Marketing Genius from Maple Creative

Marketing tips, observations & philosophy, plus a few rants and random musings - from those who practice, preach and teach marketing, research, advertising, public relations and business strategy.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Top 100 Business Blogs on the Internet

I'm proud to report that Marketing Genius from Maple Creative has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Blogs on the Internet!

The list was compiled by John Crickett, publisher of the Business Opportunities and Ideas blog. The rankings are based on a composite measure of the blogs' Technorati and Alexa index values. Marketing Genius was ranked #68!

Thanks to all of you for making this possible. Without our loyal readers and visitors (200+ daily subscribers and 90,000 visitors per month), we have nothing but words. With all of you, we have a wonderful community of marketing geniuses. And gratifying, humbling recognition such as this Top 100 Business Blogs on the Internet listing.

Thank you.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

A to Z of Marketing - N: Not Me

N is for "Not Me."

As in ... "My Audience is Not Me."

Memorize this simple sentence. In fact, write it on a sticky note and post it on your bathroom mirror.

In my work as a marketing consultant, one of the most common mistakes that I observe is the tendency, especially by small business owners, to assume that one's audience is similar or the same as oneself. In psychology, this is known as an attribution error, which I covered many moons ago. But the lesson is worth revisiting.

Client is a big fan of Classic Rock.
Client believes that customers certainly must love classic rock, too.
Client thinks he should advertise on Classic Rock radio station.

Is this tactic good or bad? Truly, who knows until we examine some data, do some research.

How to proceed? First, get dialed in on your core customer profile. More female or male? How old? What household income level? What type of employment? Kids or empty nest? Where do they live? What do they do for fun? Where do they vacation? What do they drive? Where do they shop? And which media do they tend to consume or favor?

Once you've gained a clear, concrete understanding of your most important customer segments. Then, check the station's demographic index on Scarborough, or similar, reputable media evaluation tool. Is there a match? Does it fit? How well does it fit with your core customer(s)?

Once you know these answers, you'll know if the Classic Rock or the Classical station would be the better medium for reaching your audience.

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Guest Post: The Emergence of Business Blogging

Our good friend and fellow blogger, Jason Keeling, kindly agreed to share his views on the emergence of business blogging. Thanks, Jason!

In the 1990s Web sites emerged as the newest tool in which businesses and organizations could communicate to their target audiences. Today it’s rare to see an advertisement that does not direct consumers to some sort of Web site. However, the standard Web site could eventually become a thing of the past, given evolving online technologies and consumer preferences. The challenge for traditional Web sites is that they typically provide only one-way communication from the company to the viewer. This was fine in early stages of the Internet, but the Web is becoming a place for social interaction, not just consumption of information.

Given this phenomenon, the “blog” is becoming an ideal medium for businesses to market and differentiate themselves. A blog is essentially the same thing as a Web site, but with a few important differences, given that blogs are simpler to update and they usually allow viewers to respond to the information provided. Such two-way communication is often intimidating to companies used to completely controlling the content on their sites.

Blogs originated as a medium for individuals to share personal information, experiences, and opinions. Although this is still the most common perception of what constitutes a blog, it is important to realize that the business community is beginning to use this medium as well. Corporations such as Dell (Direct2Dell Blog), Southwest Airlines (Nuts About Southwest Blog), and Sony (Sony Electronics Blog) have recognized that building customer loyalty requires communicating with their audience, not just to them.

Jason Keeling is a public relations consultant and founder of, a blog focused on culture, economy, and government.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What’s in a Marketing Plan Anyway?

OK Marketing Geniuses, since we’re coming upon the end of the year, I’m sure you’re getting your plans ready for 2008. What should they include? Here’s a few ideas:

Executive SummaryA one-page overview of where you are now and where you want to be at the end of the year.

ResearchIf you haven’t already done so, take the time to ask your customers and prospects how well you’re serving them and what you can do to improve. At the end of the year, ask them again and compare results. Who says marketing can’t be measured?

Goals & ObjectivesGoals are what you’re going to do and objectives are how you’re going to do it.

Action Plan / TimelineA breakdown of marketing initiatives per month. Combine old guard staples such as print, TV, and direct mail with a mix of banner ads, sponsorships, specialty items, etc.

BudgetHow much will it take to actually put your action plan in action? How much contingency funds can you allocate for unforeseen (but important) marketing opportunities?

Earned MediaHow are you going to get your business in the press this year? (The squeaky well gets the grease.)

Measurements of SuccessWinning x number of clients, increasing Web traffic by x%, ect. When you understand what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s easy to know when you get there.

Happy planning!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A to Z of Marketing - M: Motivation

Don’t worry. I’m not going to channel Anthony Robbins here.

But the concept of motivation is essential to success in marketing.

Webster’s defines motive as something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act. To motivate is to provide with a motive.

Motivation often requires looking at things that others have overlooked. It requires taking nothing for granted. And it often spurs tremendous creativity.

What motivates your customer?

If you can’t answer that simple question your marketing plan is incomplete.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tip of the Iceberg

Mark this date. Write it down someplace prominent. Remember this date. It was the tipping point for generational impact on our society. October 15, 2007.

The nation's first Baby Boomer applied for Social Security benefits on Monday. Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, a retired former teacher from New Jersey, was the first person born on January 1, 1946. She will become eligible for benefits when she turns 62 next year. Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue says that 10,000 Boomers per day will become eligible over the next two decades. (This from an Associated Press wire report.)

The peak of this transformation is projected to be 2012. How will
all of this affect your business? Your life? Our government? America has tipped. Societal shift has begun.

Marketing geniuses will ponder: How will this affect everything about our world? We say it is an opportunity, as well as a threat. It will require new thinking, new leadership and tons of creativity. Game on, as we say around here!

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A Window into the Blogosphere

Have you checked out Blogger Play? It is a simple to use Web site that plays a stream of all the photos that bloggers from around the world have recently posted via Blogger. Check it out. It's fun to watch. (And I'll bet it looks great playing on the new iPhone.)

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Houston Morning

I'm visiting Houston, Texas with my wife. We're attending a business conference with her company. Having not been here since the mid-1990s, I had forgotten how lovely and charming Houston is. Live Oaks that line the curvy streets create such a cozy, inviting feel. We awoke to a wonderful morning cityscape. This photo is taken from the top floor of The Intercontinental Houston. The downtown towers, around seven miles away, were poking up through the morning fog.

Getting away, traveling out of town, always gives me a wonderful creative rejuvenation. Look out!

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

A to Z of Marketing - L: Look Like You're Worth It

Hey, we all know that in marketing impressions are everything. The first law of marketing speaks to this crucial fact: perception is reality. And that initial perception, i.e., first impression, is ultra-important.

At first look, are you perceived to be worthy of investment by your prospective customers? Do you look like you are worth it? They will not invest their dollars with you until you have invested in your own appearance ... your brand image, if you will.

Harry Beckwith says it best with this quote from his great book, Selling the Invisible:

"We invest in companies we believe in. And we know that others do the same.

"What impression do you make, then, when you appear to have invested very little in your own business--in your brochure, offices, business cards, presentations, advertisements? You're saying you lack confidence in your own enterprise. You are not confident enough to invest in yourself.

"What happens? If you--the person who knows more about your company than any prospect could--lack confidence in your business, why should your prospects put any faith in it?

"They shouldn't. And they don't.

"If you believe in your business, show it."


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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Maketing in the Not-for-Profit Sector

More than 55% of not-for-profit organizations are frustrated by a lack of resources and leadership support for marketing, but only 37% do the tracking [or measurement of marketing activities and outcomes] that generates increased budgets and leadership confidence.

Source: eMediaWire

The short article advises to do the following to get on track:

  • Target campaigns to specific audience segments.
  • Coordinate fundraising, membership and volunteer communications.
  • Evaluate campaign impacts.
  • Train colleagues, volunteers and board members on marketing plans and messages.
  • Experiment with Web 2.0 social networking channels.
And never forget the six most important words in marketing, "How did you hear about us?"

This interesting, yet troubling, statistic from eMediaWire was presented in "Discovery" magazine, a publication for YMCA board members, volunteers and staff. I've been getting this quarterly magazine (it comes to my home) for about a year now. It is an interesting publication, filled with profiles of successful programs, statistics like the one shown here, and issue articles that explore opportunities or challenges for YMCA.

What do you send your board members (or volunteers), other than a dull packet with minutes from their last meeting?

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Monday, October 08, 2007

A to Z of Marketing - K: Know When to Hold ‘Em

Easy, trigger fingers!

I know it’s tempting to change an ad campaign that’s working because you’re tired of it. However, as David Ogilvy says, “Don’t even think about changing your campaign until your accountant gets tired of it.”

Yes, you may want to take on a mistress font or positioning statement, or add a burst of color that’s not in your palette, or run something totally outside your established look “just because.”

But when the urge to diverge strikes, remember that brand consistency is key to marketing success. Five years ago, it was estimated that the average prospect had to see your business name 6 times for it to make an impression that stuck. Today, that number has risen to 9.2.

With all the marketing noise we face everyday, it’s difficult to break through to customers. So make it easy for them to remember you by being unique in your message, but consistent in your delivery.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Talladega Days and Nights Post 2: Marketing 24/7

The title of this post is inspired by my observations here at Talladega Superspeedway.

As marketing professionals, wouldn't it be great if we could speak to our audience every hour of the day?

Well, judging from what I've seen on my trip to Talladega, NASCAR and some of its sponsors appear to be doing just that.

As I got closer to the speedway, I notice businesses were crowded and parking lots were full. Gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores - all had large crowds before the sun came up.

These were all parts of the activation strategies of NASCAR sponsors. Events with show cars, giveaways, autograph sessions, concerts in the early morning hours – every event was designed to further brand each product in the eyes of their customer.

Can customers link to your brand? Even at 3:00 a.m.? Think about it.

Posted by Emily Bennington on behalf of Jim Nester

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Periodic Table of Branding Elements

Remember chemistry class? This is way more cool! Thanks to our friend Paul Helmick of Premier Strategies for pointing it out. And kudos to the branding experts at Kolbrener USA for creating it.

brand elements

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Talladega Days and Nights

Beginning today and continuing through Monday, I will be posting blogs from Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

I am here on behalf of a client who sponsors a race team on the ARCA series. I will be focusing on the sights and sounds of NASCAR, its applications as a marketing platform and lessons we can take as marketing professionals.

Right now, it’s 5:45am. At this hour, you'd think everything would be quiet. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is so much activity, and to get the full experience, I've decided to camp in the infield of the track. It’s a great view, but there is a catch. Once you enter the infield with your vehicle, you can’t leave until after Sunday’s race.

What does that mean? It means the local grocery stores were very crowded when I was there at 3:30 this morning.

One could easily expect the staff of these businesses to be rather anxious, flustered and perhaps even unprofessional at times given the increase of customers in the wee hours of the morning. I was quite surprised when the grocery store I went to chose to be proactive in their approach to customer service.

The store had the feel of a retail establishment. A team of employees greeted shoppers at each entrance. They shook hands, welcomed folks, and engaged in small talk. Staff floated in the aisles, maintaining the dialogue established at the door, and offering assistance in locating items. Their approach reminded me of Kelley's in Charleston, WV, with its personal shoppers helping customers select the perfect suit.

The tactic was very effective. Customers felt at ease despite the large crowds, early hours and fatigue.

If marketing is creating an environment in which sales can flourish, customer service is one very important way of controlling/maintaining that environment.

Something to think about.

Posted by Emily Bennington on behalf of Jim Nester

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Press Has an Appetite in October

As you plan your story pitches and media outreach campaigns in your local market, it is always good to know what's on the national media radar screen. Here's what the national press is looking to cover in October:

- Personal finance - how might the sub-prime lending debacle have affected us, and what do we need to do differently on a personal level?

- The Holidays - yep, it's that time of year again!

- Thanksgiving - cooking and food stories are in demand

- Outdoor recreation & Winter sports - skiing, Winter vacation ideas, snowboarding ... and don't forget the gear and clothing that goes with it

For more information, drop us a note, give us a call (304.342.6970) or visit PR Newswire.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Jennifer Garner on Charleston ... and Paris

We've been saying for many years that our fair city, Charleston, West Virginia, is a great place to live, work and play. Today's quote from Hollywood mega-star and Charleston-native, Jennifer Garner, illustrates that from her very unique perspective:

"I would much rather wake up and go to Taylor Books [in Charleston, WV] tomorrow and sit, drink coffee and read the newspaper rather than go to Paris," Garner said in a quick telephone interview that took place while she was riding to the airport.

"It's just the overall feel of it there. The green's there, the people walking down the street. Anyone that doesn't live there or isn't from there just can't understand it."

Jennifer Garner has it right. Here's the full story from today's Daily Mail:

The photo at left gives a feel for the wonderful atmosphere and vibe at Taylor Books. Incidentally, this pic shows friend and fellow blogger Bob Coffield and was photographed by another friend and blogger, Rick Lee. By the way, Rick's blog is the best place to go for Charleston and West Virginia photos. In fact, both of their blogs have drawn national acclaim (deservedly so).

Rick's quite the talented artist. The pastel drawing at left is his creation, too. It depicts the wonderful charm and green, tree-lined appeal of Capitol Street in particular and Charleston in general.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A to Z of Marketing - J is for Journey

No, not the Eighties rock band. But their most popular hit, "Don't Stop Believing," is not entirely off-message for this post.

Marketing is a journey. Marketing that brings results and drives business growth requires planning, research and preparation.

So how is marketing like a journey? Marketing is like hiking the Appalachian Trail from one end to the other. It is driving across the United States. It is a trip to Disneyland. It is Indiana Jones assembling the team and supplies to travel halfway around the globe in quest of the Lost Ark. (Okay, well maybe that one is a bit over the top.)
Marketing is not grabbing a pack of beef jerky and a stack of CDs and hopping in the car for a random road trip. Not one of us would attempt any of those important excursions without planning our routes, finding out what to pack, arranging for lodging, checking the weather and going to the bank. We might even make provisional plans: identifying an alternate route, arranging for pet care, adjusting the newspaper subscription and such. Your marketing is equally important. It is a journey and it requires preparation.

This analogy is directly attributable to embarking upon a marketing program for your business. Hey, there is a natural, almost innately human, desire to jump into action. Isn't that the street wisdom of today? Blink. Thin-slice. Nanoseconds. Just do it. Jump. (Now you're hearing Van Halen, aren't you? Sammy Hagar on vocals.)

Alas, "Jump" is absolutely the wrong "J-word." Jumping is impulsive and 99% of the time results in wasted money, wasted time and wasted effort. Jumping causes quick choices, almost always the wrong choices. Jumping created the ad that no one saw. It produced the direct-mail piece that did not pull responses. The jump represents those dollars you wish you had back.

Before anyone gets discouraged or begins to feel overburdened, let's clarify things a bit. Marketing is indeed a journey. Done right, done well, marketing requires preparation and planning. This preliminary work does not have to be terribly costly or time consuming. It just has to be done well.

Before you launch a new advertising campaign, take the time to plan how you will respond to new inquiries. Where will you direct the prospective customer? If to your Web site, is it ready? When is the last time you changed the home page? How will you handle the initial arrival? Will you direct them to a landing page? Overall, do you have the marketing and sales tools (case studies, brochures, demonstrations, testimonials and proposals) to persuade a potential new customer? Are provisions in place for tracking and measurement? How will you get them from interested to invested ... from curious to committed?

The answer: not by jumping, rather by planning for your successful marketing journey. Finally, as marketing geniuses know: don't stop believing in the power of intelligent, well planned marketing to drive the results that you need.

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