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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hottest Thing at Car Show

The photo at left shows the interior of the new minivan from Chrysler. Most notable is their innovative "Swivel 'n Go" (tm) table, which is removable. It is a fairly new option on the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Chrysler Town & Country.

I cannot begin to describe the excitement that I observed surrounding this table. It created quite a buzz! The materials for the table could not cost more than $100. By contrast, the value of the table and its utility, especially for parents and their kids, is huge ... maybe 20 times the cost! For Chrysler, this simple table will attract new buyers as long as it remains unique in the marketplace.

The point here is that you don't need a fortune to be innovative or to create value for your customers. Often, it's the little, inexpensive things that have tremendous impact. Seeing this was a great reminder for me. (And my two kids had so much fun visiting this demo minivan and testing out the table. I could hardly get them out of the vehicle.)

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Harnessing the Power of Web 2.0: What's Required?

I had the pleasure to co-present a seminar on Web 2.0 for a group of business leaders in Charleston, West Virginia, last Friday morning. Thanks to all of you who attended! We had a record-setting crowd of 50+ in attendance. (If you are here as a result, please post a comment and say "hi.")

As always, I learn as much as I teach from seminars. And I especially love the Q&A part. At Friday's event one of the attendees really articulated what to me was the payoff question: What does it take to commit to maintaining a blog, a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page and a Twitter presence? And what results do you get from doing so?

What a great question! So here's what I said: I spend about 45 minutes every other day on my various Web 2.0 activities.

My goal is to post a new blog article every day (and I cited Charleston blogger and photographer extraordinaire, Rick Lee, as someone who sets the standard for this). I am averaging about 2-3 posts per week and hoping to do better.

I am sporadic with my Twittering (or Twitter chirps) - and do so as the mood strikes me. But I can see how it can become addictive. I visit LinkedIn about once a week. On Facebook, I log in and update about once every other day. However, the new chat function appears to be first-class and adds to its appeal.

Now, what about the return on this investment of time? Here's what I have received in return:

Maple Creative has attained outstanding Google visibility. We are positioned on the first or second page of Google search results for our desired search phrases (marketing firm WV, for example). We have gotten paying clients who have come to us as a result. There's no way that we could have attained such search engine positioning or visibility in an organic manner without all of our Web 2.0 activities.

Our company has won awards or recognition for our blog. (See graphics at top of page.) And we continue to receive acclaim as a marketing firm who "get social media." This helps to differentiate us from our competitors and bolsters our credibility.

Maple Creative has achieved subject matter expertise on a number of topics and practice areas that are directly related to blog topics and backed by work that we've done. I get about one new media inquiry (from out of market) per month on various topics, including "how to repair a damaged reputation."

Those are the facts. I would say without hesitation that it is well worth the time and effort!

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Repairing a Damaged Reputation

Rehabilitating a damaged public image. This is one of the most popular topics that I am asked to address. From time to time, whenever controversy arises (and that seems to be more frequently, doesn't it!) the question is presented: how does one rehabilitate or repair a damaged image? How can someone rebuild his or her reputation? Given such popularity, I am reposting this article from last year with the hope that you'll again find it useful.

It takes time to rehabilitate one's image: such a matter does not lend itself to a quick fix.

Many people hope that if they say the right thing at the critical moment all will be made good. That's just not how the world works.

We, as human beings, form perceptions about other humans over time. This is the basis of reputation. If a person has made a major blunder, it equates to a big, negative hit against his or her reputation. This cannot be overcome with one press conference. No, the perfect statement at the perfect time will not wipe the slate clean. Instead, those in the audience will watch and observe, most likely in a cautious manner at first. Some will be inclined to forgive; others may become embittered permanently toward the person who made the major mistake. Over time, most people in the audience will adjust their assessments of the person in question.

So if the perfect words will not do the trick, what can rebuild a tarnished reputation? One word: actions.

As we've all heard, actions speak louder than words. Once a person has made the gargantuan gaffe, the best thing he or she can do is to consistently do good and do right. According to the laws of communication theory, 93% of the information that human beings process and learn from is related to non-verbal signals or cues. By contrast, words account for only 7% of that which we process and upon which we form perceptions. With this fact in mind, it is easy to see why actions are so much more important than words in regard to mending one's reputation.

With the clear understanding that (1) rehabilitating a reputation takes time and that (2) actions speak louder than words, let's shift the focus toward the public relations strategy. What are the right tactics to use in a situation where a person has made a career-threatening mistake?

I would advise my clients and anyone else to adhere to the following ABC principles:

A - Apologize. Admit your mistake and ask for forgiveness. Demonstrate that you have a contrite heart. This is done by speaking in a humble manner and expressing remorse.

B - Be genuine. Show some emotion. No one will forgive an over-rehearsed, stiff emotionless robot. Speak from the heart and use natural, appropriate hand gestures and other non-verbals. Obviously, we don't want to see a blubbering basket case, but genuineness and emotion can be very helpful.

C - Compassion. Show compassion. The root of the word "passion" is "suffer." To show compassion is to demonstrate that you are suffering with the person (or parties) who were affected. The audience will identify with compassion and respond favorably to it. Perhaps no one understood this better than Bill Clinton who repeatedly emphasized: "I feel your pain."

Remember that non-verbal communication is crucial. People in the audience are watching, more than listening. Therefore, the speaker's emphasis should be placed upon apologizing, being genuine and demonstrating compassion. It may be acceptable to speak briefly about one's past track record (which may have been glowing and heroic) but only in the context of remarks about future plans to atone for this incident. Specifically, the speaker may want to briefly discuss specific plans about rehabilitating himself, through counseling, clergy, medical care, training or community service, to demonstrate that he is focused on atoning for his actions and preventing future blunders.

All in all, the majority of the positive impact, or image rehabilitation, will come in the weeks and months that follow the initial episode. Sorry ... there simply is no quick fix.

Accordingly, we would work with our client to establish an ambitious, pro-active outreach plan to lead them through this subsequent phase. Ultimately, the key to successfully rehabilitating a reputation is consistently repeating good deeds, rightful and helpful acts, over an extended period, in a manner that reestablishes trust.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Using a Web 2.0 Tool to Prepare a Web 2.0 Seminar

Jason Keeling and I will present “Business for Breakfast” at the Charleston Marriott’s Whitewater Grille tomorrow morning. That's Friday, April 25, from 7:30-8:30 a.m. We surely hope to see you there!

Our focus will be Web 2.0: Blogs, Pods and Twitters — How Emerging Internet Technologies Can Enhance Business Communications.

We’ll be discussing the growing importance of blogs, podcasts, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. We will discuss the significance of these technologies to West Virginia businesses and organizations.

In a bit of an unconventional twist, we utilized a Web 2.0 tool, a Zoomerang survey application, to poll our audience in advance of the presentation to assess their familiarity, needs and expectations. Here's what we learned:
  • There's an absence of understanding of the phrase "Web 2.0" (53% have not heard of it).
  • Likewise, most folks do not understand or utilize RSS (69% have not heard of it).
  • More respondents (80%) have been to YouTube than any of the other social media.
  • Twitter and Flickr were among the lowest (17% and 15% familiarity, respectively).
  • Most (84%) are familiar with blogs, either publishing their own blog or reading blogs.
Most encouraging to us was the fact that a strong majority (67%) of respondents agreed with the following statement: "I believe that Web 2.0 tools are viable tools for business applications." Now that is precisely the foundation for learning that we plan to build upon tomorrow. Thanks to this valuable, advance information from our audience, we have content that has been carefully tailored to their needs.

The event is sponsored by The State Journal, SCORE, and the West Virginia Small Business Development Center. We greatly appreciate their support.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

WV Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus

It is always a pleasure to speak with the talented and energetic folks who are West Virginia's ambassadors and leaders in travel and tourism. If you are visiting by way of our meeting at the West Virginia Association of Convention and Vistors Bureaus Annual Conference, I welcome you. And I cannot wait to hear about the launch of your own travel/promotion blog.

Here's a link to my presentation slides. They are uploaded to Slideshare, and you can view them online or download them. [Please be sure to attribute quotes to appropriate authors. Thanks.]

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Development and Capital Investment in Morgantown

This is what development looks like in the environment of a vibrant economy. The photo at left is the Boathouse Bistro in Morgantown, West Virginia. Sure, one might say, "anyone can build a new restaurant." But if I had turned around and snapped another photo, you would have seen a shot of the new, under-construction Marina Tower office buidling. Connecting all of this is the Morgantown Riverwalk path. It is undeniably cool and convenient to be able to set out on foot from the Waterfront Place Hotel and walk to several appealing destinations, such as the ampitheater, the rail trail, Oliverio's (and several other eating/drinking establishements) and around a dozen office locations. In addition to the capital injection downtown, there's a $1.2 billion capital investment underway in the county with the new Longview Power plant.

Yes, there is traffic to contend with (and they are working on solutions), but Morgantown has energy and momentum. It is envigorating to come here. Part of the success comes from the University's presence here. From my perspective, the other part ... the Morgantown "Tipping Point" was the decision by its leaders to embrace and leverage the power and impact of their river, the Monongalia River. That has spurred capital investment, which fuels development ... and momentum ensues.

My visionary friend, Jeff James and I landed on an outlandish (maybe not, once you ponder it) idea that our state should connect Morgantown and Charleston via light rail. As Jeff said, "They ought to just extend the Personal Rapid Transit system (or PRT) from Morgantown to Charleston." And so what originated as an off-handed remark makes all the sense in the world.
  • Saves gas - in a time in which gas prices are only going to rise.
  • Improves and enriches the travel experience.
  • Adds convenience for the traveler.
  • Alleviates traffic congestion.
  • Decreases traffic accidents.
Who agrees? Who disagrees? Let us hear from all marketing geniuses on this topic, please!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Marketing an Athlete: Pat White for Heisman

West Virginia University's athletic department and its head football coach have decided to actively promote Pat White as a Heisman Trophy candidate. White, the Mountaineer's talented and accomplished quarterback, has all the right stuff. He's a great kid with a wonderful attitude, plus phenomenal athletic skills. Perhaps most importantly, he is a proven winner.

Details of the University's decision (a no-brainer in my opinion) and Pat White's credentials are well documented in today's Daily Mail column by sportswriter Jack Bogaczyk.

Here's my question to you, marketing geniuses: What would you do to generate publicity and create buzz in support of Pat White to maximize his chances of winning the coveted Heisman Trophy, college football's top individual honor? Put your sports information director (or athletic director) hat on ... and let's have some suggestions. Please post your suggestions as a comment below.

By the way the award is decided by a voting process by the members of the Downtown Athletic Club of New York. It will be awarded in early December of 2008. More about the award here.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Did You Use Quicken, TurboTax or Quickbooks Today?

Today was Tax Day in America. If you used Quicken, TurboTax or QuickBooks to help prepare your tax filing, you were not alone. You were joined by millions of Americans who use software created and produced by Inuit Corp. And you can thank the guy in the photo at the left.

Intuit's President and CEO is West Virginia native, Brad Smith. He has graciously agreed to come and serve as the keynote speaker for the Charleston Area Alliance's Annual Celebration on May 6th. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to hear from one of the nation's technology leaders. We are so fortunate to have Brad coming to this great event, and I hope you will join me in attending and learing how Brad's West Virginia roots have shaped his leadership style.

When it comes to leadership, Brad Smith is a highly accomplished and successful leader. Upon joining Intuit, he had a meteoric and battle-tested rise to the top. Serving in each of the company's five business units over an intensive, five-year period, Brad became known as the leader within Intuit who could "sell" change to the employees. As many of you know, there are not many challenges tougher than getting several hundred employees to embrace and accept new programs, new ways of doing thing or new ideas. He did it, establishing himself as a true leader and change agent.

It never ceases to amaze me how many corporate leaders come from West Virginia! Brad Smith is a native of Kenova, West Virginia. After attending Marshall University, Brad went on to graduate studies at Aquinas College in Michigan. His prior corporate experience includes Pepsi, ADP and Advo. Brad's full bio is here.
Please register now to attend. Don't miss this tremendous learning opportunity!

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Next Generation Marketing - a unique learning opportunity

Over the past several years, I've done dozens of bootstrap marketing seminars and other "marketing overview" one-hour presentations. Invariably, the attendees request additional training for more in-depth marketing, or more advanced training, especially on the latest Web 2.0 and social media tactics. Jeff James of Mythology Marketing and Justin Seibert of Direct Online Marketing have shared similar experiences and similar feedback. Finally, we have decided to give you what you want. I am looking forward to collaborating with these two fine marketing geniuses, for whom I have great respect.

Next Generation Marketing is officially "on." We have put together a full-day seminar of advanced marketing content. This seminar is for experienced marketing executives; it is not beginner level content. We will be emphasizing the new marketing tactics (Web 2.0, social media, search engine strategies, etc.) with a special focus on accountability and marketing ROI.

We'll be hitting five cities in a 30-day span from April 30 through May 22. In fact, we are declaring: May is Marketing Month!

April 30 - Martinsburg - Holiday Inn
May 13 - Huntington - Pullman Plaza Hotel
May 14 - Charleston - Embassy Suites
May 21 - Wheeling - Wheeling Island Resort
May 22 - Morgantown - Waterfront Place Hotel

In addition to our trio, we will have one or more "marketing superstars" as guest presenters. So far, these include the top marketing execs from CAMC and Snowshoe. We'll keep you posted as the other superstars are booked. We have an exciting group of sponsors forming too, including The State Journal and Continental Airlines.

We hope you will make plans to attend. Jump on our event Web site to get all the details and to register online.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Next Generation Marketing: Personal Perspective

In the past two weeks ...
Number of network TV shows I've watched: 0
Number of new RSS feeds I've added to my feed reader: 10
Number of new Twitter feeds I have begun following: 15
Number of new Facebook friends I have added: 5

In the past month ...
Number of books I've purchased from a bookstore: 0
Number of books I've bought from online vendors: 4

Who's reaching me lately with persuasive messages ...

Via traditional media/advertising: no one.
Via next generation marketing: bloggers, twitter users, Facebook users and authors who get Next Generation Marketing.

Am I unique? Not so much. I would say that a shift has occured. What do you say? What's your experience?

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What Do You See? A Puddle Puzzler

First, the shroud of Turin. Then, the piece of toast, followed by the Jesus Cow on Saving Grace. And now this...?

Do you see a shape in this puddle? Or is this puddle a puzzler to you?

Background story: We had tons of rain in February and March. Puddles on the sidewalks and in the streets were not uncommon. But, to my eye, at least, this particular puddle represented a welcome and familiar shape. This puddle was not a wild puddle, but more along the lines of wonderful. I had seen it several times before taking the time to snap a photo of it with my mobile cam on my Treo. As soon as I looked at the thumbnail, it felt like ... well ... almost heaven.

Rick Lee is at least partially, if not fully responsible, for warping my brain in such manner. I'm banking on the fact that Rick will see it.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Do Agencies Get Social Media?

Friend, blogger and marketing genius, Tom Pick of Web Market Central posted this interesting commentary recently. (Perhaps I found it interesting because he cited our firm. Thanks for the compliment, Tom!)

Tom's thesis is that smaller marketing consulting firms, like ours, are exploring and implementing social media tools (such as this blog), while larger traditional agencies are still relying upon traditional tactics like advertising and PR.

While this is true and we are, indeed, exploring and learning about new ways to communicate and promote, we have not completely abandoned traditional media. Our soapbox philosophy and credo remains: success lies in creating aligned layers of strategic marketing tactics. The Web, blogs, Facebook and Twitter are new, promising (and exciting) channels--not the answer. In fact, we hold as truth the belief that there is no such thing as the answer. Each client is different; each situation with corresponding objectives and audience targets is unique.

Part of the beauty of Web 2.0 and social networking is the relationship aspect. I have not met Tom Pick (in person). Yet, we are working together to share ideas and to promote the best of what the other is doing. And once you jump onboard with social media and embrace the concept, you will meet dozens of allies. I certainly have, and I consider it a true blessing.

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Time Machiner: I Can Imagine This Being Very Useful

Thanks to Kevin Kelly's blog post today I learned about Time Machiner. It is a service that allows you to send e-mail in the future. You can think of it today .... send it .... and have it delivered later. This is one of those applications or ideas that is so simple that it's beautiful.

Want to remind yourself and a staff person about a quarterly review meeting. Handle all of the reminder e-mail messages today with Time Machiner. Need to inquire with a customer periodically about a pending proposal? Time Machiner could be your ticket.

Now for all of you tekkies out there, I will admit: there's probably built-in way to do this in Microsoft Outlook (maybe there's a send later function?). If so, it is not straightforward or simple. Granted, I can also see where not all of these tasks are best suited for email. However, e-mail is what 98% of the world utilizes. Plus, the ease and convenience of a Web application makes a nice format for something like this. I believe strongly that simple beats complicated in all but the rarest of cases.

It's not hard to think of applications for this, is it? How might you utilize it to make your life easier or your work more productive?

PS - For those who are unfamiliar, Kevin Kelly is the founder of Wired magazine, which is my favorite read. His blog is great, too. I highly recommend both!

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Packed House. Standing Room Only. Full Media Coverage

The words in the headline of this article represent a successful event. Those words equate to what good looks like, from our clients' perspective.

Successful events require skill and tenacity ... and even a bit of luck.

Skill - you have to know how to do it. We rely upon our trusted RSVP process to guide us in strategy. Then, we rely upon talented professionals, failsafe systems, flawless execution to get the job done. You have to understand when and how to contact the media (if they are part of the event mix).

Tenacity - when things go wrong, or break or fail to show up (and they always do), you have to have the wits and the toughness to work through such adversity. Plus, you have to have the confidence and poise to avoid getting flustered.

Luck - you have to be lucky in the sense that bad weather, a natural disaster, a competing event or major world news event can hurt your event's attendance. Stuff happens.

Personally, I truly love working on events... love conceptualizing, planning, promoting and working events. And I love the high stakes nature of events. Many of my colleagues at Maple do, too. Regarding our performance in this area of our practice, Maple is "undefeated." Every single time, without exception, the results are: packed house, standing room only, full media coverage.

The photo above was taken at our most recent event, the public announcement ceremony for a tourism project in Beckley, West Virginia. See the packed house. You can see a few pieces of media gear, too.

No one does events better than Maple. That's not arrogance. It is, perhaps, pride in what we do ... and the passion that we bring to our work. And I make no apologies for such statements.

Whenever someone is engaged in something that they love, isn't it magic? Isn't it beautiful to see passion in action! Can passion rightfully applied ever be defeated?

This next photo below shows Michael Haid and I passionately engaged in our work at the event. It was taken just prior to the start of the press ceremony. Look closely and you'll also see the nice stage setup, the backdrop and the phenomenal artistry that our design team does on brand identity. More details about the event and the project are available here.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

West Virginia's Business Potential in a Web 2.0 World

Jason Keeling and I will present “Business for Breakfast” at the Charleston Marriott’s Whitewater Grille, on April 25, from 7:30-8:30 a.m. The focus will be Web 2.0: Blogs, Pods and Twitters — How Emerging Internet Technologies Can Enhance Business Communications. We’ll consider the growing importance of blogs, podcasts, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. We will discuss the significance of these technologies to West Virginia businesses and organizations. We are also utilizing Zoomerang to poll our audience in advance of the presentation to assess their familiarity, needs and expectations.

Pre-registration at is appreciated. The event is sponsored by The State Journal, SCORE, and the West Virginia Small Business Development Center.

Add questions and comments here or at aBetterWestVirginia to get the conversation started early.

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