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.