Archive for 'brand'

International Last Minute Travel On A Budget

I’m traveling to Northern Spain (Priorat) for a week in wine country the last week in May. The trip was somewhat of a last minute decision – I had wanted to go as part of a tour (through The Wine School of Philadelphia, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Seriously, if you love wine and you’re close to Philly, stop in for a class – you won’t be disappointed.), but the tour sold out before I could join. A few days ago, there was a cancellation and I seized the opportunity.

So now, I have less than three weeks to plan my trip (and learn enough Spanish to get by!) The tour is providing accommodations, but each of us must find our own way to the villa. Here are some tips I’ve picked these last few days about planning a last minute trip.

Logistics

Of course, you can’t travel out of the country without a passport these days. I already have one, so thankfully, I don’t have to worry about applying for one and hoping it arrives in time.

As a safety precaution, I’ve checked the CDC website to make sure I don’t need any obscure shots or medicine to take with me. Spain seems to be fairly safe, but having traveled to Belize and Guatemala previously, I can say it’s best to get your appropriate shots well in advance – and stock up on any medications you might need (like Malaria drugs). I’ve also been assembling a basic medical kit.

Currency

You hear how bad the US economy is every day, but it doesn’t hit you until you go to exchange your Dollars for Euros. The going rate today is $1 = .648 Euros. (Last year at this time, it was about $1 = .74 Euros.) And if I’m reading this website correctly, a gallon of gasoline (3.78 liters) is around $7.00. On the bright side, AAA doesn’t charge you an exchange rate.

Getting Cheap Airfare

Trying to get a cheap flight without too long of a layover has been a fascinating experience. I’ve learned that there really isn’t much rhyme or reason to how airlines price tickets – other than they’re seeking to fill as many seats as possible at any given time. What that means is that in a matter of hours (or the next day), you can be quoted a drastically different price for (seemingly) comparable flights.

On Sunday/Monday, when I checked various airline sites (Sidestep.com, CheapTickets.com, CheapOAir.com, Priceline.com), I was looking around at least $1100 for a flight from Philly to Spain with unless I was willing to take a 12 hour layover (no thank you). Tuesday morning when I checked back, I found a brand new option – I could fly through Paris with a four hour layover for around $750 (but I only found this deal on one site – all the others are much more expensive.) Not wanting to press my luck too much, I jumped on that. (For comparison, that’s about one-third the price of a non-stop flight.)

Some other things I picked up on saving money besides shopping around:

  • If you can, be flexible with the dates you’ll be traveling.
  • Try flying to a cheaper airport.

Neither of those applies to my trip, but they’re good to know.

Rent a Car

I had no idea that virtually all cars in Spain were manual transmission (I guess it’s not surprising, given the gas prices) – which means renting one is considerably cheaper than renting an automatic transmission. Compact, manual transmission cars start at about half the price of the cheapest automatic car I found – and most were much more expensive than that. Most of the travel sites have car rental options, but the cheapest site I’ve found (so far) is AutoEurope.com. I’m also told that it’s far cheaper to book your car in advance than at the airport.

On another note, if you plan on renting a car, it helps to pick up an International Driver’s Permit from your local AAA. I talked with someone on the phone today, and she said the process is fast and painless – you just need to bring two passport photos and the $15 fee. They can create them on the spot in about 10 minutes.

I’m still looking into options to save on auto insurance. I believe AAA and (possibly) some credit cards will cover you so you don’t have to pay the outrageous rental insurance prices.

Learning the Language

If only there was more time… I admit, my choice for a crash course in Spanish isn’t cheap, but so far, the lessons have been pretty good. I bought the Pimsleur Spanish series, and have been practicing for one-to-two hours each day. My goal is to at least be able to give taxi-drivers directions to my villa (not that I’ll be taking a taxi, but I’ve had some crazy experiences in Mexico with Spanish-only speaking cab drivers and I’d prefer not to go through that again.)

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So, have any of you been to Northern Spain? The place where I’m staying is about a two hour drive west from Barcelona, so I’m open to suggestions for day trips, restaurants, wineries, etc.

Book Review: Conversation Marketing

Author: Ian Lurie

Approaching prospects and customers as if you’re just having a conversation tailored specifically for their situation is a great way to better connect with them and ultimately get them to buy. That’s the basic premise of the book, and I found it to be a good, albeit short, read.

Since the book IS so short, this is a quick read for anyone looking for ideas on a different approach to marketing their goods or services. It’s to the point and delivers some good food for thought.

Overall, I’d recommend Conversation Marketing although it won’t give you a brand spanking new approach to try. There are a lot of books that touch upon this concept (Seth Godin talks a lot about it in his books) so the odds of you having read other works that deliver the same basic message are pretty good if you’re into this sort of thing.

Stupid Slogans – Where's the Creativity?

The past two days, I (Roger) have hoarded myself up in a hotel outside of Cincinnati (Florence, KY to be exact). The main reason for the trip was to attend the Social Media Breakfast, but the secondary reason was to get myself out of my own comfort zone to hopefully stimulate some creativity.

During my stay, I’ve watched limited television, but I happened to catch a couple of commercials that stood out for their complete lack of creativity. There are a couple of outfits in Louisville that use “slogans” (loosely stated) that I was shocked to hear duplicated in Cincinnati.

Yes, Cincinnati and Louisville are not far apart so it’s not crazy to see or hear such a thing, but I’m guessing the companies utilizing the slogans paid very little to a professional agency or developed them in house. When someone develops their slogan in house, they are hesitant to listen to anyone outside of the organization because they believe “it’s cute,” or (worse) the money they saved allows them to air the ad more frequently which means we, the public, have to endure the crap. No, scratch that–we have to change the channel when their garbage pollutes the airwaves.

We Sell ’em Cheap, Cheap, Cheap

For instance, Springhurst Chevrolet in Louisville uses the phrase “we can’t be beat because we sell them so cheap, cheap, cheap.” Isn’t that a stroke of creative genius? Another rhyming slogan. Wonder how much the decision makers paid their children to come up with that one? They probably treated the kids to a night at the local ice cream shop next door. If so, they paid too much although the kids probably appreciate the treats. I thought that was bad enough, but there is an outfit in Cincinnati using the same slogan to push their product. Unfortunately, I was only halfway paying attention so I can’t call out the business by name and link to them but when I heard the phrase, I couldn’t believe my ears. Who thinks this is effective? If you’re claiming to save me money, just say that. Nobody wants cheap, but we do like to save money. On second thought, Chevrolet does produce a lot of garbage, but I digress.

Experience the Dumb Company Difference

Two former employers of mine used the <sarcasm> highly creative phrase </sarcasm> “experience the [company name] difference” as their slogans. What difference? Spell it out for me! You telling me you’re different doesn’t make you different. Tell me something that would make me take notice of your company or your brand, or at least tell me what you’re trying to do for me from a benefit perspective. “We save you money on [whatever]” is better than “experience the dumb company difference.” Unfortunately, both companies are competitors in the same industry so that makes them stand out even less.

We’re the Best, Forget the Rest

Another pet peeve slogan is where a company suggests “we are the best so forget the rest.” Isn’t that cute that it rhymes? Unfortunately, I can’t call one specific company out for violating this failed slogan, but it would be nice to know what the thinking process is when a company signs off on utilizing a slogan like this as their advertising and marketing centerpiece.

What’s Your Least Favorite Slogan or Catch Phrase?

What’s a slogan you have heard lately that grates on your nerves or is flat out stupid? Let me hear from you. I’ll create another post that puts your name in lights on the site. Ok, maybe not lights, but I’ll gladly quote you and link back to you if you’re looking for some SEO love.

Cincinnati Social Media Breakfast Review

This morning (April 29, 2008), I (Roger) attended a social media breakfast in Cincinnati at the Holiday Inn in Newport that was “headlined” or “emceed” (whatever term you’d prefer to toss in here works for me) by Albert Maruggi. One of the primary reasons I decided to attend was that I’ve listened to Albert’s podcast, The Marketing Edge, for quite some time and have enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s always nice to meet the human behind all of it in person versus text in an e-mail, blog posting, or Twitter exchange. Additionally, there are a few people that I’ve interacted with on-line that I thought would be nice to meet in person so this was a great opportunity to do that although early mornings are extremely rough on me and always have been.

Early morning whining aside, here’s a rundown from my perspective of the event:

Attendees in Cincinnati:

The group that made it out for the event wasn’t large in numbers, but it was obvious that there were a lot of talented folks that had opinions about social media and its place within business. WIth apologies ahead of time to anyone I neglect to mention, here is a list of people in attendance along with links to their business , primary content outlet (such as a blog or podcast site) or Twitter profile (in case you wish to follow them).

Twitter Implications for Business

The conversation began with Jason Falls sharing his experience about Twittering about Robby Gordon for Jim Beam for the Baja 1000 and how this took Jim Beam to a new level of marketing and created a unique following. Other drivers’ crews got wind of what Jason was doing and sent him updates to Twitter about them as well. This spurred on further conversation about Twitter and how it can be used for business in addition to getting to know someone better.

The recent earthquake in the Ohio Valley that shook Louisville and the Ohio Valley a bit was discussed. It was mostly agreed that all of the information the media, local and national, was begging for was readily available on Twitter if anyone elected to look there, but they seemed to request information and personal stories through more traditional mechanisms such as the telephone and e-mail. Jason estimated that it took something like 37 minutes from the time he first noticed something on Twitter about the earthquake to when a media outlet reported something.

Albert offered up the Next Newsroom initiative and how that may impact journalism as we know it today which sparked a good portion of our friendly debates this morning.

Citizen Journalism – The Future?

There was a lengthier debate about citizen journalism and how that can be effectively managed and embraced by traditional media. The suggestion was made that print media HAS to get their story right the first time whereas on-line media (blogs in particular) can go back and edit their story should there be inaccuracies. In print, this can be very damaging so traditional media errs heavily on the side of caution and verifiable sources before running with a story. Things will likely remain this way for print because of the ramifications of erroneous reporting.

It was also suggested that it’s nearly impossible for traditional media to open up the publication gates to allow herds of citizen journalists into the fray because the average reader won’t automatically get the fact that it’s not a trained writer and that the facts may not be 100% verified versus someone expressing their thoughts and opinions like they can with blogs and social media.

Albert stated that the Next Newsroom Project is offering training for citizen journalists so that they are more responsible with their reporting and can become a valued resource to the community they aim to serve. Something to keep an eye on.

Some random thoughts and out-takes:

  • Newsvine is good at weeding out quality content
  • Digg is not so good for community based stuff yet is good for articles and content discovery
  • Cinplify.com was mentioned as a local (Cincinnati) resource that is similar to Digg
  • Albert mentioned how StumbleUpon is driving a lot of traffic to his sites while others mentioned how Twitter is doing the same for theirs (personal note: I’ve seen about 1/4 of our recent referral traffic from Twitter to Zing’s main site)
  • Archive.org keeps track of the history of sites and its content
  • Think about how you’re going to brand yourself before you enter into the social media sphere; if you’re to use your full name, consider the implications down the road should you wish to “re-invent” yourself–that history isn’t going to disappear quickly
  • Any site based on an algorithm can be gamed because it generally takes just one element of the algorithm to exploit it; once that element is figured out, the game is on!

Overall, this was a top notch meeting and a lot of healthy debate took place. I’m glad I made the trek and met more interesting people that I can socialize with on and off-line. I am looking forward to interacting more with those in attendance this morning and learning various perspectives on social media as they pertain to business. Thanks to all of you!

If you were in attendance, what was your take? Did I miss something major? Did I spell your name wrong? 😉 Please let me hear from you.

Inaugural Zing Presentation Review

Today, Ken, Watson, and I (Roger) headed to Wilson Muir Bank in St. Matthews bright and early to give our first official Zing Presentation to a small group of business owners from around Louisville. We discussed the impact personalized marketing has on increasing revenue; sales and marketing alignment; standing out amongst the massive amounts of marketing clutter; “The Hourglass Precept” and how that came about along with automated marketing campaigns. A tad bit of time was dedicated to our partnership with Infusion and how various automated marketing campaigns can provide a consistent experience for the customer and eliminate unnecessary phone calls a sales rep has to make to warm up leads.

In attendance were:

It dawned on me during the presentation how our organization has really evolved over the last year or so when we began flirting with the idea of partnering on something together. It made me very proud to have gone through the experience with Ken and Watson even though there have been some bumps in the road, but what worthwhile venture doesn’t experience that?

When we began, we thought we were going to be more of a lead and awareness generation type of outfit, then we came to realize that we were getting deeper into the sales funnel which ultimately led us to focusing on helping clients increase revenue by capitalizing on the entire sales “hourglass” instead of just the top part of it (the traditional sales funnel). The bottom half of the hourglass focuses on repeat purchases, building customer loyalty and creating ambassadors for your brand. Worthwhile stuff indeed.

Some of the things to come out of the dialogue amongst the group was that the focus on the bottom half of the hourglass is a good place to focus to help our clients increase sales. That seemed to be a consensus although each attendee had different perspectives on what they heard.

Todd Smith of Formwood, who happens to be the king of great metaphors, stated that the key for him when considering any initiative is “return on time” or ROT for short. We’re planning to use that term more in the future as it really captures the essence of automated marketing. One of the initial metaphors Todd shared with us the first time we all met was that he was trying to keep his organization from “swinging at pitches in the dirt.” That’s well stated, and it summarizes what a lot of organizations go through as they grow. Too many wasted swings at bad pitches that can’t be hit with a boat oar. Anyway, Todd is always great to talk to because there will usually be a nifty takeaway that is applicable across a wide array of situations.

Overall, I thought this was a very good introduction of Zing to the local business public and something we can definitely build upon. As of this post, we’re tentatively planning to have our next presentation on April 15, but that may be delayed one week due to vacation plans and event coordination considerations. Check the blog for more details as one of us will post something when there are more details ironed out. I hope you can join us for one of our next outings.

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