Tuesday, March 25, 2014

All About Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mailWhen it comes to marketing for your start-up business, direct mail is a traditional but still successful way of attracting the attention of customers. Using a personalized touch, direct mail is personally addressed to the customer and delivered by post. Contrary to emails, direct mail does not compete with other messages in the recipient’s inbox nor sent to the spam folder.

Benefits of Direct Mail as a Marketing Tool

  1. Targeted. Other forms of mass adverting, such as TV, radio, newspaper, etc., can be expensive for a start-up business. Direct mail lets you focus on a smaller, more focused target who is more likely to respond to your advertisement.
  2. Personal. You can talk to the customers by name and persuade them of your product or service better when you can show that you understand their needs. Done the right way, you can make a personal connection with the customer using emotional copy drivers effectively. These seven copy drivers are further explained in this article, “Use Direct Mail to Generate the Emotional Response”.
  3. Flexible. Mail can come in different forms, such as postcards, brochures, letters, and other affordable and easy formats. You can also provide a free sample or special offer in the envelope to increase the impact of your campaign.
  4. Tangible. The customer can physically touch your message, which can make a memorable impression, especially if you add some interesting elements like stickers, coupons, and samples.
  5. Measurable. You can count the inquiries you received or count the coupons redeemed. When you track and analyze the results, you can see which part of the campaign is working and which needs adjustments.
  6. Affordable. As long as you have the know-how in computer design or word processing software, you should be able to create your own mailpiece without the help of an expensive marketing company.

How to Prepare a Mailing List

Much more ideal than a rented mailing list is having your own list of ‘warm’ prospects to achieve better response and conversion rates.
  1. Work with what you have. Start your list based on your existing customers, prospects, and names in your sales inquiry records. To look for prospects, get help from your own customers and suppliers who may be able to give you new contacts.
  2. Do your own research. Find other possible outlets for your products using web searches. Online directories and trade publications are also possible rich sources of prospects. Visit your town council and ask for a list of individuals in the area.
  3. Try cross-selling. You can join forces with another company selling a different but related product to yours. For example, you sell shirts and the other company sells ties. Mailing your campaign together can halve the mailing costs. You can also try swapping customer lists but make sure that the customers have given their consent first.

More Help

Being new to the direct mail business can be overwhelming, but there are organizations to help you figure it out. An important name to remember is the U.S. Direct Marketing Association (info@the-dma.org, 212-768-7277), the world’s leading independent organization for data-driven marketers. They will be happy to answer your questions and provide you more sources of specialized information if needed.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Business Signs: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

After looking and laughing at a blog post of The World's Worst Real Estate Signs, I was inspired to put together my own similar post. Instead of focusing solely on signs, I expanded my search to include business ads and banners, vinyl graphics and more. I also wanted to make selections from a variety of business industries instead of just ones from real estate.

Once I started doing a little research, I realized that there were an endless amount of REALLY BAD signs to choose from so for pure entertainment purposes, I decided to go with a couple of funny ones for the good category. Here are some of my favorites:

The Good

 

The Bad

 

The Ugly


This post provided by a guest contributor for CM Graphics, a Lansing sign company. In addition to signs and banners, they specialize in designing and installing custom vinyl graphics for vehicle wraps, boat wraps, and building wraps.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Most Bizarre Insurance Policies Ever.

When Mark McGwire was chock full of steroids while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals back in the day, it seemed ludicrous that the team took out a $12 million dollar insurance policy on him. He was a mountain of a man...BUT, when you're making star baseball money and the player in question is inflated on god knows what, maybe it wasn't such a crazy idea. The truth is, there are any number of companies out there willing to insure just about anything.

So, in honor of those companies willing to put an insurance policy on just about anything, here's a list of some of the most bizarre policies you're ever going to see.
  • Alien Abduction Insurance. This isn't a joke. Perhaps some people truly believe they're going to be visited a la George McFly...but more than a scare, they'll actually be escorted out of the galaxy. Not to fear, you can purchase some insurance here.
  • Ransom Reimbursement. This one sounds crazy, but if you're an international company with high profile travelers heading into areas of the world where kidnapping is commonplace, it may not be as crazy as it sounds. Though, if someone was taking out this policy on me, I'd reconsider my line of work.
  • Ghost Insurance. If you're too smart for the alien abduction policy, you may want to be safe and insure yourself against ghosts. The Royal Falcon Hotel in England actually has a policy protecting staff and guests from any harm caused by ghosts. Well, not just ghosts, they covered their bases and also put in policies for werewolves and vampires.
  • Chest Hair Insurance. This is a joke, right? Nope. Tom Jones, notorious Vegas crooner apparently was so concerned with the importance of his chest hair to his look that he took out a...wait for it...$7 million dollar policy on it. Whoa. Flaunt it Tony!


This guest post provided by Lamborne Insurance Agency of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Top Events For Miami Small Businesses

English: Seal of Miami, Florida, United States...
This post made possible by www.rittersprinting.com
The Miami metro area is well known for having some of the best events for small business owners around. This is because the region is committed to making sure that its small businesses succeed. The area will be playing host to a number of meeting groups and conferences, which should provide a lot of information to these owners. Even managers may want to stop by here to see what they can get for themselves. Read through to find some vital information about some upcoming local events for Miami small businesses.

South Florida Business Expo
This first event promises to be one of the largest collection of businesses and related services that you will find in the state. This expo will feature a number of prominent business owners and allow them to network with one another. If you are a small business owner, you may be interested in getting the support that you need from here. There are many people who may be curious to see what they can get when they set up a booth. Over 200 other businesses in the area will be setting themselves up here, so you may as well join in with them.

Quick Book Meetup in South Florida
There are quite a few businesses who could benefit from this expo on the use of Quick Books. This is a particularly relevant meeting for anyone who wants to set up their own financial accounting services. The Quick Books program is growing in popularity among many owners out there. You may be interested in seeing how you can get the right accounting services for your small business. Many will be impressed by the increased financial efficiency they see when they implement this program for themselves.

Small Business Technology Tour
The city of Miami will be fortunate enough to play host to this annual event. The Small Business Tech Tour is committed to making sure that owners have all the tools to make their business run more smoothly. Many people have been able to network with some cutting edge technological providers. This can give any small business a leg up over their competition. Stop by here if you would like to just get caught up to speed on the technology that is available to you.

Miami Business Network
You may be interested in heading to this event if you want to meet a group of committed leaders in the Miami area. There will be owners and executives from businesses of almost every different size. This is the perfect opportunity for different owners who would like to make connections with other businesses. It can also provide owners with a vision of the future of Miami small businesses.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Skills Make The Top Ranked CEOs The Best?

Being the CEO of a major corporate company takes hard work, dedication and most importantly, being an exceptional leader. Having strong leadership skills is crucial in the business world; acquiring and mastering these skills will help you keep up with the demands of being a CEO and being the best leader you can be. Let’s take a look at a few of the top ranked CEOs in the USA and what sets them apart from the rest. 

Steve Jobs

Jobs, co-founder of Apple, is the highest ranked CEO due to his extraordinary leadership qualities. After introducing the Macintosh and changing the face of the personal computer industry, he founded his own company, NeXT Computer, before returning to Apple and introducing the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad.

What made Steve Jobs such a brilliant CEO? 

Transformational Leader

Jobs was passionate and enthusiastic about his company and products; he created visions and always motivated his team, making him a transformational leader. 

Focus 

The company was producing numerous products when Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, and after some product review sessions he took hold of the reigns. He told his team their job is to produce four superb products and to cancel all others. In creating this focus, Jobs saved the company and stated: “deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”

Willingness to Take Responsibility

Something very few companies do is take continuous responsibility for user experience – something Jobs and Apple did that made the company so successful. 

Creativity 

Jobs always made sure that his business persona was accompanied by his true self – an artistic, nonconformist Buddhist who encouraged creativity and creative thinking. He helped write the text for the “Think Different” ads and is quoted saying, “While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Meg Whitman

Whitman was the CEO of eBay from 1998 until 2008. During her time as CEO she completely restructured the management, increased revenue from $4 million to $8 million and expanded the company from 30 employees to 15,000. Fortune has named her one of the top five most powerful women and she is ranked 9th in the Harvard Business Review’s Top 100 Performing CEOs.

What skills made Meg Whitman a powerful leader?

Authentic Leadership

In being an authentic leader, Whitman demonstrates her understanding of herself, what she is doing and the direction of her business. 

Flexibility

With a continuously evolving business world, it is important for CEOs to adapt and be flexible – something Meg Whitman was exceptional at. Her company was one that reinvented itself every few years and she wasn’t afraid to keep up with new technologies, making acquisitions with PayPal and Skype, though they sometimes had mixed results. 

Relationships and Respect

Whitman was a firm believer in influencing relationships with her employees as opposed to controlling them. In doing this, she won their respect and showed them the same which created a positive work environment and increased productivity and motivation to succeed. 

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg, the creator and CEO of Facebook, became the world’s youngest billionaire in four short years. In 2004, when he created the social network in his dorm room at Harvard, he had no idea he would change the way the world communicates and how people interact. Many companies, such as MTV, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft, have tried to buy Facebook, which is now valued at about $68 billion. At 22 Zuckerberg walked away from a $1 billion offer stating, “it’s not about the price. This is my baby and I want to keep running it, I want to keep growing it.”

What qualities make Mark Zuckerberg a successful leader?

Social Perceptiveness

One of Zuckerberg’s best qualities as a leader is how he pays attention to his users and employees and understands how they respond to change. For example, when Zuckerberg made updates to Facebook, it was met with some backlash from users who felt their privacy was being invaded by the modifications. He quickly reacted and implemented new privacy settings. The users were grateful for his immediate attention and effective solution.   

Ability to Inspire

Zuckerberg had a vision and acted on it, using his talents and knowledge to make that vision a reality. He inspires his peers, employees and users alike to reach their full potential through his hard work as well as through his presentations at conferences. 

Commitment

Zuckerberg is committed to his company and works hard alongside his employees, showing them hard work can be done on every level and that he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. By showing his commitment and passion for the company, it drives his employees to share the same dedication, keeping energy levels up and positive, resulting in a hard working team. 

This post was provided by a contributor from the Michigan State University Executive Education Program, which offers a variety of programs to help corporate and business leaders improve their leadership styles and strategies. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Creating A Business Model


A business model is a company’s explanation of how they intend to serve their customers, deliver value and generate revenue; it represents the fundamental characteristics of a business.  It is used to define and evaluate a business, explain the business to employees or investors, or it can even be used to determine how you are going to sell a specific product. 

It is important when creating a business model that you develop one specifically designed for your company and that takes into account your product and consumers; no one business model is going to work for every company.  For example, bowling alleys have four different business models, as they are catering to a wide range of consumers.  There are traditional alleys for leagues, family entertainment centers for families and young children, boutiques for the younger generation looking to go out and socialize, and hybrids, a combination of family entertainment centers and boutiques.  Brunswick goes into more detail about those business models here.

Creating your business model


·         The first step to creating your business model is knowing your product and deciding what industry your business falls under.  This will help you determine who your target customers are and how you are going to reach them. 

o   Developing a relationship with your customers is crucial for the success of a business.  You want to keep your customers happy, engaged, and returning to you for your products and services. 

o   You also need to decide how you are going to connect with your customers and promote your product.  There are many distribution channels that you can use to reach your consumers, whether it be virtually, in your store or through partner companies. 

·         The next step is to define your value proposition: how you are going to meet the needs of your customers through your product and services.  You can do this through cost, efficiency, convenience, performance, and many other ways.  This is important for your business because it will make you stand out among your competitors. 

·         Calculating your finances is a very important step in creating your business model.  There are many things to keep in mind as you try and figure out how your business is going to make a profit: 

o   Fixed costs (costs that remain unchanging)

o   Variable costs (costs that vary depending on demand, production, distribution, etc.)

o   Manufacturing and distribution of your product or service (how much does it cost to make your product and get it to your customers efficiently and timely)

o   Marketing and advertising your brand

Remember, revenue may not come in right away, especially if you are a startup, so budgeting is essential!

·         It is important to write out your business model and come up with a plan on how you are going to achieve it.  One helpful tool you can use is the Business Model Canvas, a template designed by Alexander Osterwalder that is widely used to help businesses get a kick start on creating their business models.   

By following these steps, you will be on your way to creating an ideal business model that is just right for your brand.  The most important thing to remember is you are creating a product and selling it to your consumers – you just have to find the most efficient way to do this for your business!

Friday, May 17, 2013

It Won’t Work For Me

Books Books

It seems I’m in some very good company. A post earlier this week talks about his frustration when people buy his books and then decide his strategies won’t work for them. He cites several authors, who expressed a similar frustration in their blogs the same day. Well guys, it’s not just a question of books.

The same thing happens when we deliver our training and consultancy. We have processes, tools, tips, and advice that have been proven to work and still some people refuse to use them. They seem to be happier thinking “it might be OK for them but it won’t work for me”. I’ve just had this experience in one workshop. Same company, same job description, different people. One group uses our stuff and gets fantastic results but the other group has decided its job and customers are different and, therefore, our tools won’t work for them. This is like watching someone starve because they can’t use chopsticks and they refuse your offer of a fork. It’s just as frustrating for us, Frank!

Beyond the toe-curling frustration, however, it’s important to understand why this happens. Now, we’re all human. Actually, thinking about some of the reality TV shows (or old Impatto Fiat ads) I see these days, let’s play safe and say that most of us are human. Anyway, to understand why people behave differently we need to understand a little about human behavior and a good place to start is to have a look at the series of articles I’m writing about communication. These will give you an introduction to how we think and explain the filters that we use to determine our own view of the world.

The second point to ponder is what else stops us. Are we just lazy? It could be that we find changing behaviors too much trouble. It could be that we don’t have the energy to think differently. Most self help books require a lot of mental energy to implement. Take obesity, for example. It’s one of the world’s biggest problems - literally - and many, many books have been written on the subject of what a person needs to do to lose weight. Well, I would like to announce now that after many years of research I have found the problem’s holy grail and will be publishing a book soon: Everything You Need to do To Lose Weight.
It’s going to be a best seller because I’ve cracked the problem. I know how to make people slim and it’s all in my book. Actually, I’ve decided that you don’t need to wait for my book. As a reward for reading this blog you can have the secret right now. Here it is: Eat less than you need. That’s it. That’s the entire content of the book. Eat less and I’ll guarantee people will lose weight.

If only life was that easy. There is obviously far more to losing weight then just the thought of eating less - and those that know me will appreciate that I know what I’m talking about. But this is no different to any other subject where you know the advice works but you can’t implement it. Perhaps it comes down to the fact that saying it doesn’t work is easier than trying to make it work.

In the corporate world it is possible to get some help implementing new ideas, new process, and new tools. I’m often amazed how many companies are willing to pay large amounts of money for training and then leave it to the individuals to implement what they’ve learned. Well guess what? If management don’t implement new ways of working they’ll find that their staff won’t either. If management asks for information in a new format, or insist on using a new tool or process and won’t accept anything else, then – you guessed it - staff begin to use it.

A few years ago I started a new job with a pretty big multinational. We had 10,000 people in the UK and about 120,000 scattered around the world. I started just as they finished rolling out Miller Heiman’s Strategic Selling process. I think the UK paid over £1m for it. Anyway, I was in a sales meeting on my second day and the equivalent of the sales director asked one of the managers about a particular deal. Then he said, “Have you done a blue sheet?” The manager replied that he hadn’t and it was suggested that he do one. The next guy was asked the same question and his reply was, “Yes - done it.” The sales director said, “Good” and that was the end of the deal review. No questioning, no support, no reinforcing the use of the process or tool, no nothing. I think the whole process lasted three months before it died completely. Reinforcement by management is key to making sure new things are used.

There is another possibility why new things are not used and that’s a thing called ‘second order gain‘. This is a subject worthy of an article all to itself so I’ll leave you with that thought for another day.