How to Get Ready for Holiday Sales Now

I know, I know - it's the end of June. You have to start planning your holiday selling season now.

I'm serious. Really, I am.

Here are some things to think about:christmas 2007photo © 2007 christina rutz | more info (via: Wylio)

1) What are your core product and service offerings going to be? If you haven't ordered what you need, get on that right away. Are your purveyors going to have to make something new for you? It should already be in development or you'll likely miss your deadline.

2) How are you going to promote those offerings? Via catalog? On your web site? Online ads? Social media? In-store display? Print advertising? Billboards? You need to order outdoor and print advertising now and look into which web sites to target for online ads. Now is also a good time to start design concepts for your catalog or other mail promotions. If you're brick-and-mortar, you need to start designing in-store display. If you need anything special - like new hardware for special banners or custom-made decor, you'll need to get to ordering now.

3) What's your launch date? Holiday is starting earlier and earlier - last year, we saw Christmas decorations in stores right around Halloween! This seemed a bit early to me - most businesses will need to  be ready in early November. If your business does layaway, compute the average number of weeks customers do layaway, and plan to announce your holiday layaway specials somewhere in that timeframe. Figure out your launch date and then design your project plan working backwards.

4) How are you going to be celebrating with your customers? If you're sending them cards, you need to order them this summer if you want them imprinted with your brand. If you're planning on doing a special loyalty promotion, price it out now as you're ordering product.

Did you find this blog post completely alarming? No worries - I can help you with all of this.

It's Monday. Three Ways to Drive Sales Today

It's Monday morning. You're still waiting for that coffee to kick in.

Meanwhile, you're reviewing last week's sales. And they're not where they need to be.

What can you do?
Coffee at my secret morning coffee placephoto © 2006 Pete Barr-Watson | more info (via: Wylio)

1. Beef up your customer loyalty program. 
What are you doing to thank your most loyal customers? Are there any sales you have going on right now that they might want to know about? Make sure that 1) you're thanking them, and 2) you're asking for a sale.

2. Push your most profitable product.
Which one of your products has the best margin right now? Shouldn't you be selling more of it? Put it in your stores' front windows, advertise it front and center on your web site, and promote it on your social media channels. The more you sell, the more efficiently you're making money.

3. Try a new channel.
Today is the day it's finally time to stop procrastinating and start your Facebook page. You can let fans know about your latest specials, events and promotions, and new products.

So, what are you waiting for?

Make Monday work for you. Need help? Ask me how.

Marketing News Roundup - June 24, 2011

What's new in marketing (and elsewhere) this week?

A new analysis of LivingSocial and Groupon customers finds that LivingSocial draws a slightly older, more affluent user, though both sites draw people that are more affluent and educated than the average Internet user. (eMarketer)
Sonic The Hedgehog Figurephoto © 2007 włodi | more info (via: Wylio)

EBay will launch a Facebook sharing function that will enable users to drag and drop eBay products into their Facebook feeds for their friends to vote on and comment. (Direct Marketing News)

Sonic the Hedgehog is turning 20. A lot has changed since 1991, when the blue dude launched on the Sega Genesis. Today, it's not so uncommon to see video game megastars with movies, tv shows, and more, but Sonic started it all. (BBC)

Need a smarter team? Harvard Business Review says you should add some women. Adding women to your team raises collective intelligence, improving brainstorming and decision making. (HBR)

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Do You Need a Mobile App?

So a new report from Flurry claims that consumers are now spending more time using mobile apps than on the Internet (thanks, Mashable, for getting this some attention). Consumers are spending an average of 81 minutes daily using mobile apps vs. 74 minutes of web surfing.

So, this means you need to go right out and create your own mobile app, right?

Not exactly. We'll talk about this in a second.
android appphoto © 2010 clive darr | more info (via: Wylio)

The first thing you need to do (if you haven't already), is visit your web site while using your mobile phone, and the mobile phones of a few of your friends. What you see on your desktop isn't what you'll see on your Blackberry, Droid, iPhone, or tablet. Make sure people using any popular smartphone or tablet these days can use your site. 

Questions to ask:

1) Can they read your content or do they have to keep zooming in, zooming out, and scrolling back and forth?

2) Is your site fully functional via mobile? Can people order your products, access customer service, and easily navigate to your content?

3) Is there something most customers on a mobile would want to see first on your site, like maybe your phone number or directions? How can you make this easier for them to find?

So, now it's time to create your own app, right? Not exactly.

It can be expensive to get a developer to make you your very own app. So think about apps that are already out there that can be used to promote or access your business. Ask yourself:

1) Is your business available to people using social apps, like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn?

2) If you're brick-and-mortar, are you sharable on check-in apps like FourSquare and SCVNGR?

3) If you run a restaurant, are you available on review sites like Urbanspoon, and reservation apps like OpenTable?

So NOW is it time for my own mobile app?

Sure. But really give some thought to a problem your mobile app will solve, and if there's an app already out there that can be used. After all, existing apps (like Urbanspoon, for example) already have a dedicated audience. If you make your own app, you're starting over.

Also, games are great and it's tempting to make your own game for people to play. But how does this help? Does it really get people to buy more of your product or is it just an opportunity for people to play at your expense?

That said, it can't hurt to talk with an app developer and see what kind of ideas they might have for you.

You might also consider holding an app development contest for your customers. See what they think you should be doing on your mobile.

All apped out? Let me know. I can help.

Seven Ways to Beat the Creative Block

It's hard to get up every day and be 100% creative.

Sometimes I get up and I'm just not inspired. Here's what I do when I'm all out of great ideas.

1) Check my Twitter account. This is where I connect to other people who do what I do, so I can see what they are thinking about today. It's also a great source of overall news and interesting ideas.

2) Login to LinkedIn and see what my connections are doing. Is anyone working on anything interesting? Did anyone post anything thought-provoking in one of my groups? The answer to this is almost always yes.

*inspiration*photo © 2008 Cornelia Kopp | more info (via: Wylio)
3) LinkedIn has also recently launched a feature called LinkedIn Today, which displays headlines based on your chosen news sources and what's being shared by the most people. This is another great way to find out what people find relevant right now.

4) Checking google trends tells me what the most popular google searches are right now. While this usually just confirms for me that I'm way behind on my pop culture, it can be a great way to find out what's top of mind out there.

5) Sometimes I visit Wikipedia's main page. Wikipedia will tell you what happened on this day in history (which is always of interest), provide the latest news, and showcase a few other interesting things I didn't know.

6) It's usually worthwhile to take a 10-minute break to watch a TED talk. Some of the most inspiring people around are on TED and there's always the opportunity to learn something new.

7) If I'm still not inspired, maybe today's not a day for creative work. Maybe it's time to take a break and do something else. It really can help to just give myself permission not to be creative today. I can work on many other things - accounting, reporting, customer service, or other project work. Sometimes getting organized is all I need to get unblocked.

How do you cope when you feel blocked? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Marketing News Roundup - June 17, 2011

What's new in marketing (and elsewhere) this week?

Is the age of extremely conspicuous consumption officially over? Mercedes seriously considers dumping the Maybach, or just totally redesigning it. (Autoweek)

Students at Stanford have started a budget-by-text service that helps lower-income families budget and save by documenting their spending. What could you document that would help you better meet your own goals? (FastCompany)

Musician Kim Boekbinder has developed a way to fund her concerts ahead of time. Fans tell her where they want her to perform, and when there’s enough people to offset costs, she finds a venue that’s the right size and books a show. No more empty concert halls. No more cancelled shows and let-down fans. I love this way of empowering everyone but the major record labels (and really, why couldn’t they do this too? Might bring down the astronomical price of concert tickets, don’t you think?). (BoingBoing)
Facebook hires former Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart to manage its image and relationships with government, media. (Complex)

Not really about marketing, but important nonetheless. What would society look like free of rank-ism? What is a dignitarian society, where everyone has the right to dignity? (CNN) 

Latest industry to benefit from social media? Food trucks, which can broadcast where they are right this minute and what they're serving today to a community of fans with confirmed interest in their product. (Mashable)

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Email Isn't Dead! Permission Based Marketing Works

Lately, lots of marketers have been refocusing on email marketing as a way to better sell, keep, serve, and save customers. Though proponents of social media have declared email dead, businesses like Groupon, LivingSocial, and SniqueAway have proved them wrong. So why does email do wonders where other channels can fail?

It's all about permission-based marketing.

That's right. While all channels can be (and should be) permission-based, e-mail is by far the easiest to optimize this way and generates the best results.

How does this work?
Email email emailphoto © 2010 Keith Ramsey | more info (via: Wylio)

On a basic level, you should only be sending your email blasts to people who've agreed to receive them.

But it goes deeper than that.

If you sell more than one type of product, don't you want to know which of your customers are most interested? If you sell products for babies, why do you want to promote these to people without babies? Why do you want to sell garden supplies to people who don't have gardens? Why do you want to sell windshield wipers to people without cars?

You don't. (No, you really don't.)

This is where permission-based marketing comes in. Here's how it works:

Ask your customers which kinds of messages they want from you - what are they interested in and what do you they want to hear about? You can work with your e-mail vendor on this, or you can use one of several online survey tools to ask them. Then, simply send them what they want.

Why is this good?
  • It helps you determine the level of interest for each of your product categories.
  • You're of more value to your customers because you're only delivering content of interest.
  • You're respecting your customer by letting them hear from you only as often or as rarely as they want.
  • When you launch a new product, you'll have a much better idea of how many people will want it.
 Need help figuring out who wants what, where and when? Let me know.

Marketing News Roundup - June 10, 2011

What's new in Marketing (and other things) this week?

Shopping center construction has hit a 40-year low, which isn't surprising if you stop and consider all of the vacant retail space you likely see in the course of your daily travels. Some people wondering if this is the end of big-box retailers while shopping shifts online. Target's sales have been slow, but I doubt the end is near. (Business Insider)
Target Signphoto © 2008 Ted | more info (via: Wylio)

Female prisoners in Oregon are being trained to start their own businesses upon release. Is entrepreneurship the wave of the future? I've seen a shift in thinking from lots of people in the last year - there's a new focus on business ownership as a way of creating one's own stability and opportunity, rather than reliance on an employer to do so. (NPR)

In another bright spot during a crazy news week, it looks like tech jobs, including those for web developers, technical writers, and content managers, are returning to the US after years of outsourcing. Companies are finding outsourcing arduous to manage and not that much cheaper in the long run. Told you so. (ReadWriteWeb)

Google makes another acquisition, buying online ad optimization startup Admeld for $400 million. This is good news for CEO Michael Barrett, who was last known as the fall guy for MySpace's failed revenue targets. (TechCrunch)

By the way, have you ever read the iTunes EULA?  Now you don't have to. The nice folks at CNET asked Richard Dreyfuss to read it for you. It's fabulous - click the link and scroll down to listen. (CNET)

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Group Discount Sites- My Two Cents

Unless you've been doing your marketing under a rock lately, you've heard all about the exponential growth of group discounting sites like LivingSocial, Groupon, Facebook Deals, Google Offers. Now Amazon, AT&T, and your credit cards are getting in on the action, too.

The idea is that if enough people join a deal, the customers get a discount, and the merchant gets enough new customers to make it worthwhile, and the discount site gets a cut. Everyone wins!

But does it really work that way?

Not always.

Dollar Bill Snailphoto © 2008 Benjamin Reed | more info (via: Wylio) But doesn't this kind of thing generate customer loyalty? I'll get lots of new customers who return to my business, right?

Actually, the loyalty these discounts generate is to the discount site. That's right - LivingSocial is generating loyal LivingSocial customers, not customers loyal to your business.

But the good news is that you'll get a list of customers who purchased your deal, and now that they are your customers, you can continue to market to them and entice them to return to try your other products.

Isn't it going to be super-profitable for my business to get tons and tons of new customers?

Actually, this is heavily dependent on the nature of your product, the cost of serving your customers, and which deal site you choose - they all work differently. Carefully evaluate how much this will cost you and how much you will have to pay for this exposure. Make sure you understand exactly how many customers will see your deal. Some businesses create special products or services just for the deal sites - things that are less expensive to provide to customers so they don't take such a bite out of profits.

But the good news is that the deal sites are always looking for new businesses (and types of businesses) to try, and they are happy to talk to you about what kind of arrangement might work best. Don't be discouraged if you aren't a restaurant or salon- I've seen deal offers recently for solar panels, scuba lessons, and museum passes.

I can just post my deal on any deal site and it will bring in tons of qualified new customers, right?

Actually, no. Not all deal sites work alike and not all cater to the same clientele. Before you begin this odyssey, be sure you have an understanding of who your customers are and which customer segments you'd like to attract with your deal.

But the good news is that you can scrutinize the different sites to see which would be the best fit for you and your business. You can ask as many questions as you want about who the customers are, what they buy, and at what price.

Am I a total dork if I don't participate in the group buying party?

Actually, no. If you research the issue and determine that it won't be profitable for you, don't do it.

The good news is you can always try it later, if it makes sense another time.

Need help navigating this deal-crazy landscape? Let me know.

Don't Rickroll Your Audience - Try this Instead

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, getting rickrolled means that you've clicked on a link to content that interests you, only to get Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" video.

Why am I talking about this now? Rickrolling is so 2008.

Because thousands of businesses rickroll potential customers every day.


Rick Astley.
Flickr user chinnian
1.  Say you really need to move some polka-dot sweaters this week, so you advertise a great deal on them. Unfortunately, you send users to your home page, where the sweaters aren't promoted. Users have to use your menus to get to apparel, then women's, then sweaters, then polka-dot. Congratulations, you've just annoyed the crap out of your customers, and most have given up.

Don't rickroll - link directly to your deal!

2. Say you've just discovered that your product, baby powder, repels ants like nothing you've ever seen. So you do some promotions targeted to people interested in beating their ant problem. Unfortunately, you send these folks to your regular baby powder page, which is all about beating diaper rash. Is this the same stuff that makes ants go away? Your customers don't know. They leave empty-handed, feeling confused.

Don't rickroll - match your audience to your content with tailored landing pages.

3. Say you've created a great new diet solution. You place an online ad that says "Avoid these five foods, and lose weight today!" Lots of people click on this ad, but these five dastardly foods are nowhere to be seen. Instead, there's a video of indeterminate length (Are the five foods in there? Do I have time to watch this now?) and a exhortation to join your paid diet plan web site.

Don't rickroll - provide the content you've promised and people will want more.

Need help matching your deals, your content, and your audience? Let me know.

Marketing News Roundup - June 3, 2011

What's new in marketing this week?

Groupon, which declined an acquisition bid from Google last November, plans $750 million IPO. The company is not currently profitable, but its subscriber base is growing. (Mashable)

Dictionaryphoto © 2009 noricum | more info (via: Wylio)
Not to be outdone, Amazon now joins the daily deals bandwagon with its own venture - AmazonLocal, debuting in Boise, Idaho. It's actually pushing LivingSocial's Boise content, but there's no reason to think Amazon will stop there - word is it may aggregate deals from several deal sites, which is interesting, to say the least. (Business Insider)

With grammarians everywhere saying FML, the Oxford English Dictionary adds OMG and LOL to its lexicon, another lesson in what the Internet is doing to language. (Engadget)

What's happening to our boundaries? One in three people may be addicted to their smartphones, even waking up in the middle of the night to check them. (Smedio)

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Four Ways to Lose the Sale

There is nothing better than a great salesperson. I mean it. I’m not being facetious.

There’s nothing so amazing as a person who knows their product, is passionate about it, knows why you need it, and can communicate all of that with a great story.

Recently, I sent out a request for expertise and ended up talking to 14 different vendors about a service I need. Some of you lost the sale, though, and here’s why.

1) You didn’t even take three minutes to find out what I do, and it showed. Please have at least some idea what my business is. Do a little research. If you're not sure, ask. Unfortunately, some of these same people DID NOT LISTEN to my answer, and I had to repeat myself. This was REALLY annoying!

Antique Cash Register photo © 2011 Michael Whay | more info (via: Wylio)
2) Please don’t OVER-respond. Some of you sent an entire suite of possibilities to me that had nothing to do with my inquiry. I need to know how you will address the problem I have now before I hear about the rest of your offerings. Don’t bury the actual answer to my question.

3) You called me when I asked you to e-mail me. I asked you to e-mail me because that is how I prefer to get information. Aren’t you paying attention? How much attention will you put into the service you’re providing if you can’t follow simple instructions?

4) Please don’t use jargon. You don’t have to say, “Do you have an internal strategic framework around that process?” when you mean, “Do you handle this in-house right now?” I felt like I was being fed a line, and I felt like you were talking down to me. Of course I want an expert to help me. But trying to make me feel stupid doesn't automatically turn you into an expert.

That said, some of the people responding to my inquiry did a fantastic job.

Here’s what you did:

1) Clearly answered my exact question, and asked for additional information to follow up.

2) Researched my business a bit, and it showed.

3) Respected my request to be contacted via e-mail.

4) Sent me useful information and asked for next steps.

5) Showed some enthusiasm for what I’m trying to achieve.

First impressions mean a lot. If you’re in charge of a sales team, does your sales process help them to avoid these pitfalls? How?

Need help? I'm happy to take a look at your sales process, and boy am I opinionated.