“Does it Come in Rat?”

Have you ever been told that marketing is a waste of time and money, something that spin doctors and big firms dabble with in order to garnish a tax deduction or appease the board perhaps. Maybe they think that the public won’t swallow it.

Well tell me then, why doesn’t cat food come in rat flavour?

The reason is obvious of course – your cat doesn’t do the shopping.

Neither does your dog, or they’d be looking on the shelves for Old Poop deodorant.

A label designed by Rebel Media for Old Poop

So cat food is served up in a variety of flavours, none of which are related to what our felines would feast on in the real world. Some Sliced Classic Grilled or Roast Chicken? Perhaps they crave a serve of Carved Beef?

Beef?? When was the last time you saw a pussycat pull down a passing bovine?

And fish…how about Tuna and Pumpkin? Seriously, there’s not too many cats in the wild dine on fish regularly, let alone tuck into tuna. Would a house cat even know what a fish was, other than entertainment in a tank perhaps.

And I’m pretty sure that while cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, they never took up farming on any scale. Even dogs only ever evolved to the point of digging up gardens.

But the owners know what fish is. They know it’s a delicacy in their world. And marketers know that cat people think their cats are people. So cat food companies spend their marketing dollars convincing owners that precious pet would love to eat their (very) fishy product.

The owners would probably eat it too if it was positioned right. They certainly lap up the advertising – Americans spent more on their pets in 2012 than they did on bottled water and coffee combined; a total of $52 billion! And yes, they probably bought them catacinos too.

So next time your client tells you they don’t have the budget, or that they don’t see the need to spend money on advertising their presence, tell them to stop and smell the cat’s dish, because marketing matters. After all, millions of moggies can’t be wrong.

Now, time to feed the dog…he just loves his Holistic Duck Formula!

Are you a price conscious pet owner, or do you buy only the best? What influences you as to what flavour to get for your ‘fur’ person?

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It’s Not About the Product

Do you remember when the best idea you could have for a business was to build a better mousetrap? And then the world would beat a path to your door…right?

Well, I’m to say that if you do that today, you’ll be back where you started in 3 months. And the world will have moved on to the next mousetrap.

Example of better mousetrapThe reason is that anything you can design and build, can be copied, rebranded and on the shelf almost as fast as you can get your original product out the door.

Ask Apple. After releasing the iPhone to the world, China quickly unveiled the HiPhone. The iPad too followed suit. Heck, in Kunming they even copied an Apple Store so real the employees thought they were employed by Apple! (To be fair though, lately there’s reason to believe that Apple may have done some of their own copying too.)

So, if you can’t get ahead by building a better product, how does the modern business get a jump on its competition?

The answer people is…people.

More specifically, your people. The ones you pay to stand out the front of the shop, and the ones who work behind the scenes. All of them are individuals capable of greatness. None of them can really be replicated. And if you train them well, and reward them properly, I’ll bet they’d be hard to match.

I believe people are the most important part of the business. Incentivised, knowledgeable people who are a joy to deal with and are as willing to work as you are will stand out above any product your opposition can offer. Other people will talk about them, and we all know the power of referrals.

People, talking to other people, making things happen. Isn’t that what business is all about?


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Word of Mouth – Telling It Like It Is

“Marketing is no longer what you say about yourself; it’s what everyone else is saying about you.”

Amplifying your message via word of mouthWOM. It’s an acronym for Word of Mouth. And it is possibly the biggest influencer in terms of decision making right now.

Word of Mouth (hereafter referred to as WOM) can be defined as customers talking to other customers, whether they know each other or not. They can be strangers linked only by their shared experience with a product, service, brand or even government policy.

What other people have thought has always been a part of the matrix that leads us to make the decision to ‘buy into’ an idea or purchase an item. Until recently it was a muted voice, generally confined to our close circle of friends over a beer or work colleagues around the water-cooler.

With the arrival of social media that voice has gotten louder, to the point where it can now drown out a company’s own ‘official’ message. Once these conversations were just small ripples on the surface, but today they are amplified many times over through new mediums such as social media.

Like a tsunami they can be a deadly force building under the surface, gathering momentum until they crash on the shores of your business with terrifying consequences.

Not all WOM effects are bad of course. Managed well, a WOM campaign can be of enormous benefit to your company (remember the one for The Best Job in the World?).

best-job-in-the-world website

WOM is seen as more reliable, honest and sincere than any other advertising or marketing medium. One reason for this is that we are more likely to accept the opinion of strangers rather than the outpouring s of advertisers simply because strangers haven’t lied to us yet.

It’s a twist on the innocent until proven guilty theme – “This person has no reason to lie to me, and until they do something to erode my trust in their opinion, I will accept it at face value.” No ad company campaign is given that level of belief.

Central to making the most of WOM is a shift in thinking. You will no longer be marketing ‘at’ the consumer; you will now be conversing ‘with’ the customer. You are effectively handing control of the campaign to the people you wish to buy in.

WOM marketing can be as simple as giving the customer a positive experience, and the means to share their views. The experience could be great customer service, going that step beyond what is required to make sure they are happy. The channel to express this view may be a Facebook page (yours or theirs), Twitter account or place on your website.

And you better believe and have confidence in your product, because it will backfire badly if the promise of your message is found wanting in reality.

Here are my top five tips to creating positive word of mouth experiences:

  1. Give the people something to talk about: put simply, are you doing the best you can for your customer? The old adage of ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ will always see the customer go away happy. And happy to tell others about you.
  2. Be an advocate for the customer in your workplace: if your role in the company is public-facing don’t be afraid to stand up for the customer. Your job is (or should be in my opinion) as much to meet the client’s needs as to turn a profit for the company. And you can’t do the latter if you don’t fulfil the former. It’s how you get repeat business.
  3. Listen, engage and give voice to the customer: with the advent of social media conversations are happening everywhere. Listen to what is being said, engage in a positive manner and allow them to have their say. Censoring is not an option!
  4. Share: once it was policy to keep everything a secret so competitors couldn’t find out how you did business. Today being seen as an expert in your field is preferable if not best practice. And a sure way to get referrals from people who like to be seen as in the know.
  5. Reward your mavens: call them experts, mavens, trend-setters, loyal customers or thought leaders, find a way to reward the people who advocate on your behalf. Whether it’s a referral for a new client or just a positive reference on Facebook, find a way to reward those who speak well of you. You can be sure that that reward will also get mentioned, and you will be seen as a company that listens to its customers.

Remember, what used to work for businesses is just that – it’s old news. People will talk about you, and what they say now will be made louder and shared much further and wider than ever before.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Just make sure you’re part of the conversation, and it’s all for the right reasons!

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Groupon Case Study – Deal or No Deal?

Online coupon deals have been with us for a while now. And generally I’ve been opposed to them, especially in the early days when they were structured so heavily in favour of the coupon company.

Recently though one of my clients opened a new business – The Shore Restaurant. Its location in South Bank meant that it was in the midst of a plethora of established restaurants – they had to hit the ground running. After talking about the pros and cons with me they decided to give Groupon a go.Groupon Australia logoOne of the biggest problems associated with coupon deals is that too often the business enters the deal having not thought the whole thing through. It’s vital that the merchant knows their costs (the bottom line) and can factor in a price that they can be sure draws customers (the discount) without sacrificing too much. You need to understand why you are doing this, and what success will look like. An idea of what would constitute a failure is also good to know.

In this case The Shore did their homework. Their reasoning was sound – they wanted to put bums on seats, giving the appearance of a busy venue from the get-go. They had a unique product (serving up a buffet lunch and dinner on weekends) that they wanted to promote. At the very least, they thought, it would be a good brand awareness exercise.

The Shore decided that they would offer a 50% discount for their all-you-can-eat buffet, reducing the price point from $39.95 to $19.95. Groupon collected all the money for the deal up front as the coupons had to be purchased through them; they distributed the amount owing less their commission including GST to The Shore after about 7 days from redemption of the coupon.

It was agreed that the online sale would last for 2 weeks (but it stayed live for an extra week), with 3 months to redeem the offer. Remember, if the coupon is not redeemed the merchant gets nothing.

The Shore worked out what ratio of coupon customers to regular diners they could have in any one sitting, and they prepared their staff for the onslaught of bookings that they could expect as people hurried to redeem their coupons in a time favourable to them. They made sure that their staff were aware of the conditions involved as well.

Google Analytics graph - the week before launch

Google Analytics graph – the week before launch.

The day the deal went live it was everything they had anticipated. The phones rang wildly, and the website was swamped with people checking the menu.

Google Analytics graph - the week of the launch

Google Analytics graph – the week of launch.

Few people want to buy a deal only to find out they can’t use it for months because everyone got in ahead of them. The Shore had timed their offer to coincide with a period in which there were no major celebrations like Mother’s Day, and so were generally able to fit people in to their preferred dates.

Just as importantly though they weren’t too rigid in regard to their ratio – the aim of the deal had been to bring people in to the buffet, and they didn’t lose sight of this aim. Remember that customer service shouldn’t be discounted along with the price. You want these people to come back!

And since then?

In almost every respect the deal has been a winner. Over 800 coupons were purchased, and most of these were for multiple diners. In the four weeks since the deal was launched more than a quarter of the coupons have been redeemed, and the response from customers has been overwhelmingly positive, with many saying they would come back again.Groupon voucher

My only issue with the deal relates to marketing. Groupon did an excellent job in promoting the offer, but then that’s their business model. Unfortunately they don’t share the database that takes up the offer with the merchant, making it hard to conduct further marketing to those customers.

Yes, there are ways you could collect those details yourself, but I believe you shouldn’t have to. In my opinion it’s the one factor that still tilts the deal too much in Groupon’s favour.

The last word should probably go to Ellie James, manager of the Shore Restaurant, and the person responsible for the deal.

“Would we do it again? Maybe. The deal served its purpose – it brought attention to the new venue, it brought visitors to the website, it put bums on seats. Job done, for now.”

My thanks to Ellie and John of the Shore Restaurant for allowing me to share their experience with you.

Have you done a Groupon deal? What was your experience like? What lessons did you learn, and would you do it again? I’d love to hear from you.

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Brochures and Leaflets – Ten Simple Steps to Success!

Leaflets and brochures have been a staple of the business community almost since printing began. But in a case of familiarity breeding contempt, they are often dismissed in today’s online-oriented world as out of date and ineffective.

The truth is that they remain an integral part of the marketing mix. Call them brochures, leaflets, pamphlets or postcards, thanks to improvements in technology and marketing acumen they have never been more affordable and effective in reaching a targeted audience.

An example of a Snap South Brisbane leaflet

Maximise the return on your next brochure by undertaking these ten simple steps.

1. Raison d’etre – Or Why do You Want a Brochure Anyway?

There is no point in producing unnecessary literature. It’s not even brand awareness, unless you want to be known for annoying letterbox stuffers.

So before you even start, consider what the reason for this leaflet is. Ideally define a problem that your prospective audience can relate to, and that you can provide a solution to. Preferably a solution that is unique to your company. Stick to that theme throughout, and you’re a long way to getting a solid response.

2. You Need Professional Help

Sure, you can knock out a mean party invitation for your kid’s birthday in Publisher, but this is your business we’re talking about now. Employ a professional to design your brochure, especially if it involves folding, perforating or other finishing.Example of brochure folded from A4 to DL.Remember, people buy on trust, and if it looks like you cut corners in your business, then you’re not likely to see a decent return on your investment. Doing it yourself is not a saving; it’s more likely to be an embarrassment, multiplied by however many you just printed.

While we’re talking design, it’s vital that the ‘look’ of your brochure is consistent with your branding. Make sure that your brochure stays within the style guide of colours and fonts that identify your company.

3. I’ll Give You to the Count of Ten…

Remember that line from “Home Alone”? Well, that’s about how long you’ve got to grab a prospect’s attention. Make sure you have a strong cover with a great graphic and snappy headline, or your brochure is headed for the bin in less time than it took you to read this paragraph.

Don’t lessen the impact of your brochure by printing on cheap paper either. Just like a handshake is seen as indicative of the person, much can be made of the tactile qualities of your treasured piece. A reasonable weight to ask your printer for is 150gsm (grams per square metre) paper in either gloss or satin finish. Colour printing is much more effective than  black too.

4. Do you know AIDA?

We’re not talking opera here. And it’s not an incurable condition affecting your cat.

AIDA is an acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. To get the most out of your brochure it needs to grab the reader’s attention, get them interested, make them desire your product or service, and drive them to take a specific action – “Buy before it’s too Late!” or maybe “Call Snap South Brisbane NOW and make an appointment”…I’m waiting…

5. It’s What’s On the Inside That Counts

A brochure is not an encyclopaedia, so don’t be tempted to write everything there is to know about your company or product. Keep it short and punchy, with clear photos and/or graphics. Don’t use jargon, and avoid long words. WIIFM

6. It’s Not You, It’s Them.

Portrait DL leafletWIIFM. It’s another acronym.  It stands for “What In It For Me?” Because the person reading your tri-folded literary masterpiece really doesn’t care about your business or how clever what you’re selling is. They just want to know how it will benefit them. Telling someone how the all-new innovative suspension on the bike works isn’t as effective as simply saying how smooth it rides over bumps.

Adding an offer is also a great incentive to entice people in to your business, or to try your service for the first time. Think “Money Back Guarantee”, “50% More with your First Order” or “Free Coffee with this Coupon”.

7. Do I Know You?

Personalising your brochure is probably the best thing you can do to increase its effectiveness. And thanks to the advances in digital printing it’s not expensive, especially since it allows you to target your message to your audience.

So if you’re a travel agent, you can send mountain climbing brochures to those people on your database with that interest, and not make the people who only go on cruises feel like you’ve never done business with them. No more wasting dollars sending out irrelevant information to people who aren’t interested. You’re helping to save the planet from landfill. You’re a hero dammit! Take a bow!

8. Don’t Leave them Dangling.

It’s one thing to hook a fish, quite another to land it. Now you have your prospect interested, make it easy for them to take the action you want. In fact tell them what you want them to do! It’s not known as a ‘call to action’ for nothing.Example of a double-sided DL lealfet

If you want them to phone you, don’t be shy; say “Call Now!” And make sure your phone number is right there. If you want them to visit your store, then provide a map, with your operating hours. And your phone number in case they have a query. If you want them to book…well, you get it now.

Never assume the reader will look back through your brochure for details. Make the action obvious, and easy to do.

9. Make the Most of Both Worlds

Don’t expect your brochure to do all the work. Make the most of your brochure by having it as part of an integrated campaign, one that aligns your website and your printed material. The best way of doing this is to add a QR code that links to a dedicated landing page in line with your brochure’s spiel. Don’t make the mistake of sending the prospect to your home page and expect them to find their way from there – be targeted and make it easy for them to deal with you. They’ll thank you with their custom.

10. Deliverance

No, not the movie. Rather, how will you get your printed items into the hands of prospects? Below are some of the more popular methods used to distribute printed material.2pp-DL-Landscape leaflet

Blanketing or Unaddressed Mail is where you distribute leaflets, on their own, via a letterbox drop to all residences and buildings within a selected postcode range. Your local post office can help you organise this and give you an idea of the costs.

  • Shared distribution is where you batch your material with other items planned for letterbox distribution such as local newspapers and other advertising.
  • Taking it to the streets – handing out leaflets on the street is a tried and true method that can work well with the impulse-buyer, for example handing out menus or meal offers outside a restaurant.
  • At events – if you’re attending an industry or trade forum as an exhibitor you can leave your  customers with something to remember you by. Much better than asking them to remember your web address. And more informative than a business card.

So there it is, your definitive tear out and keep guide to producing brochures and leaflets. I’d love to hear you’ve used them in your business!

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When Size Matters, Bigger IS Better!

In the world of advertising one thing matters above all others – you’ve got to be seen. It doesn’t matter how good the design, how timely the offer; if you’re not seen, everything else is irrelevant.

Large format printing like posters, sandwich boards (often called A-frames) and billboards  make up the ‘big’ end of town in the printing Bigger is Better in advertisingworld. And when it comes to being noticed, size does matter!

The key to the effectiveness of large format and outdoor advertising lies in the fact that these forms of marketing are constant visual reminders for the people who see them every day. No matter how often the advertisement is seen, each encounter helps to reinforce awareness of the goods or services in question.

As a form of cost-effective brand building, billboards and large-format signage are hard to beat. Everyday thousands of people pass them, a largely captive market finding momentary distraction from their daily commute, or a timely reminder of something that has to be done.

an example of a large format sandwich board signThis is why sandwich boards are often found outside businesses.

Positioned as they are, their advertising catches the attention of people walking or driving by, enticing them to come inside.

With clever design and a well-timed offer they can be especially effective on the impulse buyer.

How effective? Well, according to a comprehensive study carried out in America in 2009, you might file it under ‘extremely’!

The study found that:

• 68% of people frequently or sometimes make their shopping decisions while in the car;
• 38% make the decision to stop at the store while on their way home;
• 24% said they were motivated to visit a particular store that day because of an outdoor ad message;
• 32% visited the retailer they saw on a billboard later that week;
• 50% reported receiving directional information from a billboard; and
24% said they have immediately visited a business because of an outdoor ad message.

That’s pretty powerful stuff right there.

Playing into this is the fact that the attention span of most people is approximately 8 seconds. So advertisers have to make the most of those 8 seconds to get hold of their audience and hook them in for the rest of the message. This is where billboards come into their own.

Size matters - large billboard

With a maximum word count of 6-10 words, people passing can easily take in the headline message, even when they are in a fast-moving vehicle, be it a car, bus or train. This information is being constantly reinforced – with every encounter the details of the business are again put before prospective customers.

This is what makes them so cost-effective. A billboard may cost $30,000 to design and install, but compare that to a full page ad in a daily paper which would be about the same price. The circulation of the paper may appear superior, but it’s for one day. The billboard can be up for a month, all day every day, constantly building on brand awareness.

And there is no possibility of the message being lost in a mix of ads and editorials. They stand out like beacons. So too do pull-up banners, large format posters and sandwich boards. By the very nature of their size, they can’t be missed.

Size matters - billboards stand out

For an effective large format campaign then, remember these details:

• Keep it simple – a snappy headline of no more than 10 words;
• Make it stand out – bright punchy colours, easily digested images;
• Pick the right location – don’t place a placard in the way of people or you’ll be remembered for the wrong reasons;
• Don’t put a QR code on a billboard by the highway – drivers can’t possibly use it, and given the high number of single occupant vehicles passengers aren’t likely to either;
• Use a graphic designer to get the best bang for your buck;
• Large format signs are secondary advertising mediums, they aren’t meant to do the heavy lifting for your campaign. If you want to get more information across, direct your prospective customers to your website, or make a pamphlet or flyer available alongside your board;
• Don’t try and be too clever – remember the 8 second attention span. Use signage to build on your brand or deliver a message;
• Humour is one of the best ways to get across a message – a clever bit of copy goes a long way.

What’s the best example of outdoor signage you have seen?

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Be the Master of Your Domain (Name)!

Back in the day, everyone understood the importance of registering their business name. It was how people found you in the telephone book. It signified you were a legitimate entity. It’s often the most publicly visible part of your brand – you wouldn’t want anyone compromising that!

So why doesn’t every company register its business name online?

Today what happens online is arguably more important than what is happening on the street. Because while actions there may be seen by hundreds, maybe thousands, what happens online has the potential to reach millions.

It’s vital that you protect your online identity, and securing your domain name is an essential part of that protection strategy.

Every day thousands of names are registered around the world. If you don’t register your business name, then there is every chance that someone else will.http://www.i-own-you.com.auDomain names are allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. It’s a completely automated process which doesn’t require registrants to conduct any type of trademark or name search before signing up.

In other words, I can take your name, or any part of it, without first checking or clearing it with you or any statutory body.

“Cybersquatting” is the practice of buying up existing and plausible business names in the hope that one day the true owner will come wanting it. If this happens to you, there are really only three options:

  1. You can buy the name back at what is sure to be an outrageous price compared to what you would have paid for it originally;
  2. You can come up with a different name that isn’t what you want, and doesn’t fit as neatly the original URL;
  3. You go the mattresses!  Well, you would actually go to your lawyer, who would send off a cease and desist letter. This will cost you. Then you might go to the .au Domain Administration (auDA) which is the government-endorsed manager of Australian domain names. There is a lot of research and costs involved throughout this process, and these costs are rarely recovered.

There is also the unsavoury but lucrative practice of ‘typosquatting’, where a person will register a name that contains common misspellings (e.g. Qantas and Quantas). ‘Namejacking’ is another sneaky practice where an individual’s name is registered as a second level (.com.au or .net.au) domain. You might say it happens to the best of them – Madonna had to get back Madonna.com in the early 2000’s!

Of course, domain names aren’t just purchased by professionals out to make a living from your lack of online business foresight. It could be a competitor, a former employee, a jilted lover…domain names are cheap, and anyone with an ACN or ABN can by them.

You can easily save yourself from all the pain, expense and embarrassment associated with these crimes:

  1. Purchase your business name as a domain NOW! Not just as a .com.au but as .net.au at the very least. Consider .com, .biz, .info and all the other variants too. The more cyberspace you can fence off the less chance of them varmints getting on to your range!
  2. Be imaginative – think about how people searching for you online might spell your name. In Australia we all spell Qantas without a ‘u’, but not so overseas. Think of      variants, misnomers and hyphenated variations.
  3. It’s vital that you have the domain name registered in your name. If you’re not confident about the protocols involved in registration then get some expert help  but make sure that you’re named as the Registrant.

Disreputable web designers make a habit (and a living) out of registering domains and sites in their name, locking unsuspecting people into lifetime deals without their knowledge. Should the business owner want to go somewhere else for hosting or web work they are usually made to pay a high price to gain access to what should have been theirs from the start.

With your online reputation at stake and with the price now so low, there really is no excuse for not getting your name out of harm’s way.

Check if your preferred domain name is still available here!

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