) consumer media usage dipped but institutional time spent with media increased 4) overall communications spending is projected to grow 6.4% in 2007, exceed $1 trillion in 2008, and Internet advertising is expected to become the largest ad segment in 2011, surpassing newspapers.

The bit about surpassing newspapers grabbed most of the headlines, but the other info is important for local marketers also.

Bridge Report: Radio Advertising is Changing

Bridge Ratings/University of Massachusetts released a study this week about radio, its influence as a media, and its future. Primarily it is about Influencers or Influentials, a term for a group of very active consumers involved in "conversation marketing" (where word-of-mouth is significant in spreading dialog with customers ). It's a great read for anyone who cares about radio advertising or local advertising in general.
Among their findings:
Conversation marketing which keys in on these New Influentials requires a completely different set of skills ... It means throwing out the spreadsheets and mailing lists. It means that "reach", "frequency", "cume", "average quarter hour" and "impressions" no longer relate to the real world's consumer structure.

But it was MarketingBlurb that picked up on a data point that is especially interesting to marketers: People Don't Trust Advertisers. This, actually does surprise me. I always figure, "Why lie?" and except for skin creams and anything advertised as "New", "Better", or "Easier" I pretty much believe ads.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Saks CEO Gives Recipe for Retail Success

Stephen Sadove gives an interview to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in which he reveals the steps to advertising/marketing success for the prestigious Saks department stores:

Part of it is about the product, but part of it is also about having a bigger presence in the community and doing more outreach...
I think we have to do a lot better job and do more in local marketing...
Each of our stores is so different that is not about national advertising but about local advertising, marketing, outreach, initiatives, presence in the community and being involved in local events.

This is thinking that all local businesses should incorporate. And local newspapers, online local media and others should also take note about how they can help retailers accomplish it.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Online Newspapers - Lots of Good News

Local newspapers, and local online newspapers, have plenty to tout according to two reports published this July.

The Bivings Group released their 2007 study of the top 100 newspaper Web sites, and their conclusion is, "Overall, use of online features by newspapers improved across nearly all the categories when compared to last year's research..." Their study is chock full of interesting tidbits, including:
  • The use of RSS increased in 2007 by 21 percent since 2006. Now 96 of the papers we researched are using this technology. Within this group, 93 papers offer partial text feeds, while three offer full text RSS feeds. No papers have begun embedding advertisements in their RSS feeds.
  • Ninety-two percent of America’s top 100 papers now offer video on their websites. This represents a significant jump from 2006, where just 61 percent offered video. In this group, there is a mixture of local, Associated Press, and original content available on newspaper websites. Thirty-nine papers offer original content, 26 use AP video streams, 13 offer video content from local news outlets, four papers use all three technologies, and 10 papers use a mixture of two different types of video.
  • The number and quality of reporter blogs also improved in 2007. Now, 95 percent of papers offer at least one reporter blog. Ninety-three percent (88 papers) of these blogs allow comments. In 2006, 80 percent of the papers offered blogs, with 83 percent (67 papers) allowing comments.
  • The use of RSS increased in 2007 by 21 percent since 2006. Now 96 of the papers we researched are using this technology. Within this group, 93 papers offer partial text feeds, while three offer full text RSS feeds. No papers have begun embedding advertisements in their RSS feeds.
  • Ninety-two percent of America’s top 100 papers now offer video on their websites. This represents a significant jump from 2006, where just 61 percent offered video. In this group, there is a mixture of local, Associated Press, and original content available on newspaper websites. Thirty-nine papers offer original content, 26 use AP video streams, 13 offer video content from local news outlets, four papers use all three technologies, and 10 papers use a mixture of two different types of video.

This is just a sample - check it out.

Aaannd, on another note, the Newspaper Association of America has some new research out, and their conclusion is:

More than 59 million people (37.3 percent of all active Internet users) visited newspaper Web sites on average during the second quarter of 2007, a record number that represents a 7.7 percent increase over the same period a year ago, according to custom analysis provided by Nielsen//NetRatings for the Newspaper Association of America. In addition, newspaper Web site visitors generated nearly 2.7 billion page views per month throughout the quarter, compared to slightly more than 2.5 billion during the same period last year. The second quarter figures are the highest for any quarter since NAA began tracking these numbers in 2004.

So when those online sales reps from the local newspaper show up at your business, pay attention.

New York Times Pairs With JetBlue

DM News reports on the partnership between JetBlue Airways Corp. and The New York Times to offer Times On Air, a new in-flight video magazine featuring content from the newspaper’s TimesTalks events, as well as original articles and multimedia from

The in-air exclusive programming is sponsored by the JetBlue Card from American Express, and JetBlue is in turn the official airline of TimesTalks events. The programming, which will be updated monthly, covers lifestyle topics such as travel, style, dining, arts, business and technology.

OK, this isn't strictly local marketing, but it is a great example of the type of promotion every business should be looking to implement. Peter Krasilovsky gave another good idea for cross promotion awhile back. Local marketing needs to be all about creativity.

Times On Air can be viewed at

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hot Local Retailers

Which of your local competitors are Hot Retailers?

You'll want to check out the National Retail Federation's latest study, the results of which appear in their August magazine.

Though the retail industry grew 6.4 percent as a whole last year, a handful of fiery companies served as the pace car for others to follow. Convenience stores and department stores head the list, but you'll see plenty of your other competitors also including Sbarro, Gymboree, Restoration Hardware and Jos. A. Banks.

There is plenty to learn from these leaders. Check it out.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Woman of the Year

OPEN from American Express and Entrepreneur magazine will honor one outstanding woman entrepreneur as the 4th Annual Woman of the Year.

If you are the woman business owner who best exemplifies the qualities needed to be truly successful in business today--competitiveness, compassion and clarity of vision--you could be the winner. To qualify, a woman business owner must:

  • be a founder of the business
  • own at least 51% of her business
  • be actively involved in day-to-day operations
  • have been in business for at least one full year
  • have 2006 sales of at least $1 million, and
  • have less than 100 employees

Deadline is September 15, 2007.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Help for Local Businesses? Or is it HELP!

Last week I had a painter in my house. When I asked if he used Web advertising, he replied, "Who has time to figure it all out? Everybody wants my money." He's right. Too keep up with all the latest and greatest, a business needs a person who will devote a lot of time.

Over the next few days I saw several press releases about companies trying to help local businesses figure it out.

First, UK-based Vertical Leap, "pioneer of managed search engine marketing, has launched Local Leap, a new search optimisation service specifically for businesses whose market is local, rather than global. ...Local Leap comprises the same robust processes as Vertical Leap’s main Managed Search Engine Marketing service, but focuses on campaigning and maintaining search engine rankings for those businesses who know that 80% of all buying decisions are made within a 20 mile radius."

I didn't see promotion for Local Leap on the US home page,, but an email query was promptly returned by President Jessica Faltot, who assured me they do offer Local Leap in the US. She referred me to the Web site.

The second PR came from Your Marketing Corner, announcing, "Your Marketing Corner, a new walk-in retail chain that provides Internet advertising and progressive marketing support services to local businesses, is announcing an expanded list of markets for its new retail stores."

Mostly hype, considering they haven't opened any stores so there is not yet anything to expand.

But I liked the idea and went to their Web site. I read the copy twice to convince myself these folks are for real. "Your Marketing Corner is a revolutionary new kind of retail store, staffed not by "employees" but by passionate "marketers" waiting for the next Restaurant Owner, Contractor, Attorney, Realtor, Car Dealer or Landscaper to walk in our store and say "I'm trying to reach new customers. Can you help?"

First of all, I'm not sure what a "marketer" in quotes means. Is there a wink-wink-nudge-nudge somewhere? And second, if these folks are sitting around waiting for auto dealers and Realtors to walk in and hand them money, they've been smoking something very funky in that corner of theirs.

My vote is that Local Leap offers "Real Marketing." Your Marketing Corner is "Get Real" marketing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Local Media Changes - How do Local Marketers Keep Up?

Lots going on in local media.

For local marketers, this means that our communications vehicles are changing, changing, changing. We have to find ways to get the PR message out, to work with and be involved with, the changing media. (If it were up the the media folks, we'd just happily pay the bills via banner ads and keyword buying, as they go about their struggles to find an audience.)

The Chicago Tribune launched a site redesign. Faster, more video, increased interaction with Trib staffers, better search, and a new marketing campaign, " revolves around you."

The NY Times ups its single-copy pricing. Sunday moves from $5 single copy to $6 and daily moves from $1 to $1.25, Some subscriber prices are up as well. With the subscriber pricing, the Times promotes All Access, meaning you can get Times Select, extra email alerts and extra crosswords, Times Reader, Times Digest, and the electronic edition.

The Washington Post started their hyperlocal edition in Loundoun County, Virginia,

Seattle-based Fisher Communications, with 19 television stations and eight radio stations, purchased Dallas-based Pegasus News, a hyperlocal web site, with the intent to take the model to other markets. Earlier this year Pegasus introduced The Daily You, that creates personalized news based on user behavior.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Las Vegas You

Talk about a great local marketing campaign - not since New York's "Big Apple" campaign has any initiative had as much follow through as the "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas" outreach.

And if you think you've seen it all, check out the Be Anyone in Las Vegas site, which helps you create an entirely new persona to use when you're in town. Fun, glitzy, and as quintessentially Vegas as a rhinestone headdress.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Yelp, Your Small Business, and Local Marketing

The first time I heard of Yelp was a year or so ago on my way out of a local restaurant. Knowing I had enjoyed the meal and service, the waiter handed me a card that said, "If you enjoyed your meal, please post your comments on Yelp." I went online, I posted, and I've used Yelp many times since.

Today I read a blog post, "Can Yelp Help Your Small Business".

Jennifer Laycock writes, "Chance are high that you've never heard of Yelp, so you probably have no idea what it says about you. This is a mistake. Yelp is growing and it's growing fast, drawing more than 1.8 million users turn to it for information each month. In fact, I've found myself looking at top five search listings for Yelp on Google time and time again in the past couple of months. That's why I'll ask you again, what does Yelp say about you?"

Check out her entire post to see why you should know what Yelp is saying about your business. It's one of those local marketing tactics that you should know about and care about.

More Bad Customer Service - This Time It's Best Buy

Reading Susan Gunelius great marketing blog tipped me off to a situation, which she titled Bad Customer Service Negates the Best Marketing Plans. It's a tale of pathetic customer service, originally from a blog post by Antonio Cangiano titled, The Ugly Truth about Best Buy Refunds.

In short, Cangiano bought a defective computer from Best Buy and got the run-around when he tried to make the situation right. Like my own experience at Home Depot, Corporate Campaigns - Sunk by Morons, Cangiano's story prompted me to think about the pathetic state of customer service in retail today.

Are we simply bad consumers, unwilling to hold retailers accountable? Is it bad corporate policies, bad training at the store level? Perhaps a little of all three.

I was shocked when, after my experience at Home Depot, I heard from two store employees that three other customers had come in earlier and - like me - been told the store would not honor the rain checks. But I was the only one who had stood my ground, and the only one whose rain check had been honored.

Cangiano is right to beat the drum loudly in his complaint. And while I respect that sometimes consumers do try to get something for nothing, Best Buy handled this badly and that should be a cause for us to remember the old slogan, "Buyers Beware."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Transforming Traditional Media

My pal Beverly Crandon has a post, Transforming Traditional Media, about the foolishness of newspapers that just post a .PDF for their online content. It's hard to believe that in this day-and-age any publication would just port over their information but I see it all the time, especially in business journals.

Any medium that believes it is sufficient to just repurpose print information is definitely in the "Get Real!" category of marketing. Bev's example of Gannett's Information Centre is one that all publications should take to heart.

Another great case study is what the Washington Post is doing with their Hyperlocal strategy. PaidContent has a good piece about this.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Small Business Needs Online Marketing

Christine Churchill of writes a nifty article for small businesses in Search Engine Land. "Small businesses not only have to know their core industry inside out, but now they have the additional burden of being proficient in online marketing," she warns in When Ignorance Isn't Bliss: What You Don't Know About Your Web Site Can Hurt You.

Here are some of her tips that small businesses need to watch for, and if you link through to the full article, she also gives deeper explanations and tips for the fix:

1. Your domain name is about to expire, and you don't know it
Every domain name has at least three contacts associated with it: administrative, technical and registrant. When the domain name is about to expire, renewal notices are sent multiple times.

2. Your robots.txt file has banished search engines from your site
This is one of those invisible problems that can kill your site with regard to rankings. To make matters worse, it can go on for months without anyone knowing there is a problem. How do you tell what's in your robots.txt file? The easiest way to view your robots.txt is to go to a browser and type your domain name followed by a slash then "robots.txt."

3. Your site is scaring your customers with expired SSL certificate notices
If you're a small business conducting ecommerce, you're probably familiar with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificates. These certificates enable encryption of sensitive information during online transactions. When the certificate is up to date the technology protects your web site and lets customers know they can trust you. Sadly, many times the person who originally set up the certificate moves on. Because their email no longer works, the renewal notices fall to the side. So you plod along unaware of the lurking danger.

4. Your content management system (CMS) is limiting your search engine success
Search engine optimizers have a love-hate relationship with CMS. The CMS can make adding content to a site easy for the non-programmer, but often times the system is hostile toward search engines. A CMS that doesn't allow unique titles, META tags, breadcrumbs, unique alt attributes, and other on-page optimization techniques can limit a site's success. For more details, I highly recommend you read an article by my colleague, Stephan Spencer, on search-friendly content management systems.

5. When you changed domain names, your redirects were set up improperly

6. Your site is sharing an IP address with a spamming site
Many small businesses choose to use a virtual or shared hosting service rather than purchasing their own server. This arrangement is usually less expensive than dedicated hosting and meets the needs of the small business. In many cases a virtual hosting arrangement is fine, but keep in mind that the search engines pay attention to who your neighbors are on that shared server.

7. You've got the overloaded server blues
Does your site take forever to load? If your page file size is reasonable and you have a fast browser connection, the problem may not be with your site, but with the server at the hosting company.

8. Your site is broken on Firefox
During the "browser wars" of the late 1990s, it was important to check your site under multiple browsers (including browsers for Macs and Unix) because many times a site would "break" or render oddly under different browsers. As Internet Explorer (IE) achieved dominance, many IE-centric web designers thought of browser compatibility as an issue of the past because IE was very forgiving. IE would properly display even sloppily coded sites. With the enthusiastic spread of the Firefox browser, the compatibility issue has reared its head again.

Help for Local Cultural and Theatre Groups

E-mail marketing is revolutionizing the marketing of theatre and cultural organizations. PatronMail is a key e-mail provider for more than 700 arts and cultural organizations.

DM News runs an interview with Bil Schroeder, director of marketing at Buffalo, NY’s Studio Arena Theatre that reveals how an email program can help smart marketers bring home the money...and there are good tips here for any local business.

For instance, Schroeder says they "developed an e-club which offers discounted tickets and “insider information” to the patrons on our e-mail list. If a performance isn’t selling well we create a special discount and promote it only to e-club members."

So simple. And truly, "real marketing."

Car Dealer Promotion Goes Awry


A Roswell, NM car dealer promotion went way astray when a direct-mail marketing company mistakenly sent out 50,000 scratch-off tickets to residents all of them declaring the ticket-holder the $1,000 grand prize winner.

Just one of the tickets was supposed to be the grand prize winner.

Jeff Kohn, Roswell Honda general manager said a typographical error by Atlanta-based Force Events Direct Marketing, which printed the tickets had given all 50,000 scratch-off tickets grand prizes.

Check out the full story, and then ask yourself, "If this happened to me, how would I deal with it to make my customers still feel really good -- short of giving away the $50,000?"

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another Contest for Small Businesses

The Business Breakthrough Contest from Visa offers an interesting opportunity for your business: the prize is an evaluation of your business by an expert in your field AND a package of solutions worth up to $10,000 customized for your business based on the expert's evaluation.

To enter you write, in 500 words or less, how your business could be more efficient in one of the five Business Breakthrough categories. There will be one winner in each category. Deadline is September 30.

And don't forget the UPS contest I mentioned previously, and the Ikea contest (deadline for Ikea's contest is July 26, so hurry).

Toyota Joins the "Get Real" Marketing Group

You know by now how much I despair over idiot marketing. Blogger Susan Gunelius has an example of marketing that is nothing short of, "Get Real!" See her post about an experience at her Toyota dealer titled #1 Brand Killer: Arrogance.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Market Your Local Business

1) Work your customer list. Eighteen months ago I plunked down a five-figure payment to an air conditioning/heating company to bring my 1940's-era house up to date. I was pleased with them and when I had problems after the installation they were on my doorstep in a day. It's a family owned business, and I know from talking to the owner that they are always looking for referrals.

But I have never once received a follow up. We've gone through two air conditioning seasons and one winter check up season and I have never gotten a note from the owner saying, "Our customers are our best advertising. If your neighbors and friends are looking for air conditioning or heating service or upgrades, here is a 10% coupon for them and my personal cell phone. I promise you they will receive great personal and professional service."

2)Partner with other local businesses. A spa nearby my home did that recently - they sent me a note and said, "We're offering you a 15% discount plus our next door neighbors, XXX coffee shop, have given us coupons for a free coffee and pastry."

I thought that was a dynamite idea, and I stopped by to interview the folks at the spa to ask about the response they received. But when I got there, and saw the coupon from the coffee shop, it was a dud! For one thing, the coupon was a buy one-get one, which isn't quite the same. And the coupon had expired a month before the spa sent the mailing. The receptionist at the spa just shrugged when I pointed this out. Think I'd ever trust them to give me a spa treatment? My impression is they are sloppy and careless.

Still, the concept was good, and worth trying.

3) Find referral sources. There are plenty of places that could send business to you, but you need to make your business known to them and keep in touch. There is a hotel in downtown San Jose that has a beauty salon but (since I'm a regular customer at the salon) I happen to know that they frequently cannot meet the needs of hotel guests. Yet when I stopped in at a nearby salon and asked if they stayed in touch with the concierge at the hotel, the owner said, "No. They have their own salon. They aren't going to send me customers."

4) Develop a mailing list and work it. I stopped by an estate sale a couple of years back, and signed up for the mailing list. Since then, every month, faithfully, I've received a mailing advising me of that month's sales, including pictures of items for sales. I've been back several times, and on occasion, have told friends about items coming up for sale.

5) Donate services to local charity auctions and fund raising activities. Some businesses act like it is money out of their pocket, and they will only donate goods or services "when a special customer asks." But it's more than just placating a good customer when you donate something to help area non-profits. It's a way to get your name out to a wider audience, to get new people into your store, and, really, it's the right thing to do if you want to be part of the local community.

Local Marketing for Social Organizations

Eiler Communications of Ann Arbor, MI has a handy blog entry about how local organizations can get wider press coverage. Great tips for anyone who works for or with a non-profit.

Here's the example they give:

But let’s say I want to go bigger. Let’s say I have a story that I think will appeal to a larger audience (like the fact that we are trying to start a social enterprise with homeless families). Where does one begin to look when trying to get more exposure? How does one reach out to large publications? Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated!

And here's the first part of the answer. If this is at all your "thing," it is definitely worth a read of the entire article:

Obviously, national or multi-national organizations have an easier time obtaining national media coverage than smaller, local organizations. But smaller organizations can and do obtain national coverage. The trick is to tell your story in a way that shows national media you’re worth writing about.

First, it’s important to realize what journalists are looking for. The criteria for newsworthiness are timeliness, proximity, impact or relevance, prominence (is someone well-known or famous involved?), conflict and novelty. The more criteria met by your story, the better your chances of being written about. That being said, there are a few tricks of the PR trade that can help you fit within the editorial scope of your target national publications.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I Need it Now

My friend, co-worker, and sometimes boss, Richard Rosen is considered an expert in phone applications for local search marketing and he has an article, I Need it Now, in the recent Adotas newsletter.

Richard says, "But here’s the brutal truth: most of today’s local search directories currently in the field aren’t in a position to help anyone’s faucet get fixed. Even with the requisite trappings of Web 2.0 — user rankings and comments and integrated search results – they are only the first step in the evolution of a truly useful local search product. And because those local search directories aren’t yet genuinely useful, they’ve stymied the Web’s penetration of small business."

Richard is currently working on a new method for local search directories, an application that benefits consumers and local businesses in a way local search doesn't at the present time, so we'll be hearing more from him soon.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Future of Small Business

Intuit offers a fascinating look at the next decade of American business in the Intuit Future of Small Business Report, a three phase study authored by the Institute for the Future.

Phase one, released in January, focused on the dramatic changes in the face of small business, as seasoned baby boomers, kids fresh out of high school, mid-career women, "mompreneurs" and new immigrants come together to create the most diverse pool of entrepreneurs ever.

The disruptions that have beset workers -- economic, social and technological change — and an increased interest in flexible work schedules — will produce a more independent workforce seeking a better work-life balance.

Phase two of the report was released June 26, and finds that tomorrow's successful small business owners will be far more reliant on technology than their current counterparts. They'll be more connected in a mobile world, market to customers in ways only imagined today and blur the lines between the virtual and physical worlds as the hype surrounding today's technology becomes tomorrow's reality. The findings include three emerging technology trends that will revolutionize the very nature of running a small business:

  • On My Time, On My Terms – In a connected world, small business management will increasingly be "on my time" and "on my terms" for owners.
  • Global, Local, Virtual – The evolution of the Web will fuel small business formation, operations and innovation.
  • From "Push" to "Pull" – The small business marketing approach will shift from "push" to "pull."

The very nature of local business, retail and service included, is dramatically shifting. Anyone in the field of marketing to, or for, a local business should read this report.

15 Sites for Promoting Your Business

You've already considered Yahoo Local and Google AdWords, but have you thought about, AskCity, TrueLocal, and

Writer Kristin Edelhauser has compiled a list (many of the ideas are free) to help promote your business including AskCity,, and Froogle Local (now renamed "Google Product Search") in the article that every local business should check out for some real marketing ideas: 15 Sites for Promoting Your Local Business

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Contests for Local Businesses

Looking for local online marketing ideas for your small business? Check out the winners of Yahoo's Ultimate Connection Contest, three local businesses that won a $25,000 Yahoo ad budget plus other perks.

And if you missed out on the Yahoo contest but still want to turn your really good marketing into cash, the UPS Out-of-the-Box Small Business Contest is open until September 1 with a chance to win prizes from $5,000 to $25,000.

Blockbuster - Mixed Messaging

On one hand, Blockbuster runs an extensive TV schedule promoting their advantage over NetFlix: don't wait for the mail, exchange your rentals at a Blockbuster retail location.

On the other hand, they announced on June 28 that they are closing 282 retail locations to concentrate on their online business. This is after shuttering 290 stores last year.

With 5000 stores nationwide, it's not that 600 or so Blockbuster outlets will be sorely missed. But some consumers prefer that a promise made in an ad is a corporate-wide initiative. If you promise convenience, show me how you are working to make it more convenient, not less convenient.

I vote this as "Get Real" marketing.

Sort of like a newspaper that promises more local coverage then lays off reporters, replacing local reporting with wire copy.

Or a cereal company that promises lower prices but replaces the existing packaging with a same-sized box that has less conent.

Sorry Blockbuster. The hassle of driving all over town looking for the movies we want is why NetFlix was so popular in the first place.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Updating Your Google Business Listing

Love it or hate it, any small business that ignores Google is definitely in the "get real" category. The whole, "I don't have time for Web marketing" excuse doesn't cut it. That said, you don't have to be an Internet guru or devote 24/7 to having an effective Web presence.

Search Engine Guide editor Jennifer Laycock has two "real marketing" articles for local businesses that are well worth the time: Updating Your Google Maps Business Listing and Are You Using Google Coupons?

Both articles send you to the Google Local Business Center, where you can create, edit, or suspend your Google Local business listing. But Jennifer's articles go step-by-step through the process so you can be certain your business gets the max from Google Maps.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ikea - Small Businesses, Big Dreams

Sent to us from Sharon Hill, (, author and guru of all things telecommuting. Note that tho the contest is for retail locations, Ikea also offers home-based workers the chance for promotion by posting their creative solutions to common business problems:

An entire street of businesses can win a makeover in Ikea's, "Small Businesses, Big Dreams: Furnished by IKEA.” This online video contest will give a group of neighboring small businesses a dream IKEA design makeover. The contest supports camaraderie between business owners and revitalization of small town business districts by asking business owners to enter the contest on behalf of their entire business community. The contest started May 31, 2007 and will run through July 26, 2007 and site visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite entries.

This rates as a double "real marketing" win in my book: the businesses get something they want, Ikea gets what it wants.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Greg Sterling Talks About How and Why

The always-articulate Greg Sterling has a link to his webcast called "Local Search Advertising: Challenges and Opportunities," in his post on Search Engine Land.

He also discusses some of the real-world issues facing small businesses when it comes to the complex array of online strategies, and the cottage industry that has emerged to help small business get real about local search marketing.

If you are at the execution-end of marketing for a local business you can't go wrong reading his ideas on both strategy and practical "how to."

Clicks & Bricks is Important Local Strategy

Retailers that have started a hybrid of online/in-store marketing, like Sears and REI, have found that customers who use this strategy are more likely to buy additional products when they pick up their items, according to Patti Freeman Evans, an analyst at Jupiter Research, in an interview with Practical eCommerce.

Freeman Evans believes smaller, local merchants should learn from industry giants, and says that within the next three years, "nearly half of all retail sales will be influenced or transacted online."

She explains that, "The 'influenced-by' number comes from the people who will go online maybe to just find a store or maybe to do days and days of research on a product. Then they go offline and make the purchase."

If you are involved in local marketing, and trying to make sense of what to do now to prepare for the next few years, this is a must read..

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Growth for Local Advertising

MediaPost's Tameka Kee reports on the state of local online yellow pages, Internet 1Q Yellow Page Searches Surpass 800 Million: comScore. The upshot is what local merchants already know: the market is still immature.

With 800 million internet yellow page (IYP) search queries in the first three months of the year, consumers haven't settled on one clear leader. Yahoo currently holds a slight lead over Idearc Media ( and Yellowpages Network. Google, Yellow Book, and a score of others continue to make this a pitched battle for both the advertiser dollars and the consumer usefulness.

"There is no true leader in local search," said Stuart McKelvey, CEO of TMP Directional Marketing. "Consumers are making the transition from print to Internet, and the big media properties haven't figured out how to really deliver it yet."

Meanwhile, in other local advertising news, Media General saw a decline of 11% in online classifieds, partly offset by their recent partnership with Yahoo HotJobs. They also saw a 43% rise in local ad sales.

My word to local marketers trying to wend their way? Some of the hype you hear from ad sales people is "get real" because they put their need for growth above your need for results. Others want to learn what works as much as you do, and can be great partners for "real marketing."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Paris + Prison = Great Lease Rates?

Check out the TMZ story to see and hear the local auto ads for a sales promotion based on the Paris Hilton headlines. Quick-wit or half-wit marketing? You decide:

Paris Hilton's incarceration is causing unexpected benefit for the residents of Toms River, N.J. -- a fantastic deal on cars! Lester Glenn is offering a "Paris in Jail Sale" during the celebutante's stay in the pokey. "As long as Paris stays in jail," their radio commercial boasts, "You can get a Hyundai Santa Fe for just $159 a month with no money down and no security deposit." Get 'em while you can!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Community Involvement

When I saw that Deloitte & Touche had created a 24-page report titled "Beyond Numbers" which was described as its "Community Involvement Annual Report" I wondered if it was a "get real" moment. 24 pages to tout what they should be doing anyway? Sounded like puffery to me.

I explain: I am a huge advocate of community involvement - I've volunteered with local non-profit organizations for the past two decades of my working career and firmly believe that absolutely every business should be fostering involvement in the local community among its employees.

As I read the report, I realized this was REAL marketing...and the fact that Deloitte & Touche is putting themselves out there, committing the company as a 'best example', is very impressive.

A recent survey from job board TheLadders showed that 89.2% of execs believe that if a company has the ability to make a positive impact then it is that company’s duty to strive for it. The majority of respondents – 87.3% – also said that they would not work for a company that had a reputation of negative social responsibility.

Almost half of those surveyed – 45.1% – said that, not only do their companies participate in numerous events and organizations, but they promote employee participation as well. However, 29.6% of execs say they are unaware of any social programs initiated by their companies. Another 25.3% said that while their companies do promote social responsibility, employees are not encouraged to participate.

Given the fact that less than half of companies are doing what they believe is the right thing, the Deloitte & Touche commitment is even more impressive.

Barry Salzberg, D&T's CEO, said, “Successful businesses thrive in healthy communities. That’s why we’re committed to helping build strong and vibrant nonprofits. We bring our passion for business excellence into our community involvement efforts, helping nonprofits achieve their critical social missions. "

Evan Hochberg, national director of community involvement, Deloitte Services LP, noted that “this report is a story of our efforts to make a greater impact in our communities by strengthening the effectiveness of nonprofits. It is a strategy to which we are truly committed.”

Thumbs up! Great job! My hope is that "Beyond Numbers" gives the good folks at Deloitte & Touche a platform to speak at every business conference and to every business magazine.

Building a Business - One Customer at a Time

John Sumser of Electronic Recruiting News, (a newsletter for the recruiting industry) wrote a great blog post about his hunt for "Caramel Balsamic Gelato," in which he ended up finding the product he wanted as well as discovering a great example of a small local company that knows how to treat loyal customers.

John's point -- after a pleasurable email exchange with the president of Gelato Massimo -- was that, "When the talk turns to building intimate relations based on attraction rather than promotion, this is a good model of how to do it. A good product and a willingness to build your brand are the required ante."

Small business owners are always time-crunched. Over-extended. But in business, as in life, small things make a difference.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Survey Snafu

And did you hear about the marketing-turned-creepy at Target...?

Since Target is a local retailer, even though it's a national chain, I decided this wasn't too far off base ... and the lessons are universal.

Anyway, last week Target emailed a survey to customers with questions such as whether people feared their lovers might leave them and, if they disappeared from the face of the earth, would anybody notice. News reports said it was designed to help compare the psyches of their customers to Wal-Mart customers.

The survey was stopped within 24 hours.

The Target folks aren't idiots and they're not insensitive. They were just a bit myopic about how people would react. It can happen to can happen to you.

So here are two lessons: 1) Remember that an email doesn't always "read" the way it was intended when it was written and 2) Never get so caught up in what you want from the customer that you forget it is your job to serve them...not the other way around.

Oh, and stay true to your word: Though I'm sure Target framed that survey within a context, on the Target Web site it says, "By providing your e-mail address, you will receive updates on special offers and promotions from Target."