Marketing and Promotion — Do you have an idea file?

A question to ask yourself each night is:

 What have you done to promote your business today?

Other valuable questions are: 

  • What did you learn today?
  • What new promotion did you hear about this week that you could adopt or adapt for your business?
  • What technique did you read about that could make your business more efficient?
  • What new website did you hear about that can help your business?

Rick Siegel, a master at retail selling, suggests creating an idea book.  This is something I have been doing for years but I have called it a swipe file.

You can use a file on your computer, buy a notebook just for the “idea file” purpose, or set up a folder in your filing system or even use all three methods.  Each and every time you read or hear something that you could use and adapt, add it to your “idea file”.

 I collect ads, from every kind of publication ranging from the daily newspaper, the Wall Street Journal and even AARP magazine, that trigger an ah-ha moment.  Looking through this file, ideas are generated for headlines, graphics, and even descriptions.  It’s like having more brains than my own working together to create effective marketing materials.

For example, an ad that I cut out of the Wall Street Journal several years ago was something about an investment company not being a cookie-cutter company.  I took the idea from my “swipe file” and created an ad with a graphic of a gingerbread man and the headline “Creative Gifts To Go is not a cookie-cutter gift business.”

Try an “idea file” for yourself.  I think you’ll be surprised at how helpful it can be

Be Honest With Green Claims – FTC Cracks Down

Being “Green” is all the rage.  Companies all over the web are claiming to be green, to sell green products, etc.  But make sure your claims are true or you could be subject to both embarrassment and fines.

According to a news flash from ASICentral: “The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged four apparel manufacturers with deceptively marketing their products as eco-friendly when the companies’ production processes were, in fact, harmful to the environment. “With the tremendous expansion of green claims in today’s marketplace, it is particularly important for the FTC to address deceptive environmental claims,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The accused companies, which use the business names of Jonäno, Mad Mod, Pure Bamboo and Bamboosa, have claimed some of their clothing products are made from bamboo fiber. Instead, the FTC says those clothes are actually made of rayon, a man-made fiber created from the cellulose found in plants and trees and processed with a harsh chemical. With its latest action, the FTC is pledging to more tightly scrutinize greenwashing, a term used to describe unsubstantiated environmental claims about products. “When companies sell products woven from man-made fibers, such as rayon,” Vladeck says, “it is important that they accurately label and advertise those products.”

To support fair advertising among manufacturers, the FTC has produced a new publication designed to help businesses properly sell clothing and textile products that are made from bamboo. For more information and for FTC compliance rules, go to:

Promotions That Backfire!

As part of the advertising promotion for their new “grilled chicken meals”, Kentucky Fried Chicken offered a coupon on the internet for a “Free 2-piece meal.”  This offer came out last week and was set up to expire on May 19th.  The company ended the promotion on Thursday, May 7th, 2 days after the offer was made.

Why?  Because they didn’t plan for the inevitable.  The internet is a wild place with FREE offers flying through it via emails and posts on blogs.  As a result, companies were sending the link to all their employees.  Friends were sharing with other friends and even people they didn’t know.  Coupons were printed out, photocopied, and taken in to KFC by the handfuls.

KFC isn’t going to totally back down on the promises made to the legitimate customers who followed the instructions, printed off the maximum of 4 coupons, and didn’t reproduce them and hand them out willy-nilly.  But, they are making it less likely for even those legitimate customers to be serviced.  You have to take your coupon in to KFC, receive a form to fill out, put a 42 cent stamp on an envelope, and mail it in. KFC will then mail the customer a new coupon. 

This is a promotion, that as a result of not being properly planned and thought out, will lose more customers for KFC than it will gain.  When you plan a promotion or gimmick to attract new customers, sit down and think through all the possibilities of ways that unscrupulous customers could take advantage of you and then head those possibilities off before rather than after. 

Promotions, such as this one by KFC, are wonderful ways to introduce new products or to remind former customers that you’re still around.  But be careful.  Think through the whole promotion very carefully.  Or, like KFC, it could backfire on you.

Are you targeting your advertising to the right person?

“…enjoying retirement.  Playing golf.  Joining a quilting club.  Having lunch with new friends.”  This was part of an ad that I just heard on my radio, targeted to senior citizens who were looking for a retirement community. 

I’m in that age bracket, age 67 to be exact BUT this ad didn’t entice me.  Instead it got my dander up and is the reason for this post.   A few days ago, I made another post about another lady that lived a life of inspiring others until her death at the age of 78.    Playing golf?  A Quilting Club?  Nothing to do all day but have lunch with friends?  That’s not living.  To me, that is slowly dying. The  example set by Eleanor Roosevelt is the kind of retirement that I am living daily and plan to live until the day I die.

Now that I’ve got that rant out of the way, you are probably wondering what in the world does this have to do with the gift business?  A lot. 

When you run a print ad, a radio ad, or even send out an email, or make a phone call, know your target customers and know them well.  This particular radio ad probably did zero in on exactly the type of person who would be interested in spending the final years of their life in a retirement community with planned daily activities.  But it failed to entice someone like me, who fits the profile of their target audience.

When you run your ads, it’s good to have in mind a profile of a particular type of customer you want to reach with that ad.  But remember that there are all kinds of people and no single profile can be all encompassing.  For example, you target the 40 to 50 year old working female.  This could be a career woman, who has worked all her life, climbing the ladder of success.  It could be a former stay-at-home mom who has returned to work after the kids are older to have some extra money.  Or it could be the wife of a man who has lost his job and her income is the only source of support as they struggle to pay their bills and ward off foreclosure.  It could be a 40-year-old new Mom or a 40-year-old grandmother.

See what I mean?  Be careful how you profile your target market.  Make it as broad as you possibly can while zeroing in on the group that would be most likely candidates for your gift baskets or other products.

Creating Trust For Your Business

“Four Star Restaurant and Coffee Shop”

These were the  words in an ad in my local newspaper today for a coffee shop that has been open less than a year and has just begun adding dinner to their coffee shop menu.  Perhaps I am alone (but I don’t think so), when my thoughts were, “Said who?  You?”

Last week, I received an email newsletter from another local business.  There was a glowing testimonial signed simply “Anonymous cosmotologist” .

Did either of these ads do what they intended — make me trust their business because it was recommended by others?  No.  And the reason is simple.  You can create anything or anybody on the internet, on paper, or on the airwaves.  But the creation is not what makes people trust you. 

rock - creating trustTrust comes with knowing that real people or real organizations endorse you.  And those real people and organizations have to have names.  Even then, the endorsing person or organization should have credibility and be trusted by those you are marketing to.

Testimonials are valuable marketing tools.  But, all too often, we dilute the value of them, by making them seem make up rather than real.  Anybody can write a series of glowing testimonials but by using initials or anomymous as the writer, you’re wasting your time.  They aren’t believable.

The same is true when you list a series of names as references or past customers.  Most people will never take the time to contact these references nor will the list create credibility.  I could sit down and write you a long list of refences for this blog, but think about it?  How many of you will contact those references?  How many of those references have ever even read this blog?  How many of those references are going to be positive?  How many will be negative or neutral?  The same is true when you list a series of names in your brochure or on your website.

Testimonials are the most valuable marketing tools that you can use to create trust for your business IF THEY ARE REAL AND IF YOU USE THEM CORRECTLY.  So, go to those people who have used your business more than once and ask them for a testimonial.  Ask for permission to use their name.  If they won’t let you use their name, the testimonial is worthless. 

And, if you’re a new business or have been in business for a short period of time, don’t use testimonials or references.  They simply aren’t believable and don’t create the trust that you are trying for.  If you’re new in business, there are other ways to build trust and believability.  Use those instead!