Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Marketing is a system, not an event

Small business marketers love the chase. Love the new fangled way to make the phone ring. They love to think of a marketing promotion as a single event. But it's precisely this view of marketing that holds most small businesses back. They fall prey to the "marketing idea of the week" and never fully explore what it takes to create and build a completely functioning, consistently performing, marketing system.

In this article, we am going to outline the basic steps that any business can follow on the way to creating their very own marketing system. But first let's explore this word system in the context of marketing. Small business owners have no problem thinking systems when it comes to say, accounting or hiring. When it comes to marketing though, all bets are off. It's as if they are waiting for magic fairy dust to fall upon them with the next great marketing innovation.

Look, effective marketing is little more than creating and operating an effective marketing system. Now, when I use the word system I mean several things. 1) The system is documented - You can't have a system or a step in a system unless you write it down. 2) The system is built on sound marketing principals and 3) You constantly measure, innovate, and refine the system.

Okay, so on to the system building steps.

1) Narrow and define a target market - Small business owners love to say yes. "Sure we can do that." The next thing you know the target market is roughly anyone they think will pay them. You must commit to a narrowly defined target market and you must focus all of your attention upon serving that market like no one ever dreamed of. A narrow marketing focus might be - Estate Attorneys - as opposed to Law Firms.

At Reformation Productions, this is part of the IDENTIFY and LISTEN stages of the Straight Line Marketing process.

2) Discover and communicate a core message for that market - Until you can show how your firm is different and offers something unique, you will always compete on price. You must find a way to tell your newly defined narrow target market why you have something to offer that they value. Your core message might be - We show estate attorneys how gain all of the business they can handle - as opposed to: We help law firms.

This is also part of the IDENTIFY and LISTEN stages of the Straight Line Marketing process that we use at Reformation Productions.

3) Develop multiple forms of permission based lead generation - No one like to be sold to and more and more advertising is falling on numb ears and eyes. Your lead generation system must be built on several fronts, such as public relations, referral marketing, strategic partnerships, and targeted advertising. Your lead generation message must offer the target market a reason to want to know more. Forget about the sale, look for ways to build trust.

This is brings in the THINK and CREATE stages of the Straight Line Marketing process.

4) Construct a lead conversion and customer reselling process - No amount of leads in the world will help your business if you don't efficiently turn those leads into clients. You must have a plan that maps out what you will do when phone rings, when you make the sales call and when it's time to do more business with the clients you already have. Most small businesses completely ignore this aspect, but this is where the real success of marketing lies.

Reformation Productions offers this as a part of business consulting.

5) Create entertainment or educational based marketing and presentation materials - It's not just for the traditional, glossy sales brochure, you should use your marketing materials to teach how your firm is different, how you solve real problems, how you work, why you work, what you believe and your marketing will be much more successful. Your web site must come from this point of view as well.

This also comes out of the THINK and CREATE stages of the Straight Line Marketing process.

6) Define the most important marketing success indicators - Setting marketing goals for such things as leads, appointments, sales, phone calls, referrals, impressions, mentions and anything else you can think to measure is how you turn marketing into a game and how you keep score of the game. Everyone loves and game and the only way to improve something is to measure how well you are doing in the first place.

This is the piece we see ignored the most. We call it "tracking" or measuring your results. If our process had five stages it would be this one... we'd probably call it MEASURE or EVALUATE & REPEAT.

7) Build an annual marketing calendar and budget and stick to it - Once you have spent the time and energy to think through steps 1-6 you need to commit your plan to a marketing calendar and then allocate (or at least think about) the money it will take to implement your plan each year. Once you create a calendar it is much more likely that you will look at the tasks assigned to each month like a "to-do" list. So, instead of whining that you should do more marketing, you simply scratch each item off your list and plan for the next. It's an amazingly simple but effective device.

This is a major part of the THINK stage at Reformation Productions. After presenting our recommendations for marketing tools and strategies that we base on the information gathered during the IDENTIFY and LISTEN stages, we develop a strategic marketing plan that includes this calendar/chart.

Okay...now the last bit of advice.

Every system needs a champion. Either find someone in your organization who does little else but operate the system or hire marketing professionals like Reformation Productions and charge them with helping you develop, implement and run the system.

Properly fed and maintained, this little marketing system can become the engine that drives your firm's climb to the top.

John Jantsch and Reformation Productions

Contact us at Reformation Productions to discuss your business. 404-862-8814

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What is the responsibility of Branding - - really?

Recently a colleague was approached by the professor of a top journalism and advertising program with a question about branding. He wanted his opinion on whether or not branding should be a major point of emphasis in the program. "Don’t get me wrong," he said "it’s been a staple in the curriculum for a while", but they were looking at the idea of making it a part of the degree emphasis for graduation.

Well, here‘s the short answer – heck yes.

Here’s a more thought out answer -
Now, we know that Advertising is without a doubt the one element in Marketing that receives the most attention and the most dollars. It has the responsibility of taking all the other elements in the marketing mix and crafting a persuasive message in a creative fashion that will sum it all up and communicate it to your consumer target. Branding is way more than a function of advertising. It should be a function of business. Because it permeates all elements of sales, operations, marketing, etc..

Let’s look at the traditional 4P’s of marketing and see how they can affect branding:
  • Product – We all know product is king. It dictates your brand offering. But the way you shape the touch, taste, sound, smell, name or experience of your product is all branding. Calling your Kentucky-based fried chicken company Kentucky Fried Chicken is branding. Changing it to KFC to lessen the negative affects of health conscious consumers is also branding. So is the really cool buckets they come in.

  • Price – More than just a unit of revenue, your price tells customers whether you are a premium brand, great reward or an inexpensive value brand. You can buy a .99 cup of coffee or a $4 cup. Again, that's part of branding. Depending on your consumer target, free may be a great word to use in promotions or it may be the kiss of death to your brand.

  • Place (distribution) – The way you deliver your sales experience is also about your brand. The fact that a fast-food restaurant can be found everywhere is branding. Your website’s appearance is branding (the role of websites today are no longer interactive brochures – they are a company’s 24 hour visitor center). If it were not, we’d all have plain type on white backgrounds for our websites. The decor of your store front and the atmosphere of your restaurant are all branding

  • Promotion – Okay, this is what people really think of when they think of marketing. It includes advertising, direct marketing, online media, events – heck anything that allows you to proactively tell other people about your product/service. The way you say it, the how you communicate, is again branding. A cardboard sign with a handwritten message that says “Fresh Corn” is branding. So is the same message typed out on a digital billboard or neon sign. Which one would you buy from?

  • Not only should the college advertising program be teaching branding as a major emphasis in marketing, but it should also make its way into other areas of study like public relations, fashion design, interior design, hospitality management and restaurant management. Yeah, it's that important.

    Contact Reformation Productions to discuss your company's brand and how it permeates your business. Are all the parts working together for good or do some of the various elements in your business seem to fight against each other? Is your business a unified army of you? Does there seem to be one mission or several? Are you unsure about what you are saying as a company? Do you know how what you are saying is being perceived by others?


    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    5 Benefits of Branding

    Almost every business has a trading name, from the smallest market trader to the largest multi-national corporation. Only a minority of those businesses however, have what could be classed as a brand.

    Branding is the process of creating distinctive and durable perceptions in the minds of consumers. A brand is a persistent, unique business identity intertwined with associations of personality, quality, origin, liking and more.

    Although most people associate brands with big companies, the smallest of enterprises can use branding techniques with great rewards.

    The main benefit of branding is that customers are much more likely to remember your business. A strong brand name and logo/image helps to keep your company image in the mind of your potential customers.

    If your business sells products that are often bought on impulse, a customer recognising your brand could mean the difference between no-sale and a sale. Even if the customer was not aware that you sell a particular product, if they trust your brand, they are likely to trust you with unfamiliar products. If a customer is happy with your products or services, a brand helps to build customer loyalty across your business.

    A strong brand will project an image of a large and established business to your potential customers. People usually associate branding with larger businesses that have the money to spend on advertising and promotion. If you can create effective branding, then it can make your business appear to be much bigger than it really is.

    An image of size and establishment can be especially important when a customer wants reassurance that you will still be around in a few years time.

    A strong brand projects an image of quality in your business, many people see the brand as a part of a product or service that helps to show its quality and value.

    It is commonly said that if you show a person two identical products, only one of which is branded; they will almost always believe the branded item is higher quality.

    If you can create effective branding, then over time the image of quality in your business will usually go up. Of course, branding cannot replace good quality, and bad publicity will damage a brand (and your businesses image), especially if it continues over a long period of time.

    A strong brand creates an image of an established business that has been around for long enough to become well known. A branded business is more likely to be seen as experienced in their products or services, and will generally be seen as more reliable and trustworthy than an unbranded business.

    Most people will believe that a business would be hesitant to put their brand name on something that was of poor quality.

    If your business has a strong brand, it allows you to link together several different products or ranges. You can put your brand name on every product or service you sell, meaning that customers for one product will be more likely to buy another product from you.

    Talk with Reformation Productions about the benefits of branding as part of the Straight Line Marketing process and how the IDENTIFICATION process helps to make your company's marketing efforts more efficient and effective.


    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Why Should Local Businesses Have A Blog In Their Marketing Plan?

    Good public relations is one of the most important elements to any marketing campaign a company has at its disposal. But not all public relations are equal: some campaigns involve massive outlays of cash, while some other methods can be extremely cost effective!

    Blogging is at the forefront of publicity mediums in today’s connected world, giving anyone or any business the opportunity to get their message out around the world. And with the recession hitting companies hard, it’s more important than ever to find cost effective ways to attract new customers and increase revenue.

    Here are some reasons to start a blog:

    1. It helps your SEO ( Google loves consistently new content )

    2. You are seen as an expert in your field, a ” Thought Leader” - reinforcing your brand.

    3. Depending on content, you can been seen as an advocate for the community or another cause.

    4. Companies should blog to engage with customers and demonstrate that they are people.

    5. Great content gets people a reason to keep coming back to your site.

    6. Blogs are a much more trusted source than company press releases and official company PR.

    7. It moves customers to a conversion point of trusting and believing enough to buy.

    8. You can beat the competition to it. If your competitors don’t have a blog and you do, that already puts you ahead of the game. You will be immediately at an advantage from a media and public relations stand point as potential customers will be more likely to hear of you first. If you are lucky enough to have an extremely successful blog there is no end to its ability to accelerate the growth of your business as readers link to it from their own blogs and social network profiles.

    9. You can engage and understand your customers better.

    10. You maintain control over your communications. Starting a blog gives your business the opportunity to inform customers of upcoming products, services, conferences, trade shows or even to give an insight into the day to day running of the business. It allows you to become your own news reporter and gives you control over what reaches the public domain.

    11. Marketing has moved ahead with the times. In days gone by the consumer would wait to have a flyer drop on their doorstep to read about the latest news, deals and offers available to them. Today millions of people subscribe to regularly updated blogs and use their feeds to stay abreast on everything from news and current affairs to sport and fashion. So it is absolutely necessary for businesses to keep up with the trend and become multi-faceted in how they interact with the public.

    12. The beauty of blogging is that it encourages interaction between potential customers or other businesses and yourselves who are able to leave comments that you might address in a later blog post. By adding questions or provocative statements in your blog, you are in effect inviting subscribers to leave feedback.

    Ask Reformation Productions about your company and blogging. We can evaluate your marketing picture and see how blogging fits in and what we can do to help make it happen for you. Contact Rachel at 404.862.8814.


    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Star fired for branding

    It isn't enough to have a video with a cool concept. You can have all the technical equipment, all the resources of Celebrity Apprentice, but you have to recognize the importance of brand messaging in your efforts....in this case, product messaging.

    Last night on Celebrity Apprentice, Team ASAP came face to face with this reality. Yes, it was a good idea, it was produced well... but it didn't achieve what was necessary...

    At Reformation Productions, we recognize branding as the first, vital step of successful marketing. We frequently devote a six hour workshop, called an IDENTIFICATION SESSION, to discovering, identifying, developing and further communicating about our clients' brand. It's step one in our Straight Line Marketing process. It's so important and so influential, that we offer this session as a first step to clients at a reduced cost... it's our "free oil change" promotion to get clients in the door. The results of this session are so powerful, that it provides confidence in our clients, clarity in mission, comradely among the client staff internally, and a window that all future endeavors are seen through.

    Contact Reformation Productions for more information on how the IDENTIFICATION SESSION can help keep your company for being "fired" in the competition of commerce.


    Case Study: Using Social Marketing Techniques in Ecommerce

    Case Study: Using Social Marketing Techniques in Ecommerce
    By Greg Holden

    I just returned from attending a writers workshop at which budding authors were exhorted to develop a "platform." What, you ask, is a platform, and what does it have to do with selling online? It's quite relevant to anyone who wants to connect with others online, in fact, whether they are buyers or readers (or my own dream audience, buying readers).

    A platform is a base of people who know you and who want to hear what you have to say. Once you have a platform, you can sell to it, whether your product is a book, an e-book, jewelry, electronics, or other products.

    How do you develop a platform? You network, in person or online. Social networking through blogs, Facebook, and Twitter is all the rage. But lectures, visits to flea markets or other venues, and media appearances are still essential to develop the all-important word-of-mouth market.

    If you're looking for a good example of someone who continually works at building a platform and who enthusiastically sells to that platform through multiple online venues, look no farther than Nathalie Girard. The 45-year-old artist, jewelry designer, and metalsmith is the owner of Canadian Rockies Art/NGOriginals, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

    Girard has all the basics: a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed and a website (NGOriginals.com). She also sends out 3-4 email newsletters per year. Not only that, but she operates five separate Pro-level storefronts on the arts and crafts marketplace Artfire and two stores on Etsy.

    As someone who has a hard time posting on a blog or on Facebook, I had to ask Nathalie how she finds time to write, email, post photos, write sales descriptions, or otherwise contribute to all of these venues.

    Her first response: "I don't sleep...LOL."

    Then she added that she is not always consistent with her blog, Twitter, and Facebook. "I have not been efficient enough about handling social media up until now, but I realize that this is an important part of doing business online." She did admit that she checks emails and answers customer inquiries seven days a week.

    And she's a fast typist.

    "I usually handle correspondence when I first get up in the morning (usually as of 9 to 9:30AM in the morning on weekends, and as of 8:30AM during the week) for emails that have been received during the night. Then I check them again every couple of hours until I go to bed basically. If something comes in that requires an answer, I reply immediately. If I have to go out for errands, etc., I get my messages on my Blackberry, so I can see if something needs a quick reply on the spot or if it can wait until I get back at home."

    A blog might have some obvious benefits for a writer, but how can it help an ecommerce store owner? First of all, it helps gives your website better placement on Google search results, explains Girard. "Google loves blogs, which makes it an important tool to use when selling online. The more quality link-backs to our online selling venues and listings, the better."

    One of the perennial obstacles to having a blog is the question of what to talk about every day. It turns out that ecommerce store owners have a solution: you can always talk about your products. Girard describes where they came from, what makes them special, what they're made of, and more. "We talk about our latest creations, talk about techniques and materials, and share tutorials. The more we develop brand recognition, the more we increase sales over time."

    Talking up your business, your expertise, and your products is just one way of using a blog to support sales. Another is straightforward inclusion of sales descriptions and prices for selected merchandise. Girard says it's not at all uncommon for readers to make a purchase of merchandise advertised on her blog.

    "I've had people purchase something after seeing it on my blog," she acknowledges. "Others have contacted me to inquire about custom work because seeing one of my designs inspired them to get something adapted to fit their special needs or their own taste more closely. Blogging helps to open the dialogue. It also offers a glimpse of the magic in the creative process and a peek at the artist's life. It's an important part of connecting with potential buyers."

    Girard uses WordPress to create her blog, which appears on her website. Hosted for less than $5 per month by a service called HostGator, her website serves as the focal point for linking her five ArtFire and two Etsy storefronts. (My next column will examine how this busy seller juggles all these business presences and how she chose this host as well.)

    Perhaps the most important way Girard connects with buyers is by answering questions promptly. Like virtually everyone who sells regularly online, she is a frequent "multitasker" and will return calls and inquiries as soon as possible, no matter what she's doing or when the question comes in. "Good customer service is important to me. I don't leave buyers or potential buyers hanging without answers," she says.

    Email newsletters are an especially important part of a platform, and one of the most difficult to maintain. On hers, Girard promotes special holiday sales and products. She offers sneak previews of new items to come, special sales and special discounts or giveaways for her subscribers.

    All of this promotion and customer service might seem like a lot of extra work for a seller. But Girard says it all fits in with her philosophy, which is one I've heard from other sellers over the years, though perhaps not expressed in the same words. As she puts it: "The more we share, the more we have."

    Do you have an interesting story about your business or a set of tips to share with other ecommerce entrepreneurs? Contact me at greg@gregholden.com and you may be profiled in a future AuctionBytes column.

    About the author:
    Greg Holden is AuctionBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's Web site (http://www.gregholden.com), which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.

    Talk with us Reformation Productions about establishing a web presence, use of social media, and how to save time managing it all.


    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Recent Photography Taken for The Men's Room Barber & Spa

    Reformation Productions is dedicated to helping the local business owner. We came to The Men's Room Barber and Spa for their ribbon cutting ceremony in Braselton, GA. Looking forward to great things from these gals!

    Talk with us, Reformation Productions, about public relations and/or commercial & promotional photography needed for web design, advertising campaigns, point of service materials, social media, etc.


    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    V-log #1 - Norcross Hair Show

    Here is our first Video Blog. Periodically, we will highlight one of the local businesses we are working with through a V-log and feature it on ReformationProductions.com. Previous V-logs are archived on our facebook page and here, on our blog page.

    Talk with us, Reformation Productions, about video production for tv commercials, dvds, presentation, new hire orientation, web design, viral applications, social media use, etc.


    The advantages of adding video to your website

    Video has always been an effective way for businesses to communicate, and the Internet allows businesses to present videos to anyone who visits their website. When they are added to a website, it becomes much easier to communicate one's message. Videos can also significantly improve search engine results, which will draw more visitors to a site. In addition, videos are great tools for effective internet marketing.

    Website videos play a major role in many successful marketing strategies. They are an excellent sales tool because they can create a more personal, interactive experience between the website and the audience. If you sell products or services from a website, then adding videos can have a positive impact on your conversion rate. Businesses can use videos on their websites to help create a consistent theme for presenting products and services.

    Videos can effectively communicate relevant information to the visitors of a website. Website videos help engage the audience, and they keep visitors on the website longer. With videos, an audience can experience high quality moving images and sound that they can quickly understand. Not just one but TWO fo the five senses. Websites can appear more visually appealing and more professional when they have videos. When the footage catches the attention of a visitor to a website, they are more likely to further explore the site.

    Getting a first page search engine result for your website is no easy task. A website's search engine ranking is typically based on a number of factors, such as the age of the site, the number of pages, and the number of links to the site. These factors do not impact video Search Engine Optimization, however. Videos can allow any business to compete on a more equal playing field with its competition, regardless of how new or small its website is. YouTube is owned by Google. Video search results show up like display ads in search results.

    Adding videos to a website can help improve search engine rankings, especially if they are tagged with strong keyword-rich descriptions. Video Search Engine Optimization utilizes techniques to make sure that search engines locate video content, successfully index it, and display the video content when particular keywords are entered as search terms. Since search engines typically cannot see actual video content, it is important to have a video title that will correspond with search keywords.

    Videos can easily capture and keep the attention of the visitors viewing a website. Whether your goal is to increase sales, improve communication, optimize search engine results, or accomplish all of these, adding videos to your website is an effective way to achieve these goals.
    Roger Stix

    Talk with us, Reformation Productions, about video production for tv commercials, dvds, presentation, new hire orientation, web design, viral applications, social media use, etc.


    Why video is an important element in your marketing arsenal

    Most business ventures regardless of size now have a web presence, you've probably invested plenty of time and effort into your website (if you haven't, you need to) - but how are you making it work for you? Dynamic, eye-catching content is paramount in creating a fresh, fun website that users will want to return to, so here's something to consider for 2011: video production.

    If video isn't yet part of your marketing mix, here's a breakdown of why it should be:

    1) User Interest
    Think about your own web-browsing experiences, do you prefer reading a page full of text on a website or clicking "play" on a short video? Moving image and sound create more personality for your brand - they engage your audience and allow for greater interaction between you and your products and them. Making a great first impression is difficult even in the real world, online, people tend to skim-read so text alone just won't cut it. The old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words, holds even more truth for video.

    2) The competition
    Search Google for your keywords and see what results you get. It's likely you've got some stiff competition on organic listings but do any of your competitors have video results that appear? Probably not many. This is a potential new route for you to establish yourself with a competitive advantage in the ever-important search arena.

    3) The YouTube generation
    Younger users are more used than ever to seeing, uploading and interacting with video. With the advent of services such as 4OD and iPlayer it's become an integral part of the way we live our daily lives. In these times it's not a big leap to imagining video content as a necessary part of website design.

    4) Your customers
    Assuming your customers are in fact using the Internet (and the majority of people are), they're likely to be watching online video as well. According to research from Comscore, 81 percent of the total Internet audience viewed online video in 2009. This large majority indicates that online video is here to stay and is something you simply can't afford to leave out of your marketing mix.

    Talk with us, Reformation Productions, about video production for tv commercials, dvds, presentation, new hire orientation, web design, viral applications, social media use, etc.