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Monday, June 1, 2009

Neuromarketing -- It's all in your mind...

I was just reading about a practice that has grown in popularity but has actually been around for several years -- neuromarketing. Neuromarketing is the study of how brains respond to different messaging. Basically, marketers are able to study the brain waves and patterns of people who are exposed to different brand messaging, and determine which strategies are the most effective.

I remember when I first heard about neuromarketing about six years ago. It was absolutely fascinating to think that I could one day "read someone's mind" and know what they really thought about my ad or product.

As a small business owner, we don't all have the massive budgets required to sustain true neuromarketing research. (For those of you who do, I am a little jealous...) However, there are aspects of neuromarketing that we can adopt in our businesses to get us just a little closer to the goal. By using positive smells and imagery (for retailers), or by creating strategies that attach positive experiences to your brand, you'll be that much closer to "reading your customers minds" and responding appropriately.

What are your thoughts on neuromarketing? Invasive? The next natural step in relationship marketing?


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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Rise and Fall of a Brand

We've all heard the news. The Pontiac brand is being discontinued. And the future of a few others, including Saturn, is looking very bleak.


The Pontiac brand has such a history in pop culture, from the movies and the muscle cars to the music. It's almost tragic that the state of the economy has led to the demise of such an impactful entity/product. But, even more tragic in my opinion is the rise and fall of the Saturn brand.

Once, Saturn embodied the essence of what some people believe is the American spirit: it was the "little engine that could", the car that set itself apart from other cars and LIKED being different. The Saturn brand was one that promised to respect your individuality and welcomed you like a part of the family. You weren't just a customer, you were part of something better and greater than what had come before. It was awesome to see -- I almost bought one.

But, as with any promise, they key is to live up to the expectations set. And not just live up to them, but maintain a consistency in meeting those expectations. That's where the Saturn story started to fall apart.

After design and service issues, the image of the "little engine that could" started to decline. It was no longer the cool kid everyone wanted to hang out with -- it became a cautionary tale and only the most die-hard Saturn owners continued to lend their support.

Is your brand in danger?

Since your brand is your promise, how are you safeguarding that promise and ensuring that you consistently and effectively live up to the standards set? Once you have lost control over your brand image, you initiate an avalanche effect that is difficult to undo.

Take steps now to protect your brand image by:
1. Being clear - Create a brand pyramid if you haven't already done so. Be clear on what your brand is and what it should be. If you aren't clear, your market will be confused too. Make sure that everyone in your organization is on the same page.

2. Being consistent - Your messaging and brand presentation should be consistent at each and every touchpoint --phone, mail, internet, sales, etc. Do a quick inventory of all those touchpoints and confirm they all support each other. NOTE: Consistency also involves the presentation of your product or service. During crazy economic times like this, it is very tempting to make cutbacks that could affect your product or service quality. But, remember that everything you do either supports or detracts from the strength of your brand.

3. Communicate - This means you speak to customers, but you listen to them as well.

What are you doing to safeguard your business brand?


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Monday, April 27, 2009

Who signed off on THAT bright idea?

Planes flying around skyscrapers? In Manhattan? As a publicity stunt?


On Monday, hundreds of New Yorkers were scared out of their wits when Boeing jets flew low over the city and in and around a couple of skyscrapers. According to published reports, the flights were government-approved as part of a half-hour photo opportunity. Unfortunately the residents of the city were not notified ahead of time, and the Mayor himself was caught unaware.

There are so many things wrong with this picture. Talk about a faux pas. Good grief!

When conducting any sort of publicity, it's important to be aware of the context in which you are presenting your message or product. Suffice it to say that sending a jet to fly maneuvers in an area on high alert is probably not the most appropriate context.

Another key consideration is communication. Be sure everyone involved understands the message and purpose of your campaign. That way, all parties involved are on the same page and you can get the maximum impact as well as have full support on accomplishing the goal.

I'm not sure of what the thinking was behind the events on Monday. Something tells me that someone slipped up in a BIG way. But, it's a great lesson to all of us considering publicity events for our businesses: it's not all about the execution. Step back and evaluate the context as well as the communication for maximum effectiveness.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

You can't go wrong with The Basics

About a week ago I was listening to a program on NPR and they were talking about the growing popularity of micro hotels. For those of you who don't know what micro hotels are, they are quaint boutique hotels with guest rooms about the size of sleeping quarters on a train.

After hearing the story, I decided to look up photos of these micro hotel rooms. (It was just a little too unbelievable that these small rooms could be in such high demand -- even with the $80/night rate in New York City.) To my utter surprise, the images I found were even better than I expected. There were bunk style beds, but each room had all of the basic amenities a weary business traveler would need, including quality bedding, flat screen high-def televisions, and internet access.

When it comes to your business, are you making sure the basics are covered?

In micro hotels, you don't get a lot of extra square footage or a king-sized bed you may really not need. But if you're looking for a clean, functional, convenient place to rest at a fairly reasonable price, you can't beat the deal.

With all of the running around we do as business owners, it's easy to forget that there are some things we're doing that really don't amount to a hill of beans in terms of our business success.

Do you provide quality products? Do you consistently meet and exceed the needs of your customers in every way? Is your marketing strategy targeted, measurable and flexible? These are the basics in my opinion. Everything else will fall into line if these pieces are in place.

My challenge to you (and myself as well) is to keep focus on the essential items that will help make our businesses successful. Everything else is like that $5 candy in the courtesy snack bar: it seems like a good idea, and you'll enjoy it for the moment, but you're going to pay a whole heck of a lot more than you intended in the end.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Are we there yet?

The market's up. The market's down. We're in a recession, but we might be coming out...not anytime soon though...unless something changes. We hope.

With the economic picture seeming to change minute by minute, how is a business owner supposed to plan? Is the sky still going to fall, or is this the worst it's going to get? What should we do?

Well the first thing to do is, don't panic. If you are evaluating your business on an ongoing basis in a few key areas, then you can be prepared for just about any occurrence.
1. Your business financial health - It goes without saying that this is the starting point for any business analysis. Knowing where you stand with revenue and profitability will serve as the foundation or catalyst for any business adjustment planning.

2. The needs of your Market - In any economic climate, you should fully understand your Market's needs. Have they changed because of the economy? Or, are they the same as they ever were? Having this information will dictate if you need to change your product offering or customer contact strategy in any way. Taking action like performing customer surveys and evaluating your competitors will alert you to any trends. Once you get the information you need, incorporate it into your existing Marketing strategy and respond accordingly.

3. Your high levels of customer service and response -- Regardless of economic crises and possible cutbacks you have to make in your business, customers still expect excellent customer service. If you sacrifice customer service or product quality to get yourself through the hard times, you may find it difficult to rebound as the economy improves. As you are making decisions on the first two points, use this third point to determine how you proceed.

These are three very high level areas that encompass many fine points, but this is your starting point. We'll likely be seeing many more ups and downs over the coming months, but don't let your business strategy get tossed about as well. Plan, evaluate and respond using the points listed above, and you'll be well prepared for whatever comes.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Making Promises...

You've probably heard this before, but your company brand is much more than a pretty logo and flashy flyers. Your brand is a "promise" you are making that your customers are expecting you to fulfill. For instance, do you promise "fantasy" like Disney? Or do you promise "high athletic performance" like Nike?

Can you easily pinpoint what your brand is promising? And more importantly, are you following through on it?


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Another Marketing Rant...

I recently wandered into a well-known forum for Small Business Owners. And as always, there was a Marketing thread available for entry. So of course, I entered.

As I perused the "conversations" inside the thread, one of the titles caught my eye. It was something to the effect of, "I need help with my Marketing. Someone please rescue me." This, of course, is not an uncommon situation -- hence the reason we started Mymarket-ease.com. However, what was interesting, was the amount of response this poor unsuspecting business owner received.

I'll put it to you this way...while reading the responses I got an image in my head of some sort of ancient creature with hundreds of heads and three mouths each -- all of them screaming things like "I got a Marketing idea for ya! Buy more pens!" Very frightening.

It was amazing how many different responses the SBO was given. But, not one person asked the all important question: "What is your objective?" Or, even better, "What are your Marketing goals?"

By understanding exactly where we want to go, we can better plan HOW to get there. Simply saying we want more customers is not specific enough. We all want more customers. But understanding what we want our business to look like or accomplish at the end of it all is critical.

So, if it was your post that I happened upon in that forum, I pray you've recovered from the onslaught. For all the rest of you, we can slay the beast together. The Small Business Marketing revolution has begun...