If you are out of sight…you may become out of business!

A very interesting study was just done by Nielson on the value of advertising by financial institutions. It shows that when financial institutions are building their brand through advertising, the confidence in those companies goes up. Here is a quote from the study:

When asked about their own banks, insurance companies and investment firms, 55% of respondents who said they had seen more advertising for their financial institution reported having “complete confidence” in the financial health and soundness of their financial company and only 18% said they had “little or no confidence” in their company. However, among those who said they had seen less advertising, only 18% had “complete confidence” in their financial company and 45% said they had “little or no confidence” in their company” Source: Nielson Study

To some extent I am not surprised about this result as many financial institutions have been running high profile “we’re still sound” ads in recent months. It does show however that advertising can get the word out very successfully and particularly so if you focus. Most of the ads I have seen have been very focused.

New Angel Fund Search Engine

I was reading www.freelinereport.com today and they mentioned an interesting new search engine for finding venture capital firms. Since I know a number of people who are in start ups I though it would be interesting to re-post it:

And finally: Finding a little bit of extra money for your dream project has just become a bit easier. Angelsoft, an organization that prides itself on bringing venture capitalists and the folks who could really, really use their money closer together, has officially entered the search engine business. The new engine is “pre loaded” with over a thousand active venture capitalist firms and organizations, complete with funding preferences and contact information. You can also narrow down the results by category, average response time, and more. Simple to navigate and use, the new Angelsoft search engine takes the pain out of finding interested investors.

Hulu Works Amazingly Well on Hi-Def TV

My eldest son bought PlayOn the other day. He thought it would be fun to stream Hulu videos to the TV. I thought, “sure how good can that be?”. Wow, it is amazing. The quality is very good and we are now watching all kinds of shows that either we missed or have been off the air for years such as FireFly (the movie Serenity was based on FireFly if you like Sci Fi).

The hardware setup for Play-On requires an X-Box 360 and a reasonably spec’d PC. Our equipment is actually pretty modest. My son’s PC is a couple of years old and we just have a “G” wireless connection to the X-Box. Nonetheless it works like a charm.

The implications for this are huge. The day of truly personalized TV channels is not far off. Video will become like any other content. It may have some interesting consequences for small businesses. It will mean video distribution will become inexpensive with easy access to the living room TV although production quality will remain an issue I suspect.

How will you use services like this?

Can You Handle the Growth?

This story is perhaps a lesson to us all.

Last year I was hired by a company that wanted to take their business to the next level. They were much more committed than the average company and even developed a new service to better meet the needs of their customers. They diligently went through the marketing planning process and made great progress. They implemented their marketing plan and had great success. Leads came in and they signed up a good number of customers for the new service. They had a great attitude and everything seemed to be going well.

After a few months it all unraveled. Many of their new customers became dissatisfied and dropped the service.

What happened is that for some reason the new service did not deliver as promised. Whether it was a process problem, a people problem or something else I do not know but as they added new customers they were not able to handle the work.

As a marketing expert my goal is to help you grow your business. I always ask my clients “can you handle the growth?” but sometimes I wonder if the question is taken as seriously as it should be. For an existing product or service there is perhaps less risk but for a new product or service there is more of an unknown element.

Before launching a product with your marketintg engine fully turned on, test the product or service first. You can be sure there will be hiccups. For many years I was responsible for future product marketing for different printers at Hewlett Packard. We always tested new products with a small number of willing guinea-pigs before launch. It always uncovered problems that needed to be fixed. It would have been hugely expensive to fix those problems if we had already launched and we would have ended up with loads of unhappy customers.

The bottom line is that your business is only as good as the weakest link. Yes, I can help you grow your business but make sure you can handle the growth.

Times are Tough But Can You Afford Not to do Marketing?

As you might expect, I meet quite a lot of business owners in the course of a week. It is interesting to hear their perspective on marketing since this economic crisis started to worsen back in November. I have definitely seen a change in attitude. I am now seeing two very clear camps whereas previously there were more people in the grey area. The two groups are:

  1. I can’t afford marketing at the moment, perhaps when things get better…..
  2. I need to invest in marketing and be much smarter about how to have a healthy business in this economy

I always feel a bit sad when I hear #1. Those people have pretty much given up or assume that marketing won’t work and is not worth the investment. Ironically from what I can see, the group in #1 usually need to improve their marketing more than the #2 group. When I look at their websites it is often obvious that they haven’t done the marketing basics properly. Their sites try to market to everyone and end up attracting no one. Their key messages are the same as their competitors and they focus on what they are selling rather than solving customer problems. The result is that their websites don’t get traffic nor do they result in leads.

When done properly, marketing works and provides a positive return on investment. The companies that will stay healthy in this recession are those who invest wisely in their marketing. And don’t forget as the recession ends, the companies who built a strong marketing foundation will come out of the gate at a much faster rate than their competitors.

If you think you can’t afford marketing think again. You can’t afford not to.

We’re pledging to make a referral to a business we want to help as part of a national campaign to make 1000 referrals March 9-13. What a great small business stimulus plan – won’t you join us.

Make a Referral Week is an entrepreneurial approach to stimulating the small business economy one referred business at a time. The goal for the week is to generate 1000 referred leads to 1000 deserving small businesses in an effort to highlight the impact of a simple action that could blossom into millions of dollars in new business. Small business is the lifeblood and job-creating engine of the economy and merits the positive attention so often saved for corporate bailout stories.

The week long event also features a killer list of referral experts providing valuable marketing advice.

Conversation with the Vancouver Business Journal

I recently completed an interesting interview with John McDonagh who is the publisher of the Vancouver Business Journal. This podcast will give you some great insights into the publishing of a local business journal. If you want to understand how the media tick you will enjoy this recording.Perhaps of surprise to some business owners is that the Vancouver Business Journal wants your news. But the key word is “news”. Unfortunately that does not include your special offers for Father’s Day but it does include local angles to national stories, people news and other topics. To get the full list you will have to listen to the interview.

Don’t forget to visit the Vancouver Business Journal website to sign-up for their e-newsletter or to perhaps like me, to get your subscription to the printed paper.

Business Networking at the Oregon Food Bank Was Most Excellent!

Food BankOur business networking event at the Oregon Food Bank last night turned out to be a great idea. There were some good business relationships built and I got to meet some lovely folks. There is definitely an advantage to getting to know people while doing something worthwhile. In our case there were groups of 4 to 6 people packing apples and pears into family sized bags.

We had over 25 people attend and you can see some of them in the picture on the right. Just love those sexy hairnets. They really do change your appearance. I hope Heather from the Curiosity Group will forgive me as I didn’t recognize her when we were both packing together!

We started the evening in the Food Bank cafe with some speed networking in tables of 5 prior to our packing work. In hindsight we should have started earlier as we didn’t have time to switch the tables around. Still we got plenty of time to get to know each other while packing. Although it did challenge my ability to count and talk at the same time! It was pretty easy doing the pears as these were only 9 to a bag but when doing the apples we had to count to 24!

At the conclusion of the evening the group (plus some other teams) had packed 25,565 lbs of fruit into 19,666 bags for distribution to families who are struggling.

It was a fun evening and we will definitely do it again. You can get more information about volunteer opportunities at the food bank here.

Note that the food bank also serves Clark County in Washington.

My thanks to partner in crime, Missy Gerber of Organizers NW for helping organize this event. If you or your business needs some professional organizing, definitely call Missy. She is amazing.

Reflections on the Great Twitter Challenge

My fellow blogger Phil Bernstein has posted about the results of the Great Twitter Challenge. As many of you know I was one of the sponsors. His conclusion was tha t Twitter is not yet primetime for driving traffic to websites. I myself did not see many hits to my target page but I suspect this is because Phil’s Twitter list is not large enough. Like any advertising or direct mail media, the size and composition of the audience/list/followers is a critical component. Phil’s list is about 160 followers so the odds of someone 1) seeing it and 2) having an interest is pretty small. I am guessing you would need a follower list in the thousands in order to make it work. If you had a follower list that had the same interest (e.g. all dentists) a smaller list might work.

So for me, it was a good experiment and I am still optimistic that Twitter could be a good tool for business development but the list has to be large enough.