According to Ad Age, the nation’s 100 biggest advertisers spent an estimated $104.5 billion on advertising last year, an increase of only 2.8 percent from the previous year. This is the lowest growth rate since the ad industry recovery began in 2010, reflecting the slow pace of the U.S. economy as a whole. So the challenge for savvy marketers now is to be certain that every promotional dollar spent grows their customer base.
A few decades ago, media choices could be counted on two hands. Today, there are several dozen thanks to the burgeoning digital marketing sector: social media, mobile websites, Web display ads, paid search and email marketing, to name a few.
What to do with so many choices? We asked the Covey-Odell Advertising staff that has worked for more than 100 organizations for more than four decades to suggest the three most effective marketing tools in the challenging second decade of the millennium. The top three are:
1. Research. In an economic downturn, research budgets are often the first to go, though vital to customer satisfaction and growth. Survey your customers to determine how well your company is performing; your strengths and weaknesses; customer input regarding phone, personal and written communications; the attitudes and professional performance of your support staff; and how you can boost your image, service and quality.
Customers with a problem will relate this to 10 other people, and you’ll be able to use this research to improve future communications.
2. Media. With dozens of choices, basic principles apply to all. Newspapers, magazines, cable/broadcast TV, radio, outdoor, direct mail and online strategies are proven business builders, but you should continually assess each regarding their efficiency in reaching target audiences.
Repeat ads to maximize efficiency through their cumulative power. Consider a mobile website, blogging and one or more social media channels. All are extremely cost-effective and reinforce an image of your company as progressive. Promote your website via every means — in your ads, publicity, customer handouts, lobby signs, emails, invoices and business cards.
3. Creative. This is the most important, because it is the bottom line of effectiveness. A bad ad is a total waste of your marketing dollar. A good ad is unique, interesting, to the point, tightly written, consistent and, most of all, spells out benefits to the readers or listeners.
We track ads of every size and in every media and find that at least a third are a waste of the advertisers’ money. Good creative backed by solid research will make your ads rise above the din and increase your company’s sales, brand identity and market share. ●
Rod A. Covey is president of Covey-Odell Advertising Ltd. of North Canton. He launched Covey-Odell Advertising in 2008, and the North Canton Area Chamber of Commerce named the company the 2009 Business of the Year. For more information, visit www.covey-odell.com.
Thirty years ago, motivated by a desire to be healthier, I quit smoking. That change had an unanticipated outcome that altered the course of my life: I learned that I had the ability to break a habit and replace it with a new one.
That might sound simple, but for me it was transformative. It extended far beyond a physical act and changed the way I thought about not only myself, but also the world around me.
I started by replacing smoking with new habits — “positive addictions.” If I wanted a cigarette, I would brush my teeth instead, or run up and down a flight of stairs. Eventually, I took up running. In a sense, I was running from a former self to a new self. I came to see myself as someone who could change, no matter how unlikely that change had once seemed.
While we often discuss shifting paradigms in work, we often forget about the need for shifting our individual paradigms. We must actively reshape the mental models we have that tell us what is and isn’t possible.
These models so often condition failure. Deep ruts form in our thinking that lead us to do things as we’ve always done them. Creating new habits helps to steer us into new territory.
When we think about harmful habits, or habits that are limiting our growth, we might think of things like smoking, overeating or disorganization. But there are countless others that can be holding us back.
Out with the old, in with the new
Here are steps for overcoming an unwanted habit and replacing it with a beneficial one.
1. Identify the triggers
All of our habits have triggers, the hidden motivations that make us engage in the habit. In my case, I smoked when I was stressed, upset or tired. I believed that smoking helped me feel better.
2. Recognize the tradeoffs
I was “trading” stress for a cigarette, or so I thought. Of course smoking didn’t solve anything — it didn’t get at the root of my stress, just momentarily alleviated it. Once you know what you’re trading, ask yourself — is it worth it?
3. Define the possible
In order to quit smoking, I needed to have a vision of my smoke-free life. Who would I be as a non-smoker? What was the value and benefit to me of being smoke-free? I saw my future self as a healthy, vibrant, energetic person. I seized that image and held on to it when I was tempted to smoke.
4. Identify a new habit to replace
the old one
When I had an urge to smoke I replaced that urge by doing something else to occupy my mind, such as running. Find a new habit that will make you a better person.
5. Strengthen the new habit
To become comfortable with a new habit will take time. It’s unrealistic to think you will unlearn one way of doing things and learn a new way overnight. It takes repeated and renewed effort, but with practice you will become more confident.
6. Reward yourself
We all appreciate recognition of a job well done. In this case though, don’t wait for someone else to congratulate you. Do it yourself. Set goals and then reward yourself when you meet them. ●
Donna Rae Smith is a guest blogger and columnist for Smart Business. She is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc.®, a transformational change catalyst company that has partnered with more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, visit www.bright-side.com or contact Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Productive, powerful, lasting relationships are built on trust. Customers, clients, donors and other supporters have the right to make other choices. A stakeholder relationship is never an entitlement. Those relationships must be earned and constantly reinforced.
As you survey ways to grow trust, look at your organization’s public relations and try to remember:
- Trust isn’t about “spinning” information.
- Trust isn’t about short-term thinking.
- Trust isn’t about talking one way and acting another.
- Trust isn’t about trying to fool anybody.
Instead, focus on these four ways that organizations can create and sustain trust:
1. Trust begins when actions are consistent with words.
2. Trust is built when there is a higher motive than simply making money — when organizations embrace the idea that serving the needs of others ultimately serves their needs as well.
3. Trust is built when leaders create a culture that stands for something. It really is true that organizations that don’t stand for something will be seen as standing for nothing.
4. Trust is built when trust building is central to an organization’s priorities.
Building trusts starts in the corner office
The active participation of leaders is essential to achieving good public relations that result in trust. Where that leadership engagement exists, there is an opportunity to integrate communication and relationship building as essential ingredients in accomplishing business goals.
How well issues are thought through and subsequently communicated often means the difference between success and failure. That is why public relations, aka trust building, is indeed a leadership issue.
Important issues demand leadership engagement
Think about these critical issues and their potential impact on your business:
- Siting a new facility
- An increase in offshore manufacturing
- Right-sizing the organization
- Merging cultures
- Reinforcing expectations for
- Adding a new person to your management group
- Strategies to reduce costs
- Plans to grow
The list is virtually endless. Each of those issues impacts one or more stakeholder group and requires both clear thinking and good communication.
Leaders must participate in the public relations strategies to assure those are in lockstep with their vision, goals and business conditions.
It’s all about trust
Trust is the ultimate tiebreaker in decision-making. In fact, trust is a competitive distinction to pursue.
Leaders are well advised to treat trust as their most valuable asset. ●
Davis Young is the principal of DY Author & Speaker LLC and is the author of “Trust is the Tiebreaker,” an ebook published by Smart Business Network, currently available on Amazon.com. Contact Young at (440) 248-9550 or Dysolon@aol.com.
The idea of a group purchasing organization, or GPO, has been around for years. A GPO provides cost savings to its member companies by aggregating the purchase of products and services. Between the combined volume and the GPO’s procurement expertise, members realize savings beyond what they could achieve on their own.
There are vertical GPOs whose members are all in the same industry — hospitals, for example. And there are horizontal GPOs whose members are in unrelated industries but have common needs for “indirect” purchases such as office supplies, pharmacy benefits, marketing services, telecommunications and facilities management.
What is new today is a more sophisticated horizontal GPO concept that creates value beyond simply leveraging purchasing power. The modern GPO is not a supplier, consulting firm, software provider or full procurement outsourcer. What it offers is a combination of pre-negotiated agreements across a number of indirect categories, rigorous contract management, continuing education and best-practices sharing among members, and collaboration with suppliers to create value beyond the contract.
A hybrid solution
This new approach has emerged as an attractive hybrid solution for large and mid-size corporations looking for external help to bring their indirect spend under better control. A 2011 study by the research firm Spend Matters found 15 to 20 percent of the Fortune 1000 were using a buying consortium. Those numbers are almost certainly higher today.
Analysts estimate that indirect spend accounts for 30 to 60 percent of a company’s total spend, depending on the industry. While corporate procurement departments have generally been quite successful in optimizing direct spend, significant savings opportunities are still to be found in the indirect spend area.
No wonder that a 2012 study by the Aberdeen Group found that 70 percent of procurement executives identified indirect spend as their top target area for reducing costs.
A two-fold challenge
Corporations face two challenges in pursuing this opportunity. First, in most organizations, large swaths of indirect spend are outside of procurement’s control, and the owners of these budgets have been reluctant to allow procurement “inside the tent.”
Second, indirect spend can span more than 100 different categories — most procurement departments lack the tools, know-how and staff to manage such a wide scope of work.
Partnering with a GPO addresses both challenges. Through the GPO, procurement gains access to an array of relevant, pre-negotiated agreements that provide the basis for meaningful dialogue with human resources, IT and other functional groups who own these budgets.
Then in outsourcing responsibility to the GPO for a number of categories, procurement gains access to the GPO’s contract management and category expertise and also frees up internal resources to focus on more strategic initiatives.
GPOs represent a lower-cost, lower-risk approach compared with other external procurement solutions such as total outsourcing or engaging a management consultant. Companies retain their data and direct relationships with their internal customers and suppliers while saving time and resources associated with sourcing and tactical supplier management. By accessing pre-negotiated agreements, companies realize savings almost immediately with the promise of more to come. ●
David Clevenger is the vice president of Corporate United, the nation’s largest horizontal group purchasing organization. Based in Westlake, Corporate United enables more than 200 member companies to manage their indirect spend categories for more than 30 leveraged agreements. For more information, visit www.corporateunited.com. Corporate United hosts a procurement and supply chain conference in Cleveland on Oct. 23 that is free to industry professionals. See the website for more information.
The animal kingdom has long been instrumental in teaching children about appropriate behavior.
A rabbit named Peter educated us on the importance of conflict resolution. For better or worse, Curious George was habitually inquisitive and, in separate incidents, three bears and three pigs taught us the importance of home security.
But despite a literary reputation as “big” and “bad,” according to Jack Hanna, “A wolf will feed the sick, the old and the young first.”
That’s a pretty impressive character trait for a creature so often maligned by the human race. Over the years, however, we’ve learned to expect Hanna to set the record straight on an important part of our world that most of us will never experience firsthand.
Following the footsteps of a legend
Inspired by wildlife pioneer Marlin Perkins, Hanna parlayed a fascination with animals and a position leading the Columbus Zoo into a television empire spanning 30 years. He’s had countless TV appearances on popular shows such as “Good Morning America” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” In addition, he currently helms two television programs, “Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown” and “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild.”
Not surprisingly, Hanna’s high regard for the animal population is also reflected in his view of the public’s acceptance of the animal kingdom: “Most people who say they don’t like animals don’t like people much either.”
Phil Beuth, former president of “Good Morning America,” observes, “With Jack, what you see is what you get — he’s a genuine gentleman.”
Hanna has set a simple benchmark for appropriate professional behavior, “I operate by The Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Of course, humans are animals too — complete with instincts, genetic predispositions, unique skill sets and laws to keep us from acting like predatory animals. Yet, prey we do — leveraged buyouts, hostile takeovers, foreclosures, etc.
Comparing workforces of nature
When asked about lessons human worker bees can glean from the animal kingdom, Hanna enthusiastically says, “Just look at ants and termites. They each have specific jobs to do.” By performing specific tasks every day, these creatures work solely to serve the greater good — ostensibly without complaining.
Animals = 1 Humans = 0
Hanna also points to an innate respect in the wild that does not always translate into the land of the bipeds: “The animal world does not waste food and animals do not abuse their own children. For example, gorillas may fight but they still work together.”
Working through issues to achieve top performance is apparently part of the natural order of things. It’s about survival. As the concept of business survival has never been more prominent, shouldn’t cooperation receive equal billing?
Animals = 2 Humans = 0
Though Hanna also marvels at the mysteries behind the instinctual and highly effective way animals communicate, many in the office marvel at some people’s overwhelming lack of communication skills.
Animals = 3 Humans = 0
Specifically, according to Hanna, “The elephant is one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.”
So yes, it seems that without the benefit of an iPhone, Twitter or Outlook, an elephant truly never forgets.
Time to hire me an elephant. The Laws of Nature win every time. ●
Speaker, writer and professional storyteller Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Fla. For more information, visit randallkennethjones.com.
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A marketing epidemic, to put it mildly, has been impacting most businesses — and it’s time to think about keeping your message simple if you haven’t already done so.
The roots of this epidemic can be traced back to two events.
First, during the economic fall of 2008, as businesses looked for ways to preserve revenue streams, companies hunkered down and focused on sales to preserve existing customers. Many cutoff or significantly reduced marketing budgets, and others shifted to digital media as a “low-cost alternative.”
The second event was the rapid spread of social media and the skyrocketing use of smartphones and tablets, which provide instant access to relationships, information and communication.
The social media craze and businesses’ desire to market on the cheap led companies to flood the marketing channels with content. Sales sheets, photos, videos, web pages — companies were suddenly all things to all people because they could push content to digital channels for “free.”
The problem — our marketing channels are now very noisy. As consumers of information, we respond to this noise with limited attention spans. The result — companies have sent confusing messages to the marketplace and people aren’t listening.
This current epidemic of marketing noise distributed across all channels leads to a common marketing need for all businesses — simplification.
Keeping it simple
So how do you achieve message simplification? It all ties back to the business. Here are seven steps to help get you started:
1. Identify three to four key business objectives for the next two years. Do you want regional growth or growth in a new industry? Do you want to sell more to existing customers?
2. Prioritize your objectives by placing dollars or number of opportunities next to them. This will help you focus on the most important areas.
3. Brainstorm a list of marketing tactics that can help you achieve each objective. Can you generate more leads from trade shows, your website, your existing customer list? What tactics do you need to adopt?
4. Write a succinct summary, or “elevator pitch.” This should be one to three sentences on how you benefit the people you are targeting in your objectives.
5. Compare your elevator pitch to your marketing tactics and existing materials. Review your website, brochures, email newsletter, social media accounts, videos, trade show collateral, etc. Notice how many “extra” things you say in an effort to cover all your bases.
6. Rework your message. Focus on the audiences for your key objectives. Identify the benefits for these audiences. Your marketing message should speak directly to these audiences so they can understand your value and usefulness to them.
7. Prioritize your marketing tactics. It’s tempting to be trendy and market on social media or through video, just remember to consider which tactics will best reach your audiences. You don’t need to be in every marketing channel, just the ones where your customers and prospects will hear you.
Finally, once you’ve simplified your message, stick to it! It is important so that people understand the benefits and value that you deliver. While it might seem repetitive to you, your audience will appreciate the clarity and with time, will remember what your business does best. ●
Kristy Amy is director of marketing strategy for SBN Interactive. Reach her at mailto:email@example.com or (440) 250-7011.
Life has a way of presenting us with difficult circumstances. Sometimes it’s in our personal lives, and sometimes it’s in our business.
If the circumstance is severe enough, it can create a crisis, which can often cause a feeling of hopelessness. When things outside your control come at you in droves, it becomes difficult to cope with them. Entire organizations can be overwhelmed and pulled down by external circumstances, which if not dealt with promptly and correctly, can destroy the company.
The CEO’s role is to right the ship and rally everyone around a solution — and it most likely won’t be easy. People are always looking for the easy way out, but that path is rarely an option. When facing a difficult situation, you have to play the ball where it lies, which means the resources you have in people, dollars or equipment are all you may have to work with.
But challenges also present opportunities. Faced with a crisis, you and your leadership team will be forced to look at your assets in new ways. You’ll be required to take a careful look at your customer base, your market and your processes. This kind of in-depth evaluation may uncover not only a possible solution to your problem, but it may open your eyes to markets or applications you never considered before.
Take Netflix for example. The company was the king of DVD-by-mail, and had already knocked off the once mighty Blockbuster. With the increase in streaming video content, however, customers began moving away from DVDs, threatening Netflix’s main revenue channel. It reacted by creating not only streaming content, but also by creating its own unique content. Customers can stream video from many outlets, but it’s tough to beat Netflix’s reputation and ease of use.
Often, the resources you need are already at hand; they just need to be used in new ways. Netflix already had the capabilities; it just needed to apply them differently.
You may find that after assessing what you have, you have started to create a new path that leads away from the crisis.
At the beginning of a difficult time, you may not be able to see a way out, which can lead to despair. By starting with an initial step and continuing, however, you’ll soon see the light. Start by calling your bank or suppliers to ask for better terms or whatever it is you need, and then build from there.
No matter what you do, though, don’t compromise your integrity. Always do the right thing in the wrong circumstances, because depending on how severe your crisis is, your reputation might be the only thing you have to negotiate with.
If you work hard, do the right thing and stay positive, a solution will likely present itself. It may not always be in a form that you anticipated — you may need to change your products or your market — but if you keep an open mind and work with what you have, everything will work itself out. ●
Most weeks I get on a plane and attempt to have an out-of-body experience to deal with all the hassles of flying as I travel from point A to point B. When flying, I have a few simple rules. One, I almost never eat the food. Two, I attempt to talk to no one other than obligatory hellos. Three, I never argue with or say a cross word to flight attendants.
One other very important practice I follow on land, sea and especially in the air is that I constantly scan my surroundings for potential troubles and new ideas.
On a recent flight, upon boarding, I quietly and obediently proceeded to my assigned seat.
As I began to sit down, a gentleman asked if I would mind trading seats with him so that he could sit next to his wife. Like most seasoned travelers I try to accommodate reasonable requests. In this case it seemed a no-brainer to agree to move.
Notice the details
As I started to settle in and fasten my seat belt I noted that my new seatmate was very hot. No, it’s not what you’re thinking. I mean she seemed to be flushed and radiating heat, ostensibly from a high fever. I’m thinking, this is not good, plus it proves the age-old adage that no good deed goes unpunished.
In the next minute I had an epiphany, which happens frequently as I believe that many problems come disguised as opportunities.
I rang the call button and, when approached, asked the cabin attendant to please bring me two cloth napkins. I stated that the purpose was to construct a makeshift face mask by tying the two pieces together to prevent possibly contracting some dreaded disease.
I feared that my intentions could be misinterpreted if I were to don a mask without an explanation; this could cause a well-meaning passenger to drag me to the floor thinking I had nefarious motives.
The stewardess smiled, nodding approvingly of my plan. She then summoned all her co-attendants to my seat and proceeded to whisper what I was attempting. Otherwise, she explained, they, too, could misunderstand my appearance and cause me bodily harm.
As founder and CEO of Max-Wellness, a health and wellness retail and marketing chain, I’m always looking for that next special something to share with my team. Therefore, while burying my now masked face in a newspaper so as not to frighten or offend the sick seatmate, I began dictating a memo to my merchandise product group proudly asserting that I just had another “aha!” moment, for which I am well-known, among my colleagues. For full disclosure, however, I am sometimes known for being a bit “out there” on occasion — but no one bats a thousand.
Turn an idea into a product
This particular predicament gave me the idea to develop a product kit that we could sell to weary travelers in our stores and in airports. I suggested a handful of complementary products, including a mask, a disinfectant spray and, if all else fails, relief remedies. I also noted that it probably would be prudent to include a cigarette pack-type “Black Box” warning stating that the mask is not what some suspicious flyers might think, but instead it’s for prevention of disease only. I even proposed we market these kits directly to the airlines to dispense as an emergency prophylactic for passengers exposed to airborne (pun intended) pathogens.
Fleeting thoughts have value
A key role for business leaders is teaching a management team to use fleeting thoughts as a springboard, to pair common problems with sometimes-simple solutions.
Just because it is a simple fix, though, doesn’t mean the idea couldn’t be a lucrative breakthrough.
When something sparks an idea it needs to be taken to the next level before being pooh-poohed. Most likely the vast majority of these inspirations won’t see the light of day, but that’s OK. Just think — what if one transient idea translates into the next Post-it Notes, Kleenex or bottled water?
The next time you sit by a masked man on a plane, it most likely won’t be the Lone Ranger. Instead, you might be witnessing the incubation of the next best thing since sliced bread. ●
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. “The Benevolent Dictator,” a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Robert J. (Bob) Pacanovsky
Etiquette — the sound of the word alone makes people roll their eyes and think of old-school rules. But the reality is simple: how we present ourselves in today’s business world is vitally important, whether it’s in a restaurant, gala or boardroom.
In professional culture, people won’t tell you when you display poor behavior or etiquette. Instead, they’ll show you by not renewing their contract or not offering you that job promotion. They’ll tell you they found a stronger, quicker or cheaper alternative, and never reveal that you were really the problem.
Modern etiquette has expanded
Today, etiquette is so much more than knowing what fork to use with each course or which glass to pick up (although this knowledge is still important). With social media and other technology, we are observed almost constantly. Our behavior not only brands ourselves, it also brands the company for which we work.
Speaking of technology, it’s a wonderful tool, but sometimes the smartphone is the crutch that can make or break you. By keeping it on the table during dinner (or during a meeting) and answering it, you create a perception that whatever is happening on your phone is more important than your in-person conversation. It may be, but do not let your guests perceive that!
Then there’s social media. Do you want your employees’ or your own poor behavior and lack of etiquette skills highlighted on a client or colleague’s social media page? We didn’t think so. Make sure your online persona represents you and your business.
So what can you do to avoid generating these poor perceptions?
The good news is that with some coaching, there are simple ways to help you or your employees build confidence and maintain a professional presence.
Pretend to meet the president
Most of today’s proper etiquette practices are common sense, but they are not common practice. At Robert J., we tell our trainees to treat every event where prospective clients are present like a state dinner at the White House. You’d certainly be on your best behavior, right? You’d research and practice the necessary “soft skills” for the event to avoid embarrassing yourself or your company.
It could be as simple as knowing the difference between eating and dining. All of us know how to eat, but do you know how to dine? Ordering food that is messy or difficult to eat, having poor table manners and conversation, treating the staff and guests rudely — all these add up to a poor dining experience for both you and those around you.
Observe your employees at the next meeting or business dinner. You may find out that they don’t know the company policies on entertaining clients or even how to act appropriately at a meeting or dinner. Or they may think they can ignore policies or common sense etiquette because, “No matter what, this client will still do business with me.”
Can you afford to take those chances on your important client relationships?
No slacking allowed
You work hard to impress a new client — being on your best behavior, returning phone calls and emails promptly, and delivering a solid proposal. Now, you have also made sure your dining and business etiquette skills are perfect.
But what happens after that client commitment is still vitally important to the relationship. If we lose focus on our soft skills, we lose focus on customer service. Whether you’re in sales, marketing, real estate, finance, law or another industry, no one can afford to lose focus on customer service.
The bottom line is that etiquette enhances reputation — and that’s something no one can ignore.
Robert J. (Bob) Pacanovsky is the owner/founder of Robert J. — Events & Catering and now Robert J. — Training & Design. His organization offers insightful public speaking at conferences and events designed to help students, executives and organizations enhance their “soft skills” and avoid reputation-ruining situations. For seminar topics and scheduling, visit RobertJTraining.com or call (330) 724-2211.