Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Social Media Newbies Unite!

I have to tell you, I've been following (OK, pun intended for Twitter users) the marketing aspects of social media for the past few years now - which makes me more than a "newbie", but doesn't put me at the head of the class by any means. Monetization of these mediums (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others) is sketchy, at best. And for some, a down right waste of time.

If you, too, are scratching your head on how your small business (or using your own personal brand) can benefit, read on.

I can't cover it all, but this hopefully will help get you on the right path. So let's put our first foot forward:

1 > Do set up a LinkedIn account. This may be the most valuable thing you can do. Why? Not only is it a "resume" site - in which a potential client, employer or old acquaintance may look you up - but it is the ONLY social media site that gathers e-mails from which you can carefully utilize in soliciting feedback or better yet, actual sales.

2 > Do set up a Facebook page. You have to do this for yourself, then you can create a page for your business, group or interest. Aside from having the ability to be "friends" with your children (a great non-invasive way to spy on them - you didn't hear it here), Facebook is the mother of all social media platforms and can provide a forum to let your own personality shine through to potential suitors of your business. Be careful, though, it's easy to offer TMI and expose your brand to ridicule or scorn. A quick tip for setting up a business page: once you get 25 FANS, you can get a customized URL to make it easier for others to find you on FB.

3 > Do set up a Twitter account. The base idea is to be able to engage with your particular audience. Not sure where to start? Use a site called to find people in your area of interest. Follow them and their followers. In no time, you'll be in a community of people who have at least a modicum of interest in you.

4 > Do set up a YouTube channel. Buy a Flip Mino and make 1-minute movies about what you or your business is an expert in. Post these videos to your channel, making sure your website is clearly attached in the bio section. Why? Because Google is now posting videos on WEB search results. You may be able to not only make page 1, but create a "roadblock" as well. Instant, easy and FREE SEO.

Does all of this take time? Yup. Can you get someone else to help? Yup. (20-something interns got this stuff covered...) But you better stay involved and in-the-know, your customers might just come a-knocking! Why? Because everything that you do here, will help direct traffic back to your own website... finally making it the productive tool everyone said it could be - you just never knew how to put it in play. And now you do.

Want to know more...

Jump into Mike's website
Link up with Mike on LinkedIn
Join Mike's Big Ideas Group on LinkedIn
Becomes a FAN of the Big Ideas Group on Facebook
Become a FAN of JacksonSpencer on Facebook
Follow Mike on Twitter

Do all of that, and you'll drop your Newbie title. You'll now be a Social Media Maven!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiger, Tiger, Tiger

What the latest celebrity scandal can teach us about taking control of our brand.

Don't they hire publicists anymore? I thought when you get to the "big time", you surround yourself with professional people who can help you take full advantage of the new status and power you've achieved. Apparently those in Tiger Woods' camp didn't get the memo. As you probably know by now, Tiger was involved in a mishap this past holiday weekend involving his car, his wife, a fire hydrant, a tree and an 8-iron... on his own property at 2:00 in the morning.

After weak statements issued by Tiger and the avoidance of police questioning by he and his wife, only adds fuel to a now roaring fire. From alcohol or drugs to marital infidelity... the rumor mill runs rampant. Especially for the world's cleanest and most powerful sports "brand", this kind of circus is precisely what the tabloid media is designed for -- to tear down an icon. Get ready, folks, for the next great disaster!

How about me?
When bad news strikes your brand, self-inflicted or from outside sources, the best thing you can do is to honestly take charge of the situation. At the outset, you have a window - but it begins to close fast if you don't seek the upper hand. Outside of the emotion, jot down exactly what happened - and why. Understand it and look for the human aspects in it all. People are people... and the more human our flaws and foibles appear (especially when we're up on a pedestal), the more likely anyone might shrug off the offense as a one-time thing, a stupid mistake or an embarrassing blunder. Pre-emptively offer your heartfelt mia culpa, followed by some honest (and sometimes not so honest) penitence, and you'll be surprised how many fans will stick with you. Tell your story... in terms that people can empathize with. It's easy to speak from the heart when it actually is. If you're not sorry, then you should have someone else speak for you. Don't be afraid to be the butt of the joke. And don't sweat the immediate fallout. It's temporary, so long as you are actually taking steps to mitigate the issue that lead to the bad-press in the first place.

Your friends may even like you more than before.

Taking curative action upon the "offense" can often propel you past your competition because your fans will "find" that you're the ONLY one doing something about an issue that they presume to be problematic for everyone in your industry. If you're the restaurant that got the "Dirty Dining Award", then showcase how your new procedures will ensure food safety. You may soon see Courtney Gerrish on your door with a "Blue Ribbon Award" in short order. If you had the shipment of product that made it's way to Hoboken when it was supposed to be in Honolulu - well, you can now actively discuss how your new "Sure Shipping Policy" is changing the way business delivery is done. Staying on the offense is best. Defensive positioning is being a deer caught in the headlights and you'll never recover.

And when they dig for more dirt - give it to them in "friendly" doses, then twist back the conversation to your new "branding issue".

"We heard that you had rats in your kitchen," the reporter cajoles. "Ya, and he was a big one! But now, with our PACK TO PREP policy, diners will know that their food is the freshest in town," you respond averting any further attacks.

For athletes, Tiger needn't look any further than fellow super stars Kobe Bryant and Brett Favre. Both, back on the top of their game, on top of their leagues, and enjoying more fan (and sponsorship) support than every before.

As for Tiger?
Maintaining a "perfect world" is no longer an option. Accept the media scrutiny. Re-issue a new story that is closer to the honest truth. Let's face it, the jokes about your wife taking the 8-iron to you instead of saving you are already making the monologues. Pretending that this will go away won't make it so. Booking the interviews on late night TV should begin, allowing the flogging to commence. Once done - by Christmas, you'll have your life back, and you're best ally will most likely come from Nike, who will use the new "bad boy" image to propel a new line of drivers, golf balls and apparel that motivates wayward golfers to "get back on top of their game."

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

How to take the fork in your creative road.

How can you take the fork? Don't you have to choose?
There's a creative joke that goes like this, "How many art directors does it take to change a light bulb?"

"Who says it has to be a light bulb?"

Creative thinking doesn't normally following logical thinking. And for some of us, that's tough to do when our lives are filled with mathematical precision. OK, maybe yours, but mine is a little light on precision. Everyday, I'm expected to BE creative. What follows is a short primer on giving you a handle on how it can happen - more quickly and with greater success.. with a lot less anxiety.

Quick, from thin air, be creative.
The word comes down from on high (your boss) and you are charged with the task of "coming up with something" that satisfies a very vague set of parameters. You need a theme for this year's big trade show; there's the ad to go into the high school basketball program; maybe you're to get this year's Christmas party gift. It's supposed to be special, and it has to be on-time and under budget. If you're not used to being put to use this way, it may feel daunting.

My job requires me to be "creative" every single day. From the trade show theme to the party, as well as making the website bring in more business; coming up with the packaging for the new product and, oh, BTW, come up with the name, too. Still daunting, but somehow, not as intimidating because I know something that you do not. I WILL COME UP WITH AN ANSWER. I will not have writer's block. Guaranteed.

How can this be?

It's not because I'm special, as much as my mother may say so. It's because there is both a process and a mentality that you can garner for yourself to do the same. Here's how:

First, accept that there is a deadline and that by a certain time, you will have an effective answer. Every creative person worth their salt will want more time. Even when the answer is perfect, at 11:59 in the project, they will be wondering if there isn't some extra little tidbit that would be that much better. Most likely, there is - but you ain't gonna get it because you're out of time. Pencils down.

To do this, you need to actually tell yourself, that you want an answer prior to the time you selected. (This works pretty well for retrieving names and info, too - let your internal computer subconsciously work for you. You'll be surprised how often it will spit out the very answer you seek. (i.e. What was the name of your first grade crush?)

The second part of this is much more mathematical. Let's say it's the trade show theme. Where do you begin? Don't start with the budget, that's last. Applying a great concept to any dollar figure can be done and the concept may still hold. Like a screenwriter, don't write in your own special effects, let the director and producer do that - your job is to tell a great story. So tell it.

Start with what you hope show attendees will think, do or say when they meet with your team (and it's wonderful theme). Maybe they should be thinking, "Wow, what a cool bunch of people; man, are they sharp; I love how focused they are on just the one product; they seem to do everything, don't they..." We could go on, but you get the idea. Once that's in place, you've got a beginning framework from which to brainstorm.

No idea is a stupid idea... oh yes it is!

But that's OK. We are so afraid to make a mistake, that we stay away from doing something spectacular. Most often, the big winners are also the big risk takers. But no one focuses on the big losers who took the same big risks. Why not mitigate the risk by dissecting your ideas into those that seem outrageous, those that seem strong and those that appear to be dull as a butter knife. That doesn't mean to skip dull, but you have to rephrase your quest a bit differently. The famous designer Bob Gill (you recall Gill Sans Bold?) once wrote, "If you accept a boring question, you're going to get a boring answer." In other words, if you want an exciting answer, you need to ask an exciting question.

"We need a theme for the trade show" is boring. You'll get an answer, but it will be just like last years'. What if you re-wrote it to, "Let's pick a theme that will force attendees to deal with us." The operative word here, is FORCE. That may lead you into incredibly loud sounds, or sales people who have to shake hands or actually say "hello" or maybe even the smell of the booth might come into play. In that one thought, you now have three beginnings on theme creation. Let's choose the last - smell. A good smell, presumably - maybe cookies, freshly baked. But, we make widgets, you say. Do your widgets show up in any companies that distribute, deal or make foodstuffs? Maybe even a little co-op dollars from that same company? Hmmm, we may be getting somewhere.

By walking down this path for awhile, you begin to understand if it has legs. Let the "pun masters" go to town on how "fresh" or "tasty" your products are. Maybe your widgets are have their own "special recipe for success". Corny, to be sure, but sometimes that's all it takes. The bottom line is that your prospect needs to come away with a singular positive experience. Don't get too caught up in the nuances.

There's so much more to get into, but we'll save that for another day. For now, take these two points: 1) give a deadline to your subconscious brain and accept the curious path that it will take you. Don't sweat the answers - they will come because they have to - your brain always produces. Just write them down, no matter how smart or dumb so that you may use them in step 2) Which asks you to rephrase your question to demand a better answer - allowing yourself to actively follow that path.

By employing these two skills, subconsciously and consciously following paths, you're sure to come to answers that will finally give you a good night's sleep and the boss his wish for "out of the box thinking"... only you'll know which box (or which path) it all came from.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to become a millionaire from someone who isn't one.

Write a book on "How to become a millionaire." Fake it until you make it, right? Well, that doesn't sit very well with me - or most Midwestern types. And it's not really the million dollars that we're after, is it? It's what it could do for us, our families; the financial stress it would relieve; the trips and boats and cars and fancy parties down by the lake. Now that you put it like that, well, who wouldn't want that?

Hey, how about the lottery?
Let's face facts: WE AREN'T GOING TO WIN THE LOTTERY. EVER. "But someone has to win," you say. Someone eventually will, but the odds are so stacked against us all that you could spend a thousand lifetimes and never come close to the jackpot. (I once had 3 numbers right and was off by one or two for the remaining three! I won $7)

The truth is, the only way we're going to earn (and I mean 'earn') our fortune is to work for it. Not a rocket scientist? No problem...

Start cultivating your own million dollar ideas.
Everyday, in every way you can... and here's the kicker - SHARE THEM with anyone and everyone who will listen. That's my plan. And before you say I'm crazy, understand this: I have helped make fortunes for other people and their businesses because I was the guy hired to help market their products, their services and their businesses; to help promote that which was best and jettison that which was not; to re-invent the mousetrap just about every single day. It's a daunting task, and it isn't easy, but I love doing it and couldn't stop if I tried.

But I got an itch...
Why don't I start doing this for myself? Seems like a noble purpose. My wife sure wouldn't mind a trip to Tahiti - and I might even be able to tag along! Don't get me wrong, I make a nice living doing what I do - but it ain't the high life - at least not yet. So I made a vow: share your ideas. 100% of nothing is still zero. 1% of something is better than zero. I suspect that if your brilliant brainstorm were any good, and it was stolen (just like you think it would be), that the thieves might actually throw you a bone after they've made their killing. Even better, you can sue them and amass your fortune that way, or better still, you go on the Today Show telling your story to get picked up as a reality TV show. Either way, you make money.

Want to know the real odds-on-bet?
NO ONE WILL PICK UP YOUR IDEA. They might nod and smile, some might even dabble with it for awhile, but when it comes right down to it - your idea is safe because it will take time, energy, money, blood, sweat and tears to bring it to life. Who would do all of that unless it was "their" idea? The reason you share your million dollar idea is to get feedback. Help. Investment. Criticism. Support.

I just joked on FaceBook with a friend that I invented "warm" fusion when I was 12. I did. You run a laser into a mirrored sphere and the laser beam bounces off the walls like a Spiro-graph and all of the beams intersect at the very center. You drop in a bit of U-235 and WALLAH! Instant fusion AND the outside laser lines stay cool. It's only the center that's at a zillion degrees. (Geez, that's like a trillion dollar idea!) Only, I'm not a rocket scientist, nor could I ever be. Maybe this is completely stupid. Maybe it has been tried 500 times and failed. But what if it hasn't? What if no pointed-headed rocket scientist ever had the thoughts of a 12 year old? Maybe he/she can run with it. How cool would it be to say, "I invented controllable fusion, and you can thank me for saving the planet"? It's kind of like being Al Gore.

There's no such thing as a free lunch.

My father told me that. It's as old as dirt. But it's true. So what are we to do to start harvesting our fortunes? By getting feedback from friends, family, business associates and complete strangers, you increase your chances of actually producing that which you conceived. An endorsement to a prototyping guy; a clever addition to your storyline; the key ingredient to your recipe... who knows. Be prepared for some "good" nay-saying, too. If they don't get your idea - that's not a reason to run home, but it is a good reason to re-think how you need to pitch it. Keep refining it. Most folks would love for you to succeed. Helping you invites them to hope that maybe you'll share a bit of the wealth when your ship comes in.

I'll be adding more on this blog. Maybe we can both meet in Tahiti ...I hear there's room.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Getting 1000% ROI... or higher!

Hyperbole. Crazy.
Not possible.

"What? Do I look like a sucker?" you ask.

"No," I answered. "You just haven't thought about your clients lately. I'll bet a buck that you can generate that kind of Return On Investment if you just listen to a few thoughts I have for you. Sound good?"

For a very low cost, you can expect some big time success - not every time, but consistently, over time, you'll see results you won't want to give back.

Here's how:

1. Pick up a pen,
a postcard and stamp and write a thoughtful thank you to a spotty client. Your great clients hear from you all the time, and those at the bottom of the barrel should probably be released anyway... but those in the middle often get left out in the cold. Not a big enough pay day to warrant full scale attention, but not so small that you'd care to ever see them move over to your competition. A simple postcard or letter, that's creative (but not contrived) - you'd be surprised what a campy retro card wishing you "Aloha" can do to an otherwise dreary day. "Hey Pete, was thinking of you when I saw this - hope your next trade show is a smash. If you need a little help, just drop me a note or give me a ring!"

2. Buy a lottery ticket
for a prospect or client and hand it to them. In fact, buy up a bunch for your next networking meeting and hand 'em all out. Don't ask for anything. I guarantee you, they will be thinking about you and your business until the time they lose. That could be days! (Hope that they win... and win big.) I wonder if they'll share the wealth? And if they win the lottery and keep it all for themselves. Ouch - and yet, what kind of story would that make on the Today Show? Might anyone want to deal with your business then?

3. How about YouTube? Rummage through and find the perfect pick-me-up video for one of your long lost clients. You know he loves fishing... why not the video where the fish jump into the boat? She just came back from maternity leave - maybe this would do her good? Who doesn't love a little Monty Python to brighten their day?

4. What was their favorite song?
Doesn't matter... did you know you can get a printable gift certificate for iTunes for as little as $10? Who can't use the songs that they love most? Completely custom. Genuinely thoughtful.

5. Costco sells gorgeous flowers for under $10 a bundle. Careful, that one might actually lead to romance and you shelling out $10,000 for the wedding.

6. Can you ad a page to your own website?
Create a client of the day, post their logo, add a link to their site, a custom message and a vanity URL (you know, Send out the e-mail and see what happens.

The point, of course, is to make a memorable "touch" of a client you may not have been holding hands with for some time now. Doing so may rekindle the trust and bond they had with you on the first days of your business relationship - when all was new. Just how many sales orders or project requests will it take from them to make your thoughtful gesture worthwhile?


I tried no.2 awhile back and it netted over $5,000 worth of business. Business that I doubt I ever would have seen. For a $1 purchase, that's a 5,000% ROI. Not bad, not bad at all. What will you do?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Scary Marketing III: The Skeleton Key

Understand, when I write these blogs, I'm really trying to give practical and tactical information on HOW you can achieve better results for your business. It's really that simple, but sometimes, the larger point is difficult to connect with the real-world question of, "How?"

If you read the original Scary Marketing blog, you found out about three tremendously cool websites that will absolutely freak out your teenager - while they earn kudos in an incredible fickle marketplace. What they all do is generate an instant relationship with a young audience and hold them enthralled for a significant period of time.

It's called DURATION.

In the Sequel, you learned of more practical ways of employing the base strategy of defining your target audience and giving them reasons to "share the ride" with you.

That's effective use of CONTENT.

Yet, no successful horror movie would be complete without it's triptych... in this case, "The Skeleton Key - a simple singular tactic that you can employ at your next trade show. I offer this up because I really want to help make the point of how you can take these concepts and bring them into a system that is neither expensive or difficult to accomplish.

So here's the HOW TO...

Trade shows are notorious for wasting everyone's time. You pay good money for the space, booth, graphics, the upgrade to the marketing materials, travel, hotel rooms, per diem AND the lost time at work. And for what? The chance at locking up that big account. Proving that you're one of the "big boys". Wandering the aisles aimlessly trying to figure out why the Sham-wow guy is getting all the good leads.

The point was supposed to be that you were going to see your good customers and vendors, that you were going to generate new sales leads and that you were actually going to sell something. How many of us have missed the mark in that regard, and still called the show, "a success"?

The Skeleton Key is a tactic that is simple to employ and typically brings people to your booth, both known and unknown. It starts with your database, a safe of some kind and a bunch of keys. Of course, there's a big prize in the safe, and to win it, your key needs to unlock it. Make the prize intriguing enough and you're sure to see folks saunter by your booth for the chance to win.

You can start by developing an e-mail with a thriller or espionage theme (I know, corny, but it works). Extend that theme to a direct mailer or postcard; maybe a Western Union letter. The more you play it up, the better. When you send out the keys in a "classified" envelope, make sure the letter is crafted with the appropriate cut out letters from the newspaper.

Is the entire booth done up thematically? Maybe, or maybe just a section. Maybe there's Roger from accounting just standing there in a black suit, black tie and black shades with the briefcase chained to his wrist. This is where your ingenuity and creativity can add to the fun. (I told you it was corny... but it still works.) It's such an easy conversation starter that you can't help but gain new leads.

Is the prize connected with the theme? It should be. Does it relate to your product? Can it be both product and prize? Maybe you get a case of free widgets AND a 3-day trip to Las Vegas and $500 in cash. Can't do Vegas... how about your local Indian Casino? It's really very easy and reasonably priced. Oh, and who gets the key/or keys? Well, you could let it be completely random, or (and you didn't hear it here) it might mysteriously end up in the hands of a client who's on the fence in purchasing that next big order.

Lastly, make sure you follow up - with everyone. E-mails, letters, calls... something. Find out how they enjoyed the show. Get to talking with them, even about how Roger really didn't make such a good Secret Agent. The point is, you just have read HOW to "share the ride", create duration in something that you do every year. How much time did your prospects and customers spend with you?

Only the shadow knows!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Scary Marketing II: the sequel for the real world

For those of you who read my most recent missive about three nifty web based initiatives to garner more teen loyalty, you may have been left feeling scared and alone. Why? Because you were thinking, "Sites like HOTEL626, LEVEL26 and CIRCLE OF 8 sure were neat, but how can I use this to my advantage?"

Great question, glad you asked...

These spooky sites use big time graphics, storytelling and gee-whiz programming to deliver an experience that's as good as anything the Internet has to offer. But, you need to understand what's really being done here... targeting a specific audience with a reason to enjoy your company. These would-be customers don't even have to know you well to begin, but by the end of their time with you... you should become "friends".

What can you do to "tag-along" with your prospects, specific prospects - you know, the 20% who actually mean something to your business? Study them, their habits, needs, desires and interests. Is there something in common? It might be that they all utilize a certain type of equipment that you just happen to service. Or, they might all be Packer fans, as far as you can tell. The connection point could be anything - an upcoming event like an industry trade show is all you need.

Compelling content is really the key.
These scary sites had great want-to-stay-longer-to-find-out-what-happens kind of content. Can you do the same? Sure. Let's say you make flame retardant roofing... why couldn't you tell the story of how your stuff might prevent a business changing tragedy when a military flare fell upon a roof (oh, wait, that's a real story!). You could also make it up, turn it into a mystery... it could be way over the top - just for fun - but, often, you can find real world news that could be co-opted for your own business. That's compelling reading. That's someone who's engaged every bit as much as teens freaking out as they run through the Flash created corridors of a haunted virtual hotel.

Fine... but my budget ain't 6 figures...
or 5 or even 4. Wondering what to do with a small business budget? No problem. Don't give yourself that as an out. Setting up an e-mail campaign or sending "something in a box" that directs recipients back to your website and some special content is all that you're after (make sure there is an easy way for them to contact you for even more information to continue to the dialogue). In the case of that 20% audience you defined, exactly how many prospects/customers are we talking about? For many businesses, it's about 20 total... and that's A-OK. If you have 100's or 1000's, use this as a chance to test your strategy with only 20 or so. How many do you need to convert to make the program a "push"? I'm here to tell you right now, that if you can get it to cover itself, you win, because the long term effects of applying this will net more and more and more. Your conversion will increase and your innovative thinking will spill over to the rest of your prospects.

When a stranger calls...
The strategy of scaring is pretty simple: you wait for just the right person to come along and jump out and yell, "Boo!" When you set that moment up, it's friendly and fun - if you don't, you may get a bloody nose - or worse. What are you doing to maintain a conversation with your best prospects and customers so that when you do give them a surprise, they'll actually find the fun in it? Great sales people know that making "touches" are hugely important. Right now, pick out your top 20 and send the bottom 15 a hand written postcard/letter and for the top 5, just pick up a phone and make a call. Since it's almost Halloween, try this for starters ... "Have you checked the widgets..."

< Click here, if you dare >

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scary new marketing you need to be aware of...

Halloween always brings out a bonanza of mainstream marketing mayhem as big time advertisers attempt to capture teen eyeballs. In years past, it's been promotional packaging and concert tours, but this year, the Internet cross-over is hitting full stride. I give you three examples of recent offerings by Doritos, Mountain Dew and Dutton Publishing (via Anthony Zuiker - the CSI guy):

Capturing teens (and twentysomethings) is like herding cats.

If you can get them on your lap, they will purr for you, but at the slightest annoyance, they'll ditch you in the dark. With a U.S. teen population of over 35,000,000, it's easy to see why marketers are interested to tap into their psyche. One sure fire way to start is to use the horror genre. Kids love to be scared... in a fun way. Like a great haunted house, they wish to experience terror, but with the expectation that it's ultimately safe: the shouts, the giggles, the nervous energy... and the loyalty they'll extend to those who offer up the best frights.

What these sites attempt to do is provide first-rate content, that not only holds the viewer at the site for an extended period of time, but encourages a community atmosphere to share that experience. Marketers speak of reach and frequency, but the real key is "duration". The longer these marketers effectively befriend young consumers, the more apt they are to spread a message to their friends.

Doritos' Hotel 626 campaign is an interactive video game online that held my collegiate son for well over an hour (only open after 6pm - a shrewd gimmick), as he navigated his way past a frightening asylum of characters, attempting to make his way out of a haunted hotel. It's very effective - because it not only captures their eyes, but their e-mail addresses AND their cell phone numbers... willingly! The push from Doritos is subdued, yet when it comes time to choose at the grocery store, you can see how one of these fans will pay the extra dollar for a bag of chips.

Circle of 8, the triple collaboration between Moutain Dew, MySpace and Paramount Digital is the latest to tap into big production values, delivering Twin Peaks like oddities, mysteries to solve and murder, within the confines of "The Dante" - an apartment complex filled with (guess who?) ...20-somethings. Mountain Dew plays a more active role here, offering new clues to decipher on the site as well as their new promotional package designs. The commercialism here still works by smartly turning their own packaging into a Scooby Doo mystery solving device. It's an effective way to turn fans into big time viral agents.

The last on the list is the "digi-novel" concept of Level 26. An illustrated book from Dutton Publishing, with special clues within the pages. These clues act as a bridging link to 3-minute live action cinematics with recognizable acting talent. Do fans of CSI shows really want to take this next step? Do suspense readers really want to put movie images and sound to the characters in their heads? Does the censor-free spaces of books and the Internet provide an edge over traditional TV offerings. The answers are, "of course they do." Zuiker has been a master of tapping into the things that we squeamishly allow into our memories for years. Level 26's serial killer Sqweegel is the boogey-man you hope never to see, but believe actually exists. Clever... like 3 days duration clever.

In the end, the challenge for all marketers in this new arena is, "Will it sell?" There's little doubt in my mind that it will generate serious $$$ (and spin offs). However, reaping this kind of payday is for the patient. This kind of indirect sale is long, but those that welcome it may find that they're producing viral sales agents, far better at communicating "cool" than any sales manager could ever "train." The trick, of course, is to not let them down with your content - otherwise you'll face a fate worse than death: a teenagers' wrath.

Effectively finding ways in which your target audience will spend minutes, hours, if not days, with your message, will always help your bottom line - even if that line is covered in blood.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Doctor Operates on Own Brain and Lives!

Now that's a headline.

Think of how incredibly difficult (albeit macabre) this operation would be... completely conscious of your actions while you lay on an operating table, cutting and probing into your own skull. Yet, this is completely applicable to each and every one of us.


Because as marketers, we know that we need to sell our own business ideas, yet we're reluctant to produce them for our own benefit. Not for lack of know how - we're the big experts... typically is really isn't money... it's time? We're so busy with everyone else, that we never get to the stuff we know we're supposed to do. Like the brain surgeon with mirror and scalpel in hand, we refuse to put on a gown and start the operation.

"Branding" is that all encompassing term to describe the action of making a perceptional (and tangible) name for yourself, your business or your cause. Branding is every little drip, drop and splash you can make that might positively affect how others - namely your desired audience (read customers) - come to relate to you and your endeavors. In short, everything that you can put into the public eye, the better. From the logo you create to an ad in a magazine; an embroidered polo or your company website; your county fair booth or even the cleanliness of your rest rooms... all make a statement about who you are and what you value. Your brand is built over time with consistency and TLC.

Since this is so, we've also begun to embrace social media venues because of their immediacy and their ease of use. From Facebook to LinkedIn, Twitter to Flickr and more, using "the box" to magically spearhead your branding campaign seems like it should be so easy to access. And yet, so few of us put all of the pieces together. Most of us are hardly off the dime. Maybe you've set up these tools, but you haven't maximized how you use them... frankly, you have little idea of how to use them at all.

So why are we doing this?

Because it will help your branding efforts. It will earn you new business, and your life will be transformed.

Believe that? I didn't think so, but here's the bet:

By coordinating the process, you could save time and energy, while maximizing how many times your branded messages get out to your public. Like good salesmen say, "The more touches you have with your customers, the more likely they'll be to buy what you have to sell."

I think the thing that hampers our efforts is that we're so busy working out the details for everyone else, that we never take our own medicine and work out all the sticky details so that this "social media machine" actually works. Monetizing the web is the silver bullet we're all looking for, but, making silver bullets ain't easy. Like they say, if it was, everyone would be doing it.

Lucky for you, I'm a doctor of Marketing and I have your prescription (in 9 easy steps):

1. Understand your business, it's +'s and -'s and where you know your customers come from. This is easier said than done, but comprehending this honestly may be more important than the rest of these tips combined.
2. No matter what you do, make sure you're consistent in tone from your website on down to a single Twitter. Have a focused brand message really means that you don't have to spend as much to make an impact. And that's just smart business.
3. Set up a blog of your own. Add to it on a consistent basis, but there's no real right or wrong - just that it reflects your best thinking that actually helps someone.
4. Set up an autoresponder e-mail campaign. There are many 3rd party tools you can use. Finding one that allows you to put it on autopilot will pay off in time.
5. Set up social media sites for your best people, products and/or business. Today you can set up shop right in the midst of your customers. Why wouldn't you?
6. Link as many as possible to each other. 8 words - a lot of work. Not hard work, just the back-n-forth of getting the blog to link to Twitter, the RSS Feed to reach a customer, a web form to feed into the e-mail database. BUT, do this, and your reward is a transformational leap in productivity. Write a blog/send an e-mail/post a link, and it auto feeds to your customers, wherever they are.
7. Stop "selling" and become consistent about adding value to your customer's lives. That's Carnagie, as old as dirt, but its still so true and so effective.
8. Monitor where people are connected with you and how. It would be nice to know, wouldn't it? Just keep doing those things that warrant the most connections.
9.Enjoy your transformed life. :-)

Steps 1 through 6 are the brain surgery part. The rest is gravy. In subsequent blogs, I hope to give you insights into exactly HOW it's all done. But for now, you have the template. You can readily access this kind of information all over the web. Discerning which works and why, well, as you can imagine, guys like me are all too eager to hire out their services to assist you.

But for you, just sit tight until the next JacksonSpencer Blog.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Power of Youth

As we break from "base camp" to take my oldest son back to college, I am reminded of the excitement, mystery and fear that all young people face as they prepare themselves to enter the working world.

I, for one, always had a healthy self-esteem, and yet, found myself settling for B and C type businesses to approach for a project or job because I had already counted myself out of the A-list. How strange, you might think, that I (and maybe you, too) would do this. It's not unlike coming to that point in a project negotiation when price is discussed. Of course, each side wants the other to go first so that a counter offer or acceptance can be made. Do you know what the project is worth?

Do you know what YOU are worth?

One of the great powers of youth is that you're cheap. In fact, it might be the greatest power of all. Why? Because the person or firm that could employ you has so little to lose. It would be easy to bring you in, if only to let you go a short time later if it didn't work out. Bringing in an "old guy" like me is tough. Oh, they can see I have skills and experience, but I come with the baggage of cost. If it doesn't work out with a guy like me, the ramifications (and expectations) can be great.

So what's the advice?

Don't be afraid to go after exactly what you want, right from the start. In fact, that's exactly what you should do. You should, of course, take every measure to build your skills and your understanding of the business to the highest degree, but in the end, no matter where you feel that you are in your development, aim high... AND, take the opportunity of youth, to ask what you're missing (or how you missed) when the A-list firm doesn't accept your query.

This is where so many of us went wrong. We thought, "I can't approach them, they'll laugh at me," or "I'll only get one shot at this, I better have everything perfect."


Set up the appointment. There is no "perfect". You might be surprised at the answer you get... like, "You've got the job!" And, if you do "blow it", make sure you ask, "How come?" Demand the real answer. It very well might be, "Your book isn't near good enough for us." GREAT! Ask them to show you something that is what they're looking for - so that you know where the bar is set. Then tell them, "I'll be back." Believe me, you'll get a second chance. Know that they'll be thinking that you'll never return.


Trust me, they'll see you, because few ever do return.

And to you veterans out there, I have a challenge for you... when it comes down to "how much?" Tack on an extra 20% next time. You'll still get the job and you'll have a little extra spending money (and if you feel inclined to send me 10%, I will accept it). The line between winning and losing the business often comes down to the confidence you exude. Knowing what you're worth and what risk you pose to someone evaluating the hiring of you really can make all the difference.

Just know, you're worth more.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Young Designer's Primer on Selling

The young designer meets with the business owner. He shows his portfolio, proud as a peacock for the wonderful logos, posters and web pages he's designed. He tells the owner his design philosophy, his going rate and then asks for the owner's business.

He doesn't get the job. The owner doesn't even pay for the coffee.

He walks away with his beautiful stainless portfolio and curses under his breath that the business owner is a jerk for not understanding real talent when he sees it.

What our friend doesn't recognize is — whatever they may be. I've found it very possible (even likely) that the portfolio never needs to be shown to a prospective client. Especially in today's world, where your website is your OPEN 24 HOURS sign. Your prospect will have already viewed your work before he's ever met you.

Focus on the business owner.

The "mission" then, is to listen and to ask a series of questions that draw out what the owner is most interested to achieve; where there may be new opportunities; and what concerns he's in need of fixing. Most importantly, you're a conduit to getting him sales. How you fit into the equation is the answer you seek. For many, just figuring out the equation is half the battle.

Freely providing opinion, counsel and advice on how to handle the work is something worth providing. All too often, designer's become very protective of their work - fearful that it will be stolen. The truth is that most people can't do what designers do. Go ahead and offer up big ideas... the more the merrier. It has been my experience that the report (read "trust") with the prospect increases dramatically, allowing the project to be awarded to you without ever even asking for it.

Now, young designer, go out and "sell" by asking the best questions in town.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lessons Learned from Jacko PR

It is not my intent to speak ill of the dead, nor to be completely crass, but with the sudden demise of the King of Pop, there are lessons to be learned by anyone (or any company) that must face the scrutiny of the public eye -- especially in crisis.

For the past five days, Michael Jackson's death has trumped ANY other story... worldwide. It is truly a testimony to his "icon" status - apparently, "Elvis has left the building." However, as everyone knows, Michael Jackson's eccentricities, his fiscal debts, as well as his accusations of molestation had left his image tarnished and a brand that was on the verge of a star's worst fear: irrelevancy.

So how do you ensure a legacy worth remembering?

You get ahead of the curve and own your content such that you can dictate the message to be digested by your public. Far too often, we see politicians and businesses who have come under bad press precisely because they used a "head in the sand" approach... just hoping for it all to "go away."

Nothing could be worse.

Jackson's family (and publicists) knew the "story" was going to be big - the question was not "Who was going to tell it" (because everyone was), but "How would they tell it?"

By delivering steady portions to a ravenous media, they effectively have controlled which items would be newsworthy in a given news cycle. When everything you do is the fodder for publicity, the anti-crowd can not mount a persuasive campaign because the news of the day is already set. It is my contention that those closest to Jackson - and to his estate - decided very swiftly to set the agenda of how he was to be perceived: whether he was a victim; did someone need to answer for his death; and how others OWED their careers to a "legendary pioneer." A tainted Michael Jackson is a devalued brand. And a devalued brand is money and opportunity... lost.

To my knowledge, there has not been a single derogatory story regarding Jackson. This morning, home movies of Jackson frolicking with his unmasked children appeared, exclusively on the Today Show. "Michael Jackson as good father" should have been the headline. An intriguing rebuttle to the creepiness-factor of veiling your children by offering up the loving dad who did so to protect their identities and to give them a chance at "normalcy". (Curiously, showing their faces now ensures that they will have no such luck from this point forward.) No matter, that's NOT the story. Everyone will still think he was an eccentric, but moving public perception from pedophile to a loving father attempts to soften cynical hearts the rest of us held about his integrity -- giving his memory a new chance at redemption.

What his true legacy will become, only time will tell - but one thing is for certain, those that were in line to put their teeth into his estate to extract their debt owed may be thinking twice as they stand in a line at the profit potential of a "New Graceland" ...for decades and dollars to come.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Branding domains

Over the years, I have created dozens of new brands, for my clients and for myself — all of which, needed a domain name. Let's see, there was,,,,,, even

So what's in a name? Most everything.

Since you're starting out with a clean slate, you want to try for the optimum in branding, which is a consistent execution of your brand throughout everything you're doing. The first step is finding a memorable and meaningful name, and whenever possible, securing a domain name that is identical to that brand name. Look up, or and you're sure to find the brand you expect. But when we're closing in on 3 billion domains worldwide, it can be daunting to find what you're after.

So how do come up with a great name that isn't taken?

There are two routes: first, if you think you know the brand name you want, check with your domain registrar (i.e.,, etc.) and see if you can get it. Most likely, you won't. Of course, then you'll check to see if the .net, .biz or .org suffixes are available - which in many cases, they still are. Although more and more of us understand that these other domains exist, if you're interested in being found in organic searches, don't do it. Stick with .com. It's the paradigm that everyone knows. You can add "online" to your name, or "site" or even "my" to the prefix to secure it, but the more letters you use, the more unwieldy your name becomes and it starts to look like it's tacked on... well, maybe because it is.

The second option, is to create a "sticky" unique name.

Do this, by getting as good an understanding of your new business and your competition — especially your competition. Is there a common pattern to their names? Is your business plan to be just like them or to be a very different option from them? Both are valid. In the case of JacksonSpencer, it was to compete with much larger entities - all of whom typically use the last names of the founders of the business. (True in ad agencies, law practices and accounting firms). However, the twist for me is that these are the first names of my two oldest sons. For those in the know, it's a cute and personalized touch on my business. For those that don't know me, JacksonSpencer is perceived as an established firm in a downtown office every bit as capable as anyone else with stuffy names on their door.

However, in the case of AtomicPark, (a now defunct software reseller), the name was derived to place a different perception in customers heads. The look and feel and naming was all about a positive 1950's golden age of politeness and "swell service". In a sea of impersonal software sales, the idea of buying Norton Anti-Virus from a group of people who were courteous, timely and a little quirky was a great point of departure. The company soared from literally $0 sales to $25,000,000 in just 5 years. Thanks, in part, to a "sticky" domain name.

Sites with made up, contracted or squished-together names like, and are now part of our lexicon. These unusual, but memorable names are the ones that can help gain you a unique spot in the marketplace. My advice is to make sure that your new brand name has a back story. That's it's not unusual to simply be unusual. It should have a certain flow that's easy to say and to write - and ideally, has something in the name that pertains to it's purpose. is short and sweet, but it uses a "Q" in place of the "K". That's a danger, but the logo utilizes a cap "Q" to help emphasize this difference, and the tagline uses an initial "Q word" to help reinforce the change: "Quick effective marketing solutions for small business." The strength of this brand will rely on establishing this "Q" differentiation by leveraging the recognizability that it is a "marketing" site.

Need help coming up with a name? Well, that's one of the things that JacksonSpencer does exceedingly well. Contact

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Building a Powerful Brand in 60 Seconds

:01 Pick something, anything, to promote your business and be consistent about it. Here's a thought: try putting all of your stuff in a brown paper bag. What if your business card was kraft paper brown? And the envelopes? And your website, too? That organic look alone would put you in a different spot than your competitors and your cost would be next to $0.

:20 Pick a domain name that can be understood quickly. Skip the dashes, try to be short and sweet, but if you can't, it's OK to be long... as long as it's simple to type in (i.e: The real trick for most small businesses is that you simply need to get your web address or e-mail address from your business card to your prospect's computer. Don't make that too challenging.

:40 Answer this one question, "What do you do?" Be careful, this is a minefield disguised as your unique selling proposition. Why? Because if you answer too glibly, you'll lose credibility; if you answer to slickly, they'll think you're trying too hard; and if you answer too dryly, worst yet, no one will remember. When this is asked of you, rephrase it in your head to: "What do you do that makes my life a whole lot better?" You'll answer more succinctly and invite a follow up question... and getting a real conversation going is the best brand builder of all.

:60 Now you're brand is off to a powerful start!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fishing for Social Objects

One of America's leading interactive agencies, Razorfish, publishes an annual digital outlook report. Feel free to read the 2009 Report (, but in case you don't have the time to rifle through almost 200 pages of marketer-speak, let me point out one key point that really has relevance to small and mid sized businesses: the use of social objects.

"Social Objects" is a way of describing a new way of bringing a connecting tool to your marketing campaigns. People tend to talk to one-another in reference to something else. Something they saw, heard or something yet to come. These conversations are exactly where any advertiser would love to be, however, the trick is creating something promoting your business worth talking about.

Building loyal customers is still the same as it ever was - delivering a great experience with your products or services. It's just that many of the tools we use today have changed. We may not pass product endorsements over a picket fence anymore, but we certainly have customers spreading the news via texting, Facebook and Twitter. You may think your firm is too old fashioned, too conservative or too local to be affected by these new global tools... to that I say for certain, "You will be, if you aren't already."

Razorfish gave an example of an event they helped one of their clients with regarding the sponsorship of an upcoming concert. Clues to who was invited, how tickets could be garnered via GPS coordinates, even to which mystery entertainers would perform, were all used to virally help generate a buzz factor worth the investment in the event.

You may not be putting on a rock concert, but what about your own open house or a trade show event? Most simply dump info out to customers and presume that they will show, only to find low turn-out and a lackluster day. Providing a "social object" -- understanding what you want your participants to take away from you -- now becomes hugely critical. Prior to your event, you might set up e-mail and direct mail teasers that hint of what's to come. Maybe it's a simple promotional handout (like iTunes cards, or lottery tickets or even specialized samples of your products) that leave your guests with more to share than when they first arrived. The point is, far too often we simply let marketing opportunities fall flat by not realizing that whenever we have a place where people gather, we have the right to interject that time with an experience worthy of our very best customer's time.

Seize that social opportunity by finding a "social object" and promoting it vigorously. Your brand will be better for the effort.