Support Wikipedia

I don’t know about you but I find Wikipedia to be an invaluable resource both for business and personally. It has saved me hours of researching time plus I like that it is a non-profit. Like many non-profits at this time of year they are looking for funding in order to keep it going. If you would like to donate you can by clicking the icon below.

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Customer Service Makes the Difference

I was talking to a travel agent friend of mine recently. I wanted to book a trip to London and he was recommending Air New Zealand. Turns out that Air New Zealand are on a customer service offensive. Their service has been upgraded and they are really courting travel agents. They have a special phone line and make the effort to work with travel agents to resolve any issues, answer questions, etc. He compared this with British Airways who have pretty much abandoned travel agents. As a result most of the travel agents he knew was pointing their customers toward Air New Zealand.

I did take his advice and flew to London on Air New Zealand. I was pretty impressed. The cabin crew in particular were very friendly and helpful. Even while we were all still waiting in the lounge to board, one of the cabin crew was working the crowd introducing himself and welcoming us to the flight. Once in the air, the food was good and the service attentive. Of course no matter how you cut it, it is still 10 hours in an elongated tin can but at least they made the effort to make it pleasant. As a result I would fly Air New Zealand again and I would recommend it to others. As for British Airlines I’m guessing they are losing share on the LA to London route.

What about your customer service? Do your customers have good things to say about how they are treated?

Free Investment Funding for Pacific NorthWest Small Businesses

I know this sounds like a scam but it really isn’t. Over the last few years I have worked with a number of Pacific Northwest companies who have been beneficiaries of a fabulous matching federal grant program. The program is administered by the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center and it assists companies that have been impacted by foreign imports.

The program is sponsored by the US Department of Commerce. Its been around since 1978 and it pays for half the cost of industry specific experts for projects that improve a firm’s competitive position.

I recently received a letter from my contacts at NWTAAC asking me to get the word out that they are looking for more companies that may be eligible for the matching grants. There is no cost to qualify for the program.

Of course the help I have provided my clients as part of this program has been to develop marketing plans and programs but NWTAAC also funds experts in manufacturing technology, engineering, IT and management.

The process to apply is quite straight forward and the folks at NWTAAC are very efficient and helpful. If you want to know more visit their website at www.nwtaac.org or drop me a line and I’d be happy to tell you about my experiences.

Sangria Startup

My friends Maria and Magdy for the last year have been in the process of starting a company to produce a wonderful Spanish wine drink called Sangria. It’s made of premium wines infused with various fruit juices and is quite delicious. They are not quite in production but I have tasted the pre-production bottles and I can tell you its fabulous.

Anyway, I have been helping Maria off and on with her marketing and I’m pleased to say that the first go around of her website is now up and running. She’ll be adding more content (including hopefully a blog) in the near future. You can visit it at www.divinasangria.com. While there you can sign-up for her newsletter which, among other things, will tell you when the sangria will be available for sale.

You can also read about the formation of the company on the Oregon Entrepreneur’s Network Blog.  Divina Sangria recently won an OEN investment competition which really validated their business ideas. Anyway, check out their website and when the sangria is available, join me and drink lots of it (responsibly of course!).

 

Tradeshow Tips

I just got back from visiting the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) and Kioskcom trade-shows in Las Vegas. While I saw lots of great gadgets and eye candy unfortunately I also saw plenty of poor marketing!

photo of NAB trade showImagine if you will, a crowded convention center with hundreds of booths. The noise and flashing of lights is tiring and your feet hurt.

You are at the show to discover products and services that you will buy in the near future. You have some particular needs and you want to know if there are companies who can help.

As your eyes dart from booth to booth, you see company names, logos and slogans like “Quality is our Second Name” and “More Passion”. There are large pictures of electronic circuit boards and attractive people with badge scanners in hand.

There is obviously a marketing problem here. As a prospect you want to efficiently find solutions to your needs without having to ask each booth staffer to explain how they can help you. In some trade shows possibly 50% of the booths will give you little clue as to what the company does or how it can help you until you ask. And then you discover it is not what you are looking for anyway.

Good marketing helps weed out sales prospects who are not right for your company. Good marketing reduces the effort a prospect must make to buy. Good marketing makes it obvious the problems your products and services solve and the benefits of doing business with your company.

When you design your trade show booth, clearly state the problems that your products solve. Help a prospect quickly figure out if it is worthwhile talking to you or can quickly move on.

You don’t want to be tied up talking to an unqualified prospect because it means you may miss the one who has her checkbook ready to go!

Churches and Non-Profits Also Need Marketing

Its not always viewed this way but all organizations that want to attract people need to consider some form of marketing. Marketing is an investment not just an expense. Frankly it is a stewardship responsibility to take marketing seriously. Members, congregations and donors expect their donations to be wisely used to the benefit of the organization’s mission. No marketing or marketing without a plan is a potential misuse of those resources.

For example, a church I know recently ran an ad in a local cinema. There was no call to action, no testing of the message or the ad itself and no measurement of it’s result. The church is not planning to run the ad again because it was perceived as expensive. But the measure of a good ad is not its expense but it’s return on investment. For example, say the ad costs $5,000 and as a result 10 more people join, each of whom donate $100 a month, in one year that will be a revenue of $12,000 which by far pays for the cost of the ad.

Of course, the only way to know how many people show up is to track the results. It can be as simple as to offer a Starbucks coffee card or something and then to ask how they found out about the organization. There are other more sophisticated ways to track by using special phone numbers or special website landing pages.

So if you are a church or non-profit, spend a little time thinking about marketing. One good place to start is John Jantsch’s “Duct Tape Marketing” book. Its written for small businesses but the same principles apply for any organization where it is important to develop “know, like and trust”. (Duct Tape Marketing’s definition of marketing)

Be Single Minded in Your Marketing

Many of us small business folks are guilty of throwing in everything but the kitchen sink into our marketing. We are concerned about perhaps missing something important that our prospects need to know. Unfortunately when we clutter up our messaging we end up communicating nothing.

Think about Verizon Wireless. They are a great example of a single minded company. Their ads only talk about how good their coverage is. Nothing else. Well, except perhaps to bash AT&T with how poor their coverage is! Verizon picked an area where they had a competitive advantage that was important to customers and they push it hard.

Do they have other things they do well? I’m sure they do but their goal is to own the space in your mind about superior wireless coverage and they don’t worry about the other things.

What about your business? Do your communications confuse your prospects so that you don’t stick out among the crowd?

A Few Broken Links?

A new version of WordPress came out recently and I decided to upgrade only to discover that the data base that is running on this site was a bit old. I had to figure out how to update the data base and something went not quite right with the result that a few of my forms have gone missing. I should have it all corrected in a day or two.

Hopefully everything else worked ok. If you come across anything weird I would appreciate you letting me know.

Thanks and I hope you have a great New Year!

Communicate Your Business More Effectively With Graphics

A couple of weeks ago I was in Boulder Co for the annual Duct Tape Marketing coaches gathering and we had a few really good speakers. Lesa Snider, who I have met before, is a really good presenter. She is an evangelist for iStockPhoto.com and is the author of Photoshop CS series: The Missing Manual so is the perfect person to talk about the best use of graphics in business presentations.

If like me, you suffer from PowerPoint bullet addiction, you will get a lot out of this interview! Frankly I think we have all sat through some pretty boring presentations that don’t connect with our needs or interests so hopefully this interview will begin a movement to turn things around.

Her website as mentioned in the video is graphicreporter.com and if you go there you will find all kinds of interesting resources. She also has a series of video tutorials which you can find at lynda.com.

 

Michael Thompson Awarded Certified Market Coach Accreditation

Last week I was at the Duct Tape Marketing annual gathering in Boulder Co. As some of you know I have been a Duct Tape Marketing Coach for 3 years. In that time I have worked with numerous companies and seen some good results. Due to the success with clients and the level of expertise I have attained, I was awarded the next level of accreditation of the Duct Tape Marketing coaching network which is “Certified Duct Tape Marketing Coach”.

I am excited about this level of recognition but it is only meaningful if it continues to help you, my clients make a difference in growing your business. Here’s to all of our successes!