Keeping it real with the Chamber

chamber - open

I had the pleasure of presenting some customer engagement tips and tricks to the local Chamber of Commerce today. In the meeting, I shared some of the basics, and I learned that sometimes business owners appreciate a reminder to step back from the weeds and think about these things. Here are some of the basics we discussed:

Keep it simple: do you want to retain your customers, grow your business within your customers and / or acquire new customers? It’s Marketing 101, and sometimes you need a reminder to think in that level of simplicity.

Three reminders

 1) Do you know your customers? Don’t abdicate the knowledge of your customers to your sales reps. Indeed, they need to have great relationships, but so do you. I have seen too many businesses in which the management team is intimidated by the sales reps. The fear of the reps leaving with customers is palpable. Remember that it is 6-7 times more costly to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer (White House Office of Consumer Affairs). And if that doesn’t get your attention, a 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company (Bain and Co.). Thinking of succession planning? Know your customers and stay connected!

2) Social media: There is a difference between a monologue and a dialogue. Let’s start with a conversation between two people. How do you react to someone who only talks AT you and not WITH you?  The same holds true with social media. It should not be a one-way communication. It takes commitment and engagement, and when you decide to go onto social media it is not a “one-and-done” proposition. When a customer posts something, they expect you to respond. According to Jay Baer ( 42% of customers expect a response on social media within one hour. On twitter it can be even faster.

And social media is not free…..if you want to do it well. It is not nights and weekend work for you. An investment of time and money is needed. You don’t need a million followers if you are a local business. A smaller number of highly engaged customers / fans is better than a large number of strangers or fans you bought. Think quality over quantity.

3) Your web site: make sure it’s good. Hire a professional; don’t do this at home. What more can I say? Forrester research ( shows that 62% of U.S. online consumers will avoid a website following a bad customer experience and 52% will avoid the associated brick-and-mortar store. So it is critical  to manage your messaging across all your marketing methods, virtual and tangible.

What can you do?

  • Make sure that you use graphics wisely.
  • Use clean lines and large photographs catch people’s eyes.
  • Use photos of people. People buy from people, not companies.
  • Have good content. Key words and narratives that are searchable. Google changes its search algorithms regularly. You must keep it fresh – don’t leave it alone for long period of time.
  • Tell a story. People love stories and they are memorable. How did your business start? Who works there now? What do customers have to say about you?
  • Use testimonials; they are powerful. Your best customers will be happy to help you.

The group showed appreciation for being reminded of some of the basics, and there was one company in the room that was doing all these things – bravo! That business is booming; “we are too busy”! What a happy problem to have.

So, sometimes it is good to step back, and be reminded of some of the basics.




Posted in Advertising, content marketing, cross-marketing, Local business, Lovemarks, marketing, Publishing, social media, Web sites, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Does your business need a manifesto?



We recently attended a webinar about becoming “remarkable” in social media. One idea in the session was especially memorable: the concept of creating a manifesto for your business. This idea is not as off-beat as it may originally sound.

Chances are good that you are an entrepreneur who began your business with a clear vision for it in your mind. Do you have that vision articulated anywhere? Your web site or anywhere else? If not, your web site may be the perfect place for it.

Your manifesto can explain your passion about your business, and help your audience connect the dots from your passion, to the business, and the emotional attachment customers have for it. In the manifesto, you can use words that may be more emotional and powerful than you would use in more traditional marketing copy. You can really let the personality of the business, and the owner / entrepreneur come out. Beginning with phrases such as “we believe…”, and “we feel…” may give you the right place to start with this plan. Be sure to tag your document and use key words so search engines can find it, too.

Think about it and let me know what you believe. I would love to see some of your ideas and manifestos.

More information about word-of-mouth marketing and how to be “remarkable” can be found here:




Posted in Advertising, content marketing, cross-marketing, Local business, Lovemarks, marketing, Publishing, social media, Web sites, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From New York: More twists on journalism


Some of you know that we advocate hiring journalists – or former journalists – to create marketing copy and content and to add sizzle to your marketing areas. The New York Times web site went down yesterday, and the journalists took to Facebook and Twitter to keep churning out the news while the site was down. It is another example of how the lines of social media and journalism continue to blur. While this event was not a marketing event, per se, it sure has received a lot of attention for the New York Times and is generating a lot of buzz.

This article brings to light the events from yesterday in case you haven’t heard about them:



Posted in Advertising, content marketing, cross-marketing, Local business, marketing, Publishing, social media, Web sites, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building a community: yes, some people like to meet in real life!

Continue reading

Posted in Advertising, content marketing, cross-marketing, Local business, Lovemarks, marketing, Publishing, social media, Web sites, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Journalists: the new brand story tellers?

Can journalists be good brand story tellers?

Can journalists be good brand story tellers?

As a former journalist and a current marketer, I find it very interesting to read about how journalists are making the transition from reporting for news media to working in marketing departments. There are many important skills that journalists have that can be valuable in marketing. Let’s take a quick review of some.

First off, most good journalists are curious people. This is a good attribute for someone to have no matter what kind of job you are doing. People who like to learn and to know more about different subjects are usually the ones that progress well in companies. Next, journalists are usually good writers. This seems like a dying skill today, with text messaging ruling the day and acronyms and abbreviations finding their ways into everyday speech. Writers who can put sentences together, spell correctly and get a message across can be valuable. Also, journalists know how to to do research. The research I refer to is knowing how to follow a thread or an idea, get facts about it, and find the right people to talk with about it. And most journalists know how to tell a story. This is one of the key ideas that journalists learn in school. You learn how to hold a reader’s attention, and also how to use real-life language that most people understand as opposed to jargon. A journalist can take a product description and tell the story about the product so that a buyer wants to use the product and understands how it works. Listen to how people in your company talk about what is going on there. How much of what is said can be understood by people who do not work at your company? How much technical or other jargon is used by employees that may need translation so that normal people understand it? Your brand’s story can be told by a journalist so that your audience can be persuaded by your brand and to get that valuable emotional connection.  As an extra bonus, many journalists are also trained in the visual representation of a story, can take photos and even shoot video.

So the next time you are thinking about hiring a marketer, think about journalists and how they can help you. There are a lot of them out there looking for work and they can be pointed in the direction to help you.

Posted in Advertising, content marketing, cross-marketing, Local business, Lovemarks, marketing, Publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Since we love chocolate…..

….And we love content, we wanted to share this infographic about content marketing that was posted on, with source material from Mailonline and Direct Marketing News. We thought you might like it as much as we did. Content-Marketing-Sweetens-the-Mix

Posted in Advertising, content marketing, cross-marketing, Local business, Lovemarks, marketing, Publishing, social media, Web sites, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give your fans something to give


Courtesy: Tonefest

Courtesy: Tonefest

I’ve written before about the power of people when they love your company and your brand. The emotional connection and the loyalty people have when that happens is immeasurable.

Have you ever thought about giving your fans something that they, in turn, can give out to their friends and colleagues?

An example of this that I recently experienced was for the local YMCA of all places. I am a regular cyclist on the local bike path. Those of you who ride or walk on community paths probably experience the same thing that I do – you see the same people regularly, and even if you don’t really know them you will nod, wave or say hello.

A man who I see regularly on the bike path recently struck up a conversation with me as we were riding. I learned that he is a member of the local YMCA and is an enthusiast there. The conversation could have ended comparing notes, but he had several one-day passes to the Y in his wallet, and gave me one so that I could check it out. This was after he learned that I lived near the Y and had never gone there. Needless to say, I have since attended a class at the Y, using the pass he gave me, and I am getting ready to become a member.

This effort did not cost the YMCA much money, and having a brand enthusiast cycling around, obviously fit, and talking about the Y is an excellent endorsement for it. You can think about doing something like this for your business, no matter what it is. Can you give some nominal gift cards to your loyal customers for them to share with friends? Can you allow your fans to have extra tickets to performances if you run a theater or movie house? What about a free dessert or drink at your restaurant?

Some companies reward the fans who bring in others also. This gets a bit more complicated, but if you can easily track the source of the new traffic into your establishment (be it real or virtual) you can offer your loyal referral customers more rewards to maintain their loyalty.

This is not for everyone, but the YMCA experience really had me thinking about the power of the referral, and making it easy to try out. What do you think? Have you tried it, and if so, what were your results? I would love to hear from you.

Here’s another article about referrals you might like:


Posted in Advertising, content marketing, cross-marketing, Local business, Lovemarks, marketing, Publishing, social media, Web sites, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“I need a twitter.” What?


Today it is important for businesses, small and large, to participate in social media. We advocate it with our customers, and emphasize that engaging in social media is just that. Engagement. I talked to one business that told me they needed to be on Facebook, and “needed a twitter.” I knew right away that they could use some help to break down what this means for them.

The most important reminder for businesses is that social media consists of more than tools. People know social media by their tool names primarily (a la Twitter). These types of conversations remind me of when businesses used to tell me (in the old days): “I need a brochure.” The same type of thinking applies: what is your strategy and what is your message? What message and value proposition will you put into your brochure? What is the goal or result that you want to accomplish with these tools? In some ways social media is more like a retail store than a brochure: conversations occur and the communication is not one-way as it is with a brochure.

Marketingprofs recently published an article the emphasized similar thinking, so this is not a voice in the wilderness shouting it out. Just as you have done in the past, your business needs a strategy, a brand and a message, and then you use tools to get the message out and accomplish your strategy and goals.

Remember our philosophy of keeping it simple. If you want to use social media as part of your business’ marketing strategy keep these ideas in mind:

  1. What is the overall message that you want to convey and communicate?
  2. The tools you select need to be used by your customers? Do you know where your customers hang out online? Do you know where your prospective customers hang out? You may have a current base of customers who are baby boomers and you know they are on Facebook. You may want to improve your brand’s awareness to a different group of people in order to acquire new customers. Perhaps you will want to have a Pinterest page or make your presence known on Instagram in addition to Facebook.
  3. What do you want to achieve? Will you use social media for promotions, for raising awareness, for being more a part of a community? You need to think through these ideas before you randomly jump in.
  4. Remember that each of these activities requires effort and dedication. Social media, unlike a brochure, is a living entity and must be cared for and nurtured. It is not static. As we’ve discussed before, your business should dedicate someone to posting, monitoring and engaging on social media. To be successful with it, you need to be conscious of the fact that it is not a nights-and-weekends type of job.
  5. What will success look like for your business? Is it how many followers you have? Is it how many people bring an online coupon into your business?
  6. Practice makes perfect (if there is such a thing in social media). The good news about social media is that it changes all the time. If you make a mistake in using it, you apologize to your followers and move on. If you have your authentic voice and use it clearly, your customers will like and respect you for your honesty and for begin direct.

Remember to have some fun with it, and not take yourself too seriously. Let me know how it goes for you and let’s have a conversation.

Here’s an article you can read for more information:

Posted in Advertising, content marketing, cross-marketing, Local business, marketing, Publishing, social media, Web sites, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Do you know your total spend?

Check - Danilo RizzutiWhat is the total amount you spend marketing and advertising your business? You may be surprised by the number of business owners who are not completely sure of that number. One of the first things I do when I begin to work with a business is to assess what the business is doing today. Essentially, we go through an exercise of taking an inventory of what the business is doing relative to promoting its brand in its market / neighborhood and advertising itself. This inventory may include print advertising in local papers or magazines, sponsorship of little league teams, email campaigns, social media and web site messaging, billboards, truck signage and more. Once you have this inventory listed, you can more easily assign the amount of money you spend on these items, and who is responsible for creating them and seeing them through to fruition. It is also important to review these actions for consistency of your brand message.

This categorizing exercise often reveals a lack of a regular process. What I have found is often responsibilities are ad hoc in small businesses. Whoever remembers to do the emails, for example, may do them on their own time. Or, the manager of a store may also be the one assigned to update the Facebook page and forgets to do it when the store is busy.

I have learned that understanding who is doing what in a small business seems obvious but often is not easy. People make assumptions that tasks are begin completed but they may not be. It is counter intuitive that people working in a small business may not communicate effectively with one another, but it is very common. (And it is not unlike people who sit next to each other in big companies but who have not spoken in weeks). Make sure roles and responsibilities are known to your staff. Communicate, and then communicate some more.

The basics are easy to forget when you are busy:

  • What is your strategy?
  • What are you doing to accomplish your strategy?
  • What are the actions?
  • Who is doing them?
  • What do they cost?

If you can get to these basics, then you can determine if you are achieving what you intended or if you need to make adjustments in order to be successful.


Photo courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti and

Posted in Advertising, content marketing, cross-marketing, Local business, marketing, Publishing, social media, Web sites, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Causes matter to your customers

Causes matter to people, and to young consumers and shoppers in particular. “Causes” can be defined as non-profit organizations, or charitable foundations, or even families who have gone through a trauma and need help. Virtually every national or international non-profit has local affiliates, and there are most likely non–profits that are local to your neighborhood or community, too.

One idea I advocate for local businesses is to truly be part of your community and that includes giving back. Yes, you need an online community, but you can also benefit from that “real life” community in your neighborhood, too. Recent marketing research shows that young people, in particular, are influenced by cause marketing and are motivated by more than money in their careers (Source: Marketingprofs). They want to give back and desire to associate with companies that do so. If you own a locally-owned business and want to attract talent to work for you, and / or want to attract younger people to buy from you, aligning yourself with a specific local cause, or a diverse group of them might benefit you.

In April, for example, sustainability may be a “cause” that you can support in some fashion in your community. Earth Day falls in April and it is associated with “green” and the environment. You can most likely find “green” charitable organizations in your local community that would love to work with you.

Case study: The Chicago restaurant I work with, Gale Street Inn, is now a drop-off for cell phone recycling. People who are regular customers can easily drop off their old phones now, and it may attract others who want to drop off old phones and have never eaten there before. The owner, George Karzas, is shown below and this image was posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page, too. The restaurant has been a 10-year partner of a sustainability organization called the Gateway Green in Chicago, and the restaurant also hosted a fundraiser for the Gateway Green as another way of giving back.

Gale Street Inn is now a drop-off for cell phone recycling.

Gale Street Inn is now a drop-off for cell phone recycling.

Do you own a business that delivers to customers, such as an office products reseller or printing company? If so, does your delivery truck come back empty? Perhaps you can offer a recycling or shredding service that will make good use of your vehicles, help your customers, and also help the environment.

There are many ways to align your business with other companies in your neighborhood,  to align with causes that matter to your customers, and to further integrate your business into the fabric of your customers’ lives. Give it a try and find out for yourself.

Posted in content marketing, cross-marketing, Local business, marketing, Publishing, social media, Web sites, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment