A Recession-Busting Marketing Offer for Small Business

If your small business is looking for a small business marketing offer, you needn't look any further than recent headlines. In today's headlines, I read that Hyundai has just announced its "Hyundai Assurance" offer which allows any Hyundai new car owner the opportunity to return their brand new Hyundai car if they suffer "life-altering circumstances", which include involuntary unemployment, self-employed personal bankruptcy and several others.

Brilliant.

In one fell swoop, the company has distinguished itself from all other car manufacturers and engendered the trust of car customers.

Let's face it, in today's teetering economy consumers want assurances; in short they are risk averse. They want manufacturers to offer them risk-minimizing offers, rather than "money-saving" ones. Hyundai has capitalized on the market's sour mood and given itself a point of difference in its marketing plan.

See if your small business can't take a hint from Hyundai and craft a risk-free offer to give your buyers the assurance they need to do business with you.

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January 6, 2009 in Small business marketing plans | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

10 Commandments of Successful Marketing Management

Here are my 10 Commandments of Successful Marketing Management:

I. Thou shalt learn from mistakes - If you're not taking risks, and making mistakes, you'll never progress past the point of what you already know.

II. Thou shalt apply every worker to the task - Each marketing team member (and quite a few members who aren't on the team) brings a unique skill set to the marketing team. It's your job as marketing manager to discover each worker's value, then apply that to the overall marketing task.

III. Thou shalt commit to generating momentum and activity - Without either, your effort will grind to a halt. Activity, with logic behind it, generates momentum, and a sense of confidence around the office.

IV. Thou shalt back up all arguments with evidence-based rationale - Arguments, made without facts or proof to back them up, are just opinions.

V. Thou shalt hire people smarter than you - To truly innovate in your marketing efforts, you'll need a fresh batch of new ideas. These can't come from a website or a book. Find people who think differently than you, then put them in charge of new initiatives. Then, leave them alone.

VI. Thou shalt lead through strong convictions - The true definition of a leader is someone who leads others to a new place, despite the grumblings and disagreements of the majority. I was never very good at this. But I'm now convinced that it is essential to excellence in marketing management.

VII. Thou shalt ask a LOT of questions - Someone one said "Asking questions is a sign of intelligence, views to the contrary notwithstanding". I don't think I can put it any better than that. The best marketers in the world have an insatiable curiosity about them, and that curiosity manifests itself in them through them asking tons of questions.

VIII. Honor thine failure- Yep, you read that right. According to one study I've seen, top managers at 3M recognize that 3/5's of the new ideas suggested each year fail in the marketplace. But the other 2/5's is their bread and butter.

IX. Thou shalt surround yourself with positive people - There's an attitude you need in every marketer who comes aboard on our team. It's a positive, uplifting and optimistic attitude. Remember that it only takes a drop of poison to spoil a gallon of water.

X. Thine market holds the final answer - As much as we marketing managers would like to believe we know what the market wants, we don't. Never make the critical mistake of assuming you know what your market needs.

OK gang, what have I missed here?

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December 22, 2008 in Small business marketing plans | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

SMART Objectives: A Cornerstone of your Small Business Marketing Plan

A lot of my small business clients have asked me about developing SMART Objectives for their marketing plan. But few know what the acronym stands for. Small business marketing plans that use SMART Objectives reflect goals that are:

Specific - If you say "We'd like to have more customers", that's too vague. But if you say "We will have 10 new customers by year's end", now that's specific.

Measurable - One key to using SMART Objectives is to make them measurable. For you and your small business to know if your marketing efforts are successful, you must be able to quantify any SMART Objective.

Attainable - Goals should be challenging....and streeeeeeeeeeeetch you and your small business. But if the SMART Objectives are too much of a stretch, noone will try, and morale will suffer.

Results-oriented - Every SMART Objective should start with an action verb. Start each objective phrase with words like "complete", "increase" or "decrease".

Targeted - Let's face it, most of us are motivated by deadlines. Why else would marketers use expiration dates so often? Attach a due date or deadline to every SMART Objective you set.

If you want to go deeper in understanding goals and SMART Objectives, The Marketing Toolkit for
Growing Businesses
or Stand Out from the Crowd might help.

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December 16, 2008 in Small business marketing plans | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Small Business Marketing Tool: A Face-to-Face Networking Guide

My friends at RainToday.com have just published the “Face-to-Face Networking Guide: A Primer for Relationship Building.”.

In it, you will learn:
• The golden rule of networking
• Who to network with and where you can go to find them
• 3 tips for starting a conversation
• 6 open-ended questions to get contacts talking and to build a relationship
• How to get into (and out of) any conversation
• 3 keys to an effective elevator pitch and a worksheet to develop your own
• Networking dos and don'ts
• Tips for following up along with sample notes, emails, and voicemail messages
• 8 common networking stereotypes to avoid
• How to evaluate and replenish your network

You can download this guide, and all of our how-to tools and guides, free when you sign up for a 7-day free trial of RainToday Annual Membership.

If you're not satisfied with your membership, you can cancel at any point during the free trial and won't be billed. Plus, you get to keep all of the content you download during your free trial.

December 15, 2008 in Small Business Marketing | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

It's time for a Balanced Scorecard for the Big Three

Now that the Big Three car manufacturers have thrust the US government into the role of venture capital investor, I say it's time for a Balanced Scorecard for the Big Three. I say the US government should only part with the necessary funds once the Big Three have agreed to achieve measurable and meaningful goals in the following areas:

1) Efficiency - perhaps labor productivity as measured by the average employee hours needed to make the most popular 10 models.

2) Quality - as measured by the number of defective products returned by customers for the least popular 10 models.

3) Innovation - as measured by the number of innovative, new technology models introduced or the percentage of revenues generated from new innovation products in the next 12 months.

4) Responsiveness to customers - as measured by the number of repeat customers and level of on-time delivery to customers.

And if the Big Three achieve an acceptable level within this Balanced Scorecard, then the US government should share in this financial windfall. Period. Under these circumstances, with the government assuming a greater share of the risks, they should also share in the rewards, if successful.

I realize this is overly simplified, but shouldn't that be the point? Clearly the Big Three have not seen the more obvious warning signs up to now. Let's make it simple for them...

What do you think? Is this Balanced Scorecard a good idea for the Big Three?

December 5, 2008 in Small Business Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Great Small Business Marketing? Dave Wottle's Kick Offers a Valuable Lesson

When I was 13 years old I was heavy into track and field and competed for my middle school team. I focused mostly in field events - especially the high jump - but also ran hurdles, relays and 400 yard dashes. So I kept my eye on the elite track and field world.

There were many track and field heroes for me to follow, but my favorite of all time was (and still is), by far, Dave Wottle.

He was the most unexpected of heroes. A runner who specialized in the 800-meter distance, kind of doofy looking, with buck teeth, and a funny name. And every race he insisted on wearing this beat up, old golf hat. His persona didn't capture me at all, but instead what captured me was his running style.

He began a race at the back of the pack, and for about 2/3 of the race, that's where he stayed. You often wondered how he could possibly make up lost time.

But then, with the race 2/3's over, he made his move. He would start accelerating and pass runners on the backstretch. By the time he got to the home stretch he was accelerating even faster. The last 100 yards of the race, he'd continue passing runners until......right at the end.....he'd sprint through the finish line and win.

If you're wondering what I'm talking about, check out this short YouTube video of Dave Wottle winning the 1972 Olympics. (If you don't have time to watch the whole thing, just fast forward to about 1:30 into the clip and watch the end of the race).

What on earth does Dave Wottle and his infamous kick have to do with successful small business marketing? Just this:

Every marketing tool, whether it be a television ad or a brochure, a website or a YouTube video, requires a kick to the finish line. It's easy to get distracted and give up on that new marketing initiative, or the 23rd version of an old one, but I'm convinced if you burn the image of Dave Wottle sprinting through the finish line into your subconscious mind, you'll successfully complete more marketing campaigns.

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December 1, 2008 in Small Business Marketing | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Another Reason for NOT Granting a Big Three Bailout

If you’re looking for another argument why the Big Three should not receive a bailout, it’s in today’s Wall Street Journal print edition article entitled “South could Gain as Detroit Struggles".

The article looks at how foreign car manufacturers (e.g. BMW, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen and Kia) are locating their production facilities in the Southern US because the region’s labor is non-union. It then goes on to document a litany of disadvantages the Big Three union labor has vs. non-union labor.

Among the disadvantages Big Three labor is saddled with:
* Guaranteed jobs for workers
* Far more generous benefits and wages that surpass most other US manufacturing sectors
* Legacy costs for Big Three payrolls; for each active worker on a Big Three payroll, the Big Three must pay pensions for as many as three former workers and dependents.
* Big Three assembly lines can take up to weeks to switch over production to another model while some foreign manufacturers can switch over in a matter of minutes.

This is yet another great argument for not bailing out the Big Three. Any bailout of the Big Three would only serve to artificially prop up these outdated and non-competitive union labor practices.

I say provide “Incentive Money” (this is no longer a bailout in my mind) to the Big Three if, and only if, they agree to revise these outdated practices (among other mandatory changes). This incentive money would be provided in increments once the Big Three company has complied with certain performance improvements.

If the US Big Three are really interested in survival, then many aspects of these company, including labor unions, must agree to change their practices, and then have their changes documented and measured.

What do you think? Is this a good idea or a bust?

November 20, 2008 in Small Business Marketing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Should there be a Big Three Bailout?

In today’s issue of the Wall Street Journal, Rick Wagoner, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, argues forcefully for a Big Three bailout in Why GM Deserves Support In the article, Wagoner cites several key actions his company has taken as reason for a General Motors bailout. They are:
* Hourly workforce reductions
* US Salaried workforce reductions
* Transformed labor agreements
* Capital spending cuts

To his credit he does reference that fact that cost cutting cannot establish market dominance, so he cites the introduction of the new Chevy Malibu as an important telltale sign that the company can now produce the products its customers want.

But I’m not so sure.

A few pages later, there’s an article entitled U.S. Car Makers Fail to Improve Resale Values that provides the most crystal-clear reasoning for why the Big Three (including GM) should NOT get a bailout. The article profiles the Top 5 and Bottom 5 vehicles by resale value; that is, the percentage of a vehicle’s sticker price expected to be retained after 5 years of ownership.

BMW, Honda and Toyota occupy the Top 5 positions while Ford, Chrysler and General Motors occupy the Bottom 5.

Very clearly, U.S. automakers have not been producing vehicles that the market values. These companies missed the consumer shift to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, period. May 2004 was the first month regular gas topped $2.00 per gallon. That should have been a harbinger of things to come.

In March of 2005, prices lurched past $2.00 a gallon permanently. So the Big Three have had roughly 4 years to adapt. They haven't until just recently.

What’s the lesson here for small businesses? Stay close to your market. Every day, ask how your market is changing. Listen to what your consumers tell you.

You don’t want your business to end like the Big Three car makers do you?

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November 19, 2008 in Small Business Marketing | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

How about a Balanced Scorecard for the Government Bailout(s)?

Now that our leaders have passed the largest bailout in our nation’s history, I’d like to ask a simple marketing question: “What metrics will be used to monitor the use of these funds?” What I’m suggesting is that whomever loans money the next time around, they should insist on using a balanced scorecard of metrics to measure the use of these funds.

For example, when you or I invest in a business venture (e.g. buy stock) we might look at the return on this invested capital (ROIC).

OK, what is the expected ROIC for the $700 billion bailout?

Sometimes we investors want to know specifically that money we invest will improve the efficiencies of a company.

OK, what will be the new labor productivity rates for these financial firms?

Sometimes, a firm will use new funds to advertise in order to boost its market share.

OK, what will be the targeted market share numbers for these financial firms in 12 months?

Other times, invested funds will be used to improve service levels to customers.

OK, what will be the expected improvement levels for customer service levels?


What is missing from this massive $700 billion bailout is any dose of realistic accountability; most often measured through metrics.

The next time the government wants to bailout a sector of our economy (automobiles are next) we should all ask, as investors in this operation, “What is the balanced scorecard you’ll be using for this bailout?”

If we’re not measuring the performance on these funds (and to my knowledge, we’re not) then this whole process could use a healthy dose of business acumen.

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November 18, 2008 in Small Business Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Tip for Your Small Business Marketing Plan

In The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses, I cover the process of developing a small business marketing plan in great detail.

But here's just one tip from that book that can help your small business marketing plan be even better...

Nothing is more forceful than committing your ideas to paper. If you say to yourself “Gee, I’d really like to upgrade our website this year”, that’s an idea. It’s nice, but it hasn’t committed you to any course of action.
However, if you write on a piece of paper the:
Objective (“We will upgrade our website”)
Rationale (“because our site looks outdated vs. our competitors”)
Project leader—that is who’s responsible for the quality and completion of a project.
Timeline—including the launch date and all intermediate due dates
and
Budget—for the entire project.

Now you’ve committed time, people and dollars to this project, and its likelihood of success has grown exponentially.

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November 17, 2008 in Small business marketing plans | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)