09Mar/09

Marketing Mondays | Dress Accordingly For The Economy

Here’s a timely post from the American Express OPEN Forum that illustrates how “going green” can be an effective form of marketing when backed up with real change.  It’s also a nice reminder of why we live in the Sunshine State.

Sometime in January as I was driving out of my neighborhood at some obnoxiously early hour, I saw something that made me do a double-take. In the dark, through the flurrying snow, in the sub-freezing weather, I saw a group of kids waiting at the bus stop.

But wait … something was wrong in this picture. One of the kids had on shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers with no socks. This was not June … it was JANUARY. I noticed the kid was shivering and wondered “What the heck was he thinking?” I didn’t know if I should feel sorry for him (nah) or for his mom (who undoubtedly lost that morning’s battle of what’s appropriate to wear in 10 Degree weather in Cleveland). I hadn’t thought about that moment until now.

Like many of you, I’ve been watching and reading the news. And I’m starting to feel like I’m driving through this economy and some of the bankers, the politicians and car companies are the shivering kid in sub-freezing weather. The economy is like the weather and we all need to dress accordingly!

Consumers’ conversations have changed. What’s important to them has changed. The stories of their lives have changed and it seems like no one is paying attention.

Example: If consumers are talking about eating out less often, then having “fun” at Applebee’s doesn’t seem like it fits (especially if mom or dad just got laid off).

To be successful right now, we need to start paying attention to what consumers are talking about and where they are spending their money.

Eco-Conscious Brands are Selling

Four out of five consumers are still buying green products despite the battered economy, according to a new Opinion Research Study. While people are spending less overall, “green” brands have not seen a decline like other brands have. Smart brands have made the connection that eco-brands are ultimately about cutting cost and conserving in the long term (even though they tend to cost more). And businesses that embrace theeco-frugal trend will get and keep higher profit customers.

For example, Mini-Coopers (The Mini-e) are positioning themselves as minimalists and beta testing a more eco-friendly version of the Cooper. Apple has been advertising their new “green” content.

What can you do to take advantage of this trend — while still being true to your business’s mission?

How to Position Yourself for the Current Conversation

1. Speak Fluent “Green.” Another finding in the Opinion Research Study was that while nearly half of all consumers preferred green brands, about a third really had no way of confirming that a brand’s green claims are true. Yet, about 21% said that a brand’s reputation was pivotal in their purchasing decision.

That means that you need to dig deep inside your company, product or service and authentically identify all your eco-friendly materials and practices. If that was never a focus of your marketing – just tell your customers the true story of what you learned and how you learned it. You’re likely to gain more profitable customers with a message that says “We got tired of waste and chemicals and have decided to go green – here’s what we did, why and how.”

2. Find ways to involve your customers in the process. The Study also found that there is a disconnect between what consumers say and what they do. 87% say they recycle, yet the EPA says that only 33% of our waste is diverted for recycling.

That means that your customers want to be environmentally conscious, but they need a support mechanism. That could be your business. And if being eco-conscious has not been a focus for your business in the past, this is an ideal way to authentically make the transition. Companies that recognize that there is power in going through the eco-journey together will gain a fiercely loyal fan base.

If you’re an industrial firm, recruit an advisory board of customers and work on products that they buy – cutting costs and saving the environment together. If you’re more of a consumer business, create a group both at your location and on Facebook and create or change a product or service together.

3. Create and Tell Your Story. Most industrial organizations shy away from storytelling. That’s too bad because companies don’t make decisions to buy things — people do. There is always a person who ultimately decides to choose you.

According to the book, Make to Stick, sticky stories have six attributes. They are simple, concrete, emotional, unexpected, credible and told as a story that we can relate to and see ourselves in. This means that a lot of work will go into putting a re-tellable, inspiring and marketable story together.

With the speed of communication these days, there is just no excuse for being disconnected from your customers and what’s important to them. These three tips will get you closer.

And for heaven’s sake … put a coat on. It’s cold out there.

03Mar/09

15 Applications No Small Business Can Live Without

Small business owners often have to wear every hat; from marketer to webmaster, so when I came accross this article today, I thought that some of you might find it interesting. The article was aimed at online business, but I have used several of these applications in my day to day work at the chamber, and i belive small businesses in genreal could really work more efficiently with them.

Note:

* Applications that I use

** Applications I have tried

1. WordPress* – Every online business should have a blog and WordPress is, by far, the most powerful blogging tool on the web today.

Alternative Resources:
Movable Type
Type Pad

2. Google Analytics* – Using a good analytics system is a must have for any online business. Spend some time learning how to read your site metrics and what they mean.

Alternative Resources:
Mint
Clicky

3. Basecamp* – Having a central place to organize and keep track of all your projects and notes goes a long way in making your life less stressful.

Alternative Resources:
Lighthouse
No Kahuna

4. Freshbooks – Because many freelancers are service oriented, it is essential to have some sort of invoicing system in place.

Alternative Resources:
Blink Sale
Ronin

5. Twitter* – Having a Twitter account is almost as important as having a blog these days. Twitter is easy to use and free to setup. Why wouldn’t you use it?

Alternative Resources:
Facebook*
Friendfeed**

6. Crowd Science – This is a cool tool that will randomly ask your visitors to take a poll to help you gather demographics about your visitors. It never hurts to learn more about your sites visitors.

Alternative Resources:
Get Satisfaction

7. Mozy – Its is never a bad idea to have some sort of backup in place. Mozy, makes backing up your files affordable and painless.

Alternative Resources:
iDrive
Carbonite

8. Google Webmaster Tools* – There are an amazing amount of tools here than can help you track your sites ROI, test designs, and much more.

9. E-Junkie – E-Junkie can be used for more than just selling products through affiliates, you can also use it to offer a reward system to your clients.

Alternative Resources:
iDev Affiliate
All Affiliate Pro

10. Netvibes – It is easy to be overloaded with RSS feeds. Having a tool that lets you easily organize that information will make it easier for you to digest.

Alternative Resources:
iGoogle**
Page Flakes

11. WuFoo Form Builder – A good form builder app is always good to have an account with. You never know when you may want a new form, quiz, poll, etc.

Alternative Resources:
Form Site
Form Spring

12. Mail Chimp – Email campaign apps make it easier for you to send bulk emails to past clients, setup news letters, and send important notices to customers.

Alternative Resources:
iContact**
Constant Contact*

13. Skype** – Skype is the ultimate communication tool, especially if you have clients all over the world. It is the default IM/Phone choice for freelancers who work abroad.

Alternative Resources:
Sight Speed
Google Talk *

14. Alert Thingy** – Alert Thingy allows you to manage and update most of your social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, Basecamp, and more; all in one spot.

Alternative Resources:
Event Box
Friend Feed

15. Are My Sites Up – If you have a website, then there is no reason you shouldn’t sign up for this service. Its free and lets you know if your sites crash via emails and text messages.

I would like to add one more:

16. Google Apps (For your Domain)* – Online, anywhere, company branded email, calendar, messaging, Intranet, & Google Docs.

Let me know what applications you use. I woudl love to hear from you.

02Mar/09

Marketing Mondays | The Next Step

This week’s Marketing Mondays comes from Seth Godin, in a way.  Last December, Seth posted an offer to take a group of students under his wing in what he called a 6 month MBA.  They’ve been up and running for a few weeks no and post to a blog called SAMBA.  From the SAMBA blog comes today’s Marketing Mondays post – a couple of ways to empower customers to become salespeople.

In a typical sales cycle, after you close the sale, the next step is to deliver and evaluate. I am suggesting a new step to the cycle after making the sale. That is, “Enable the customer to sell”.

If a customer likes your product or service, they should be happy to talk about their experience and recommend it to others. This is the part in the process where you should ‘enable the customer to sell’ and make them into your volunteer sales force. Create ways to make it easy for customers spread the word about your product/service. Here are a few examples of companies who added ‘enable the customer to sell’ to their sales process:

  • Included in the pack of your Moo business cards are 5 colorful cards the same size as your business cards with fun messages like, “You like my cards? Oh, thanks! Why not take this one too. You’ll thank me later. Probably.” Another card states, “I’d like one of *your* MiniCards! (You haven’t got any? Oh…umm take this, it should help.)” This cards easily enable the customer to sell, plus, include a discount for the new customer towards their first purchase.
  • In the back of the book, The Dip by Seth Godin, there is a page that encourages you to read the book and then pass it along to a friend to spread the idea. There are multiple lines so you can track who has read the book (and how to return it to the original purchaser). Encouraging the customer to read and pass-on the book enabled the idea of ‘the dip’ to spread resulting in increased book sales making The Dip a NY TImes best seller for multiple weeks.
  • Gilt Group is an invitation-only site that sells high-end luxury brands at steeply discounted sample sale prices. They entice members to invite their friends with the referral fee of $25 account credit when their friend makes their first purchase. They make it easy to evangelize by providing a personal invitation link and a way to send invites through their website.

Don’t let the sales cycle end once a person purchases your product or service. Find ways to make it easy to spread the word about your product/service and enable the customer to sell.