Archive for 'opinion'

Your Opinion: Sales & Marketing Training Course?

We are considering hosting a weekly sales & marketing development webinar aimed at small businesses interested in growing their businesses rapidly.  The course would last 8-12 weeks depending upon content and feedback.  Two questions:

  1. Would this be of interest to you?
  2. What days and times would work best for you?

Thanks in advance for your feedback, and we’ll keep you posted on our training programs.

Corporate Offices: Do They Matter?

Earlier today, I got into a mild debate about the phone number displayed in one of my recent videos. The number is to my home that doubles as my current office. To me, it’s not a big deal, but the suggestion was made that it might be frowned upon by the companies we are targeting as potential clients. I didn’t give it much thought, but maybe there’s something to it that I’m completely missing.

Legitimacy?

Some may be swayed to believe we’re not a legitimate entity because we’re not housed in a big square building, but I would argue that knowledge is knowledge, and talent is talent so what difference does it make if someone calls me at a home/office or a corporate like structure? Does it really matter anymore if someone with knowledge, talent, and ability calls their office “home” or if it’s a true office structure?

Spanx Started as a Home Grown Business

Furthermore, do the women who buy Spanx get offended when they learn Sarah Blakely started out in her apartment and worked for two years from there before hitting the big-time? Her firm now generates over $150 million in revenue. (NOTE: if you click on the link in Sarah’s name you’ll be taken to a video where she mentions Oprah coming to visit her in Atlanta and wanting to film her in her “corporate office” which happened to be her apartment at the time.)

What’s Your Opinion?

If it were your business, would you care if an outsider you were about to hire to help grow your business worked out of their home, or does it mean something to you that they have an office structure that serves as headquarters? Let me hear your thoughts either way as I’d like to learn what decision makers think about this topic.

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.

Social Media Club Louisville: Meeting 3 Review

The SMC of Louisville met last evening (April 15, 2008) at The Fox & Hound. It was a very large group, and everyone seemingly had an excellent time although the actual presentation was hampered a bit by the loud music in the adjoining rooms. That’s no-one’s fault, and it didn’t negatively impact my experience one iota. Then again, bars are more of my element anyway. 😉

General Overview

Jason Falls played the role of “MC” for the event, and he started the evening with an excellent point–there is a lot of Social Media and Internet talent right here in Louisville, KY. The ‘Ville sometimes gets a bad rep from other locales as being backwards, country, redneck, hillbilly, etc., but there is a LOT of Internet talent in the River City, and a lot of people are stepping out and really leveraging social media in a big way. I couldn’t agree more with Jason’s opening statements. Next time you’re chatting with someone “in the know,” ask them to list the best people they’ve come across for doing something online, and chances are you might hear of someone from Louisville mentioned in the top 10.

Joining Jason on the “panel” for the evening were: Rob May of BusinessPundit fame, Chris Pearson, and Michelle Jones. All are very influential in their space and extremely talented. Each person shared their experience of how they came to blog and join the social media landscape along with some keys to success from their perspective.

Rob’s main takeaway for the evening could be summed up with Jim Rome’s radio show tagline for callers–“Have a Take and Don’t Suck!” Rob encouraged everyone attending to get involved online by being different. He said the key is to share personal experiences, controversy and/or strong opinions, or something that provides value to the reader. There are far too many “me, too” blogs and websites out there, and standing out requires being unique while contributing value. I concur with Rob’s core message for the evening.

Chris Pearson spoke next about getting people involved and engaging with you. If no one is contributing to your efforts with comments, links, or reviews, you’re essentially yelling into the wind where no one is listening. When you write or create online content, Chris contends, make it engaging and encourage participation through feedback or SOMETHING. Again, an excellent point.

No offense to Michelle, but it was most difficult for me to hear her (I was in the back of the room) so my notes are rather hazy. I did gather that she’s very passionate about Louisville, and that’s what propelled her to do something online in the first place. I believe one of her keys was to seek out something you’re passionate about and run with it because the passion will guide you in the right direction. (Michelle, I welcome your correction if I mis-heard you). She also encouraged the audience to give comments and feedback to get it. Another great point–a lot of bloggers or content creators think that if they create a great piece of content that floods of traffic will come flying in, and it doesn’t quite work that way. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way on several occasions, and I’m still wrestling with it.

Keys to Success

Jason then added more informative nuggets including:

  • Network regularly with someone that has a large following; eventually their followings’ curiosity will get the best of them, and they’ll check you out.
  • Try to network with your on-line contacts off-line, too. This can be extremely powerful!
  • Spread others’ messages to your following–“sneeze” their takes and opinions; this is in-line with the give to get philosophy; if you find something worth sharing, share it!
  • Have realistic expectations when you attempt to leverage social media for your business; don’t expect to enter the social media universe with the unrealistic expectation of generating a flood of business in short order–it takes time to build relationships off-line, and on-line is no different. This was one of my favorite points of the night because I’ve had similar conversations with potential clients, and they look at me like I have three heads when I say “your social media initiative ROI likely won’t be very good for awhile, but it could really pack a punch down the road.” Those aren’t popular words with executives, but they’re realistic if nothing else. Glad to hear Jason reiterate the point to the group although I’m guessing this particular audience already “gets it.” It’s their bosses that may not understand yet, and they need to hear this if they have aspirations of on-line/social media success.

Monetizing Social Media

The panel went on to discuss ways to make money with social media which was very interesting. Rob suggested building a valuable site (high PageRank, lots of visitors, a mini-community, etc.) before trying to leverage it as a profit center.

Some other takeaways:

  • Run your social media (blogging in particular) initiatives like a business–you have to invest resources just as you would a new division of your company. This is no different. I concur wholeheartedly, and I believe this is where a lot of companies miss the boat. They believe in the field of dreams approach and don’t understand that a consistent effort is what it’ll take to become successful online within the social media world.
  • Overall, there was a repeated theme amongst the panel of find those with a following and work to appeal to them. Do your homework and make sure it’s relevant. Also, make sure your style and overall approach meshes with the people you’re trying to appeal to. For example, it makes little sense to pitch PC related products to passionate Apple users.
  • Give to get was another popular theme amongst the panel, and that’s a great approach regardless of the business endeavor.
  • Be consistent with your frequency, tonality, and general message.
  • Be transparent and genuine–don’t hide behind anonymous handles or names or try to pretend to be something you’re not. People on-line can sniff out a fake rapidly, and the repercussions could be very damaging and costly. Word travels at light speed on-line, and you don’t want to draw the wrath of an upset and motivated community.

Off-line Socialization

Among the people I met for the first time:

  • Sarah Sapora of corecubed who moved here from Las Vegas and is excited to be involved with core and Louisville in general. Sarah was making her maiden voyage into the SMC so please welcome Sarah!
  • Stephen Harmon of HarmonWeddings.com–Stephen is a wedding photographer that also does business related photography.
  • Susan Gosselin of Gosselin Communications–Susan is involved in Public Relations and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with potential and existing clients.
  • Ed Bennett who is a freelance copywriter and used to work for the Courier Journal for several years. Ed and I had several great conversations about social media, the apparent direction of the CJ compared with the days of old, events from Louisville’s past including the tornadoes of 1974 (I was only 3 years old yet remember the day vividly believe it or not), and we freely admitted to each other that neither of us is comfortable in front of a camera so writing is a much better outlet for us.

Personal Experience & Summary

Overall, this was a great evening and event. I had a lot of fun, met some very neat “new” people (they’re technically not new just new to me), and learned something. The beer was very good and the staff at Fox & Hound was attentive, friendly and attractive which never hurts.If you didn’t get a chance to attend, I hope you make it to the next meeting. This is a growing community that is taking on a personality of its own. If you were there, I encourage you to share your thoughts on anything you’ve read here or anything I may have missed.

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