Oct 25, 2010

Get creative with marketing

Marketing involves creativity- new modes and methods of communication, to just get the attention of prospective clients or consumers. What do you do when you feel tapped out and the idea mill has dried up?

Creative people have methods they use, consciously or unconsciously, to give their minds the maximum capacity to think creatively and generate new ideas.

• Take time to think freely. This may be lying in bed before falling asleep, during a morning walk or run, in the shower, or during a long commute.

• Exercise your imagination. The more you use your imagination, the better it works for you. Visualize your success. Ask yourself, “What would happen if…?” Fantasize about the impossible.

• Do something new. Your brain’s neurons start firing when it has to learn something new. Read something different, volunteer, try a new exercise class, or start a new hobby.

• Create. Paint, knit, write, carve, cook… the result doesn’t matter. It’s the process that gets the right side of your brain active.

• Chill out. Creativity flourishes in a relaxed atmosphere. Take a walk, meditate, find a quiet place, breathe deeply. Put your worries aside for awhile and de-stress.

• Get back to nature. Spend time appreciating the colors of the season, the sound of water churning, or the changes during sunrise or sunset. Get inspired.

• Immerse yourself in creativity. Go to the theater or an art museum. Pick up a classic piece of literature or poetry.  Creativity breeds more creativity. 

With a tight schedule and multiple deadlines looming, you may think some of these activities are a waste of time. However, they are methods that “sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey would say. When you take time to cultivate your creativity, you’ll spend less time chasing a muse, and more time wowing your clients with innovative ideas.

Sep 30, 2010

Outside Marketing

Marketing is most effective when it reaches the target audience. Common sense, right? The question is, where is your target audience?

One suggestion by marketing expert Kim T. Gordon in her article “Fresh Ideas for Innovative Marketing,” is to “take it outside.”

Do your potential customers value environmentalism? Adopt a section of highway. Do they visit the gym? Buy ad space in the locker room. Are they parents of school-age children? Sponsor a little league team. Do they frequent the local coffee shop? Buy a placemat ad. Do they do the grocery shopping? Advertise on the shopping cart. The key is to have the name of your business in front of your potential customer at the right time.

As trite as “think outside the box” may sound, successful marketing strategies go beyond traditional print and media ads. Yet, they’re purposeful- not throwing money at every opportunity, but focused at reaching specific people with your message.

Another “outside” opportunity is to partner with other businesses. For example, if you are a business targeting brides-to-be, you can place your business cards at a photography studio or bakery. You can place an ad on their website, or offer a discount if the customer uses both services. The opportunities created by this kind of partnership, also called affiliate marketing, are only limited by your imagination.

So, take your marketing to the streets, where your customers are.  And don’t forget to check our website for a chance to win 20% off your first project with AMW Marketing!

Sep 27, 2010

Enter for your chance to win!

Our new website is up and running and fabulous!  Tell us what you think about it and you can win 20 percent off your first project with AMW Marketing.  Use the Contact Form on the site to have your name entered in the grand prize drawing.  http://www.amw-marketing.com/

Sep 9, 2010

Get inside your prospect's heart

Michael Fleischner, founder of MarketingScoop.com, states that “marketing, if done correctly, helps us to define how we feel about a product.”

Why did you choose your cell phone? Did it provide services that you need? Do you NEED a phone to call, text, email, surf, take pictures, locate destinations, and calculate tips? Do you need a touch screen AND a keyboard? Or do you like the feel of the textured case, the color of the keys, the ringtones that sound more like a play list than a notification? Your cell phone provider knows the competition is fierce. If the TV ad or salesperson can convince you that your phone is a reflection of your level of coolness, a mind-altering communication experience, a secret advantage, an intimate relationship with the technical world… you will buy a top-of-the-line phone with all the accessories and service agreements to boot.

To market effectively, you have to get inside the head and heart of your potential client. What makes them tick? What do they really want? How do you want them to feel when they use your product or service? Dig deep. Who would have guessed deodorant could make you feel confident, or shampoo could make you feel beautiful? Fortunately for the marketing world, Americans want it all. They want to feel attractive but unique, interesting but accepted, exciting but safe. How can you help them reach those goals?

It’s not about manipulation, trickery or schemes. It’s about tapping into the reason your product or service is desirable for meeting the wants and needs of your potential customers or clients. It’s about stepping out of your business owner/operator shoes and stepping into your customers’ shoes. What do they do on a daily basis? What frustrations and aspirations do they have? What would make their life easier or add value to it?

How are you going to redefine your marketing approach today?

Aug 20, 2010

What's the Vision for your Business

Do you have a clear picture of your business objectives? How do you want your company to be perceived today and in the future? If your most loyal customer is asked, “How do you feel about Company XYZ?” what would you consider the ideal response? How many business owners do you think ask themselves these questions? From my experience, I can honestly tell you– not enough.

Too many businesses are simply going through the motions and aren’t spending enough time answering important questions like these. Without a clear sense of where you are going, you are not going to get there (at least not very quickly and not without struggle).

When Jim first opened Jim's Dry Cleaning, he wanted to provide reliable, dependable dry cleaning service and he wanted to make a comfortable living. As Jim was doing the marketing and promotions for the business, he realized early that not only did he need to differentiate himself from the competition, he also needed to have a clear vision for what the business stood for.

Jim took the time and clarified his business vision for himself and his customers to include non-tangibles like “treating customers like family" and "having a personal relationship with as many clients as possible.” He also knew that being successful for him meant his employees had to truly enjoy working there and he wanted them to feel like they were part of something bigger. Jim changed is vision from “dependable, reliable dry cleaning service” to running a family-style business where customers and employees appreciate each other and treat one another like close relatives.

Having defined his vision, Jim saw how he could do things differently. Jim now adds weekly employee meetings to his schedule so he can ask his staff what is working and what is not.  He throws employee BBQs at his home whenever he can . He also invites loyal customers to pick up a slice of banana bread when they come in. Jim would have never even had these ideas had he not taken the time to clearly think about his business vision.

Of course, your vision may be quite different than Jim’s but it’s the process that is extremely important. When was the last time you asked yourself “what’s my vision for my business?”

Jul 26, 2010

Integrity Marketing

Alan Chapman, owner of Businessballs.com out of Leicester, England, has an interesting theory regarding the foundation of marketing.

According to Chapman, the number one factor that puts a business head and shoulders above the rest is the ethics and integrity of the organization:

“Price is no longer the king, if it ever was. Value no longer rules, if ever it did. Quality of service and product is not the deciding factor. Today what truly matters is ethical and philosophical quality - from the bottom to the top - in every respect - across every dimension of the organisation.”

This seems pretty simplistic. After all, no one ever talks about ethics comparisons or philosophy shopping. However, on an intrinsic level, most people want to deal with businesses they trust, with organizations that share similar values. Your marketing methods can make or break the image of integrity your business or nonprofit holds in the community.

Some businesses have taken integrity marketing to new levels. Domino’s Pizza, for example, came right out and stated, “We know you didn’t like our pizza. We’re going to make it better.” Their newest campaign involves using customer photographs of pizzas rather than using food artists for advertising pictures. So far, sales and traffic are up at the 2nd largest national pizza chain.

However, according to Bob Phibbs of Retaildoc.com, referring to both Domino’s and Toyota: “Lesson to businesses large and small, if you want to become a larger brand, you better pay attention to the most basic brand promises:

• eating our product won’t taste bad or
• our products won’t kill you.”

In other words, it’s a lot easier to use integrity marketing when your business makes quality products or provides quality services at a fair price. It’s even better when the process of business, including hiring practices, selection of materials, and efficiency of procedures, is based more on what is right than what is profitable.

When the business is right, integrity marketing comes as a natural outgrowth. When Orville Redenbacher told us "you can taste the difference" in his popcorn, you believed him. As long as eating the popcorn doesn’t “taste bad or kill you,” people will continue to show loyalty to his popcorn brand.

In a social media world where privacy is at a premium and everyone’s opinion can be blasted to the far corners of the internet, the value of marketing that tells the truth: “Let us solve your problem, meet your need, or make you feel good” is more recognized today than ever before.

In the words of author Douglas Adams, “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”

Jul 19, 2010

Efficient Marketing

Have you noticed how crazy marketing can get sometimes? Between answering the phone, writing emails, running to meetings and returning messages it’s a wonder anything gets done during the day.

As a self-employed marketing professional, I get hundreds of interruptions every day and it leaves me feeling stressed. It’s as though I did not accomplish one important thing that day! Is there anyone who feels the same way?

So what do you do? Some things that really help me through the frustration are:

Make a list. I know a lot of people are not big on “to do” lists but I find them very helpful. After jotting down on paper the important things I want to get done for the day, I feel free. I know I won’t forget what needs to get done and I can choose which items on my list I want to cross off first. Whether it’s writing a proposal for a client, paying invoices, putting an estimate together or sketching out a creative brief, I know that at the end of the day I can look back at my list and know there are a number of things I have accomplished.

Don’t answer every phone call. While I know it’s sometimes easier to pick up the phone and respond to an issue immediately (rather than play phone tag for days to come) often it just doesn’t pay. When I find I’m focused and in the moment, getting interrupted stops my train of thought and throws me off-track. Decide at the time if it makes more sense to entertain the interruption or to continue what you were doing.

Schedule meetings close together. I like to make sure I have certain days where meetings are not scheduled and I have entire days or blocks of time when I can get things done. If I have to run from client to client every day of the week, I’d never accomplish a thing.

Consider your routine. Are there things that you find you are doing that are time-wasters? Or do you do things during the day that inspire and energize you? Pay attention to what you do throughout the day and keep in mind which activities should stay and which could be eliminated. Begin a routine of motivating, energizing activities throughout the day to keep you moving forward.

I’m very interested in hearing how you get all your marketing tasks done. And, I’d love to learn more interesting ways of how to get through a difficult day. Thanks for sharing!

May 31, 2010

What am I marketing for?

Following graduation, I worked at several entry-level positions in fields I wasn’t interested in. A few years later, I followed my vision toward a career in marketing when I took a job at a well-known advertising agency in Boston. I went on to working for several other agencies in the area further developing my marketing skills.

After 18 years in the agency world of marketing, I wondered if my time might be better spent using my skills helping others rather than increasing the bottom line for another large corporation. When working at a direct mail agency, I began to question more deeply how important was it we sell another pair of pants to a buyer that probably doesn’t need them. It was at that time I began my quest to search for what was important to me. My deep soul searching revealed that I didn’t necessarily need to abandon my years of experience, marketing knowledge and skills to help the world and make a positive impact.

That’s when my second career working with non-profits began. Looking back I was lucky to have spent five years working for a small non-profit right after college graduation. The experience I gained at that time was invaluable. I learned transferable skills and gained a great understanding about how to work with boards, committees, development teams, and executive directors.

Today as a marketing consultant, I continue to use my marketing skills to make a difference in the world. I take my expertise to serve people who are living with AIDS, to educate the public about important issues, to help those with disabilities, to assist the underserved find insurance, and work with many other organizations who support those in need.

Marketing and sales personnel are often grouped together with snake oil salesman and people who want to trick or seduce you into turning over your hard earned money for things you don’t really need. I believe marketing is a method of communicating solutions to potential problems for the consumer. By working with non-profits, I know the solutions are making a difference for this generation and generations to come.

May 4, 2010

Still overwhelmed?

More ideas to help you get through a stressful day marketing:

6. Journal. Why not spend five minutes writing freely about your life and about the things you love? Write down everything you appreciate in your life or write about plans you’d like to make for yourself in the future. Give yourself time to explore different ideas and see what comes to mind.

7. Spend time with an animal. Even if you work in the city, there’s always wildlife to be found. Listen to the birds chirping, walk over to a nearby dog park or visit a local restaurant with a fish tank. Animals have such a calming influence over us.  It’s a great way to learn how to take life one moment at a time.

8. Reflect on pleasant memories. No doubt if you’re working in an office you’ll have a photo or a memento of family or friends. Take a moment to think back about that day and reminisce about the “good times.”

9. Call a friend or make a date for yourself to do something fun. If you know there’s something wonderful to look forward to at the end of the day or week, it will make getting through the grind much easier.

10. Enjoy a small bite of dark chocolate. Notice I didn’t say go out and grab a huge candy bar and eat the whole thing, but a small amount of organic dark chocolate will do wonders for your mood. Not only is it filled with wonderful antioxidants great for your health, but its sweet, luxurious taste will put a smile on your face!

Apr 29, 2010

Overwhelmed by your marketing plan?

Marketing is a never-ending task.  There are always more phone calls to return, more networking events, more emails to craft, more industry trend reading to do, more trade shows, more “to do” lists and less time to accomplish it all. What do you do when marketing’s got you down?

Lately, I’m finding people running around like crazy. I hear them say there’s no time to slow down because the competition in the market is so intense. Putting in overtime, bringing work home, working on weekends all seem to be today’s reality. Does this sound familiar? What do you do when the thought of taking on one more project sends you over the edge?

Here are some ideas to get you through to the next moment:

1. Breathe. Stop what you are doing and take several deep breaths. On the inhale, hold for a moment then slowly release your breath. Breathing deeply will help give you clarity, focus and a moment of peace.

2. Listen to music you like. Maybe it’s a quick beat or perhaps it’s a slow, romantic tune – music helps distract you from the hectic pace and puts you in a different frame of mind.

3. Unless you’re driving or doing something requiring intense focus, close your eyes and meditate for a few minutes. If you’re not into meditation, try a visualization exercise. Take a few deep breaths and imagine yourself in a beautiful, peaceful place far away. Maybe you are on a hammock on a warm sunny beach or perhaps you find yourself skiing down a cool mountaintop. Take a mini vacation from your present reality and visualize another calming environment.

4. Take a walk or move around. Any form of exercise from walking and jogging to doing neck rolls, push up’s or leg lifts will stimulate blood flow and help relieve stress. A walk around the building and moving your body is a great way to break the pattern of going from one task to the next.

5. Get out in nature. Being outdoors in nature is a cure-all for me! Even if it’s just getting a moment of fresh air, taking yourself outside a confined office space will change your entire perspective and allow you to interrupt the build -up of stress.

Apr 12, 2010

Making the Most of the Written Word

Print materials are the staple of marketing and communication initiatives. Non-profits need effectively packaged information to promote their message and communicate with their clients, volunteers, and donors. Effective collateral material can be the most cost-effective and successful way of marketing your cause.

A wide variety of materials can be used to get your message across, including brochures, business cards, letterhead, product packaging, press and media kits, direct mail pieces, advertising, newsletters, announcements, and letters.

Any marketing piece requires three components for success:
  • Good design- it has to capture the reader's attention, use color appropriately, and balance appropriate amounts of white space, and text.
  • Good writing- not only grammatically correct, but easy to understand and persuasive without being overbearing.    
  • Solid strategy.  The best constructed marketing piece has no value if it collects dust on a shelf.  Collateral should be integrated with the rest of your sales and marketing efforts, including web design, trade shows, special events, and promotions.
Effective use of non-profit promotions can turn your marketing efforts into an exciting and rewarding experience. The key to successful promotions is often as simple as creativity, simplicity, and strategy.

Mar 30, 2010

Marketing in a Tough Economy II

#4) Outsource projects – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an Executive Director sitting in a conference room stuffing envelopes. The thought process goes like this: “We can’t afford to hire a company to do this so I’d better pitch in and help. In three days, all of this mail will finally be gone and I can focus on my other work.” Wouldn’t it have been better to spend three days reviewing that grant proposal for $50,000 or meeting with a top donor than stuffing envelopes? Think about it. Sometimes saving a few dollars in the short term can really cost you in the long term. What other projects can be outsourced so you can spend valuable time on revenue generating tasks?

#5) Revamp your press strategy – Talking to the press to tell your story is often times one of the most under-utilized marketing activity a business uses. When was the last time you sat down and thought about what’s new in your business or organization? I’m sure there’s something interesting, local and new going on in your organization that the community or the world would like to hear about. Coming up with a good hook and pitching an idea to the media is a great, cost-effective way of communicating to your constituents. With a good imagination and some creativity you could save yourself hundred’s of dollars on marketing.

Bonus Tip #6!) Shop around – There’s never been a better time to get a deal. From printers to web developers and designers to consultants, everyone is looking for work. Spend some extra time researching vendors and getting quotes. You will never know how affordable some of these once extravagant services can now be.

Good luck saving some cash and best wishes on getting through the tough times!

Mar 21, 2010

Marketing in a Tough Economy I

When money is tight, a business owner’s first instinct is to cut back on marketing. After all, saving dollars is a priority, right? Maybe not. It’s important to keep your product or service in front of your customer at all times.  Otherwise you are leaving the door wide open for your competitor to swoop in. Here are a few tips to consider when times are tough:

#1) Track everything! – Tracking is ALWAYS important but never more so when every penny counts. If you are using lists or placing ads, it’s imperative to know what kind of response you are getting from every marketing dollar spent. All marketing activity can be tracked in someway (websites count hits, collateral has inventory and a distribution channel, ads have 800 numbers, etc.). I know it seems like common sense but you would be amazed at how many businesses don’t track a thing!

#2) Utilize economies of scale – Now is the time to consider making collateral (i.e. brochures, reports, postcards) with a longer shelf life. Take out time sensitive information so you can print larger quantities. You might even consider removing individuals’ names from material in the event the person is no longer with the company, rendering the pieces outdated. Printing larger quantities helps you save money as your cost per piece goes down.

#3) Move communications online – If you haven’t already done so, consider making your quarterly newsletter an email blast. Rather than spending thousands of dollars on printing four times per year, develop an interesting and creative e-newsletter to send to customers via the web. Post it on your website and let people know it’s there for their viewing whenever they like. Start building a good opt-in list and you will save significant dollars. Instead of reinventing the wheel, lots of printed material can even be used for your own blog. What other communications can you email to people or post online instead of mailing?

Mar 7, 2010

Avoid Common Marketing Mistakes III

Last in the installment of things non-profits should NOT do when marketing their cause:

Inappropriate messaging:  Some non-profits do a good job of marketing their mission. Other non-profits don’t talk about it enough. In either case, you might want to target your message specifically to your audience. Consider what message donors, customers and volunteers need to have to understand the goals of the organization.

Rather than simply regurgitating a mission statement, these audiences need to hear the emotionally compelling impact a non-profit is having on the people it serves and the community.  Reframing messages to talk to a specific target audience and using language that will connect to supporters will have a greater impact than talking in generalities.

Not understanding what motivates donors: It’s extremely important to know your constituents. Audiences consist of community advocacy groups, policy makers, major donors, volunteers, board members and those you serve…just to name a few. Take the time to learn how to best connect with donors, volunteers and others. Figure out their values. What drives them to action? Most individuals get involved to make a difference. Instead of making assumptions about why they’re involved, ask them. Find out as much as you can about them so that you can make them the driving force behind the organization.

Feb 28, 2010

Avoid Common Marketing Mistakes II

Here are some more common mistakes non-profits make when it comes to marketing.

Not cross-promoting services or programs within target specific audiences: Many non-profits talk about one specific thing at a time and overlook mentioning their other programs or services. For example, a non-profit who offers addiction recovery services may also want to talk about other mental health or health care services offered. Organizational mission, what a donor’s contribution supports and how money is disbursed is also important information to communicate regularly and within appropriate promotional vehicles.

Overlooking web optimization: It’s tempting for non-profits to spend money on the bells and whistles of their website without making a commitment to optimize text and keywords for better search engine pick up. Having a great photo on the home page without thinking about how the copy on the home page impacts hits is a missed opportunity and can be costly in terms of visitors to the site. Think about who is searching for you and what they might type into a search engine. For example, if you work for an organization that services children with disabilities, you might want to consider having your home page include words such as “autism and children” or “kids with hearing impairments.”

Feb 20, 2010

Avoid Common Marketing Mistakes I

With so many balls in the air, directors of non-profits are faced with a variety of tasks sometimes making it difficult to do everything effectively and efficiently. However, with proper guidance and support, all marketing initiatives can be successful. 

One common mistake non-profits make when it comes to marketing is not having consistency.  Non-profit organizations, like all businesses, must have a cohesive brand identity. Organizational branding is extremely important and should be consistent from one program to another. Too often one program within an organization (perhaps because it has its own budget) develops its own promotional or communications material. Having one program appear as if it's part of an entirely different organization does not serve to promote the cause.

At the same time, in an attempt to save money, many non-profit organizations do not follow the proper organizational graphic standards. Colors, logos, and other graphic standards may be ignored, causing a loss of brand identity. Good branding is a precious commodity for every business and non-profit organization.

Brand identity is what differentiates the American Cancer Society from the United Cancer Foundation.  One is a state-based organization that focuses on obtaining free screenings for those who can't afford it.  Isn't it important for potential donors, volunteers, and clients to know the difference?

AMW Marketing can provide the necessary guidance to make your non-profit's brand stand out.  Is your message consistent?

Feb 16, 2010

Evaluate Your Most Important Resources- Part III

What is an organization’s most valuable resource?

The people make up the heart and soul of any organization.  Employees at non-profits are often underpaid and overworked. Take the time to evaluate the functions of each staff member and see how much responsibility each position carries. Is there some shifting that can be done to more evenly distribute job responsibilities? Are there some tasks that can be eliminated? Or do tasks need to be added? Can some projects be outsourced to free up time for staff to spend on programs or services?

Thank your staff.  In all cases, take the time to reward a job well-done and appreciate the staff you have. It’s the people who make an organization successful.

When you need assistance with business development, consider outsourcing to a marketing company that specializes in working with non-profits. 

Feb 11, 2010

Evaluate Your Most Important Resources- Part II

Another important resource to review is your brochures, flyers, and other marketing materials.

Take stock of all your collateral. When was the last time you reviewed all the printed material you have on hand? Pull together all communications materials you are still using and read it over with a fresh perspective. Does it still communicate your vision clearly? Is your audience responding to it in the way you had hoped? Are there better, more cost-effective ways to get the message across? Are there additional pieces you need to have on hand to talk about the benefits of your program or service? Are there new programs or services offered that are not covered in existing pieces of collateral? Often times, non-profits use outdated or inappropriate materials to save on costs. Ask yourself, what is the cost of not accurately communicating your mission, programs or services simply to save budget dollars?

Even logos need updating once in awhile.  AMW Marketing can help.

Feb 7, 2010

Evaluate Your Most Important Resources- Part I

Non-profit organizations have unique challenges especially when it comes to marketing. Budgets are smaller, resources are limited and board members can be overly cautious. But there are a few things non-profits can do to make the most of their dollars. Knowing what resources you have along with having a clear definition of your goals can help. Consider your resources before directing your marketing initiatives.

Review your database – One of the most valuable resources non-profit organizations have is their own database. These are people who have been involved with your mission and your organization in some way. Take time to inspect your lists regularly. Ask yourself some questions about donors and volunteers. When was the last time you communicated to the entire list? Is the list still accurate? How is the list segmented? Can you add more fields or capture information in your database that will help you to send out more targeted messages to your constituents? Spending time learning as much as you can about your database is time wisely spent.
What other treasures will you find when you take inventory? More on my next post!