Recently I had the opportunity to read Chip and Dan Heath's new book entitled "Made to Stick". The book was somewhat intriguing because I was applying their concepts to marketing as I read through the book. And, it made sense.

The premise of making something 'stick' that requires a balance of simplicity and concreteness is true in marketing execution. Being able to effectively connect your offering with buyers can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be impossible. However, it does require messages that have substance and are meaningful for the intended recipient. As the Heath fellas point out, there is an emotional connection involved, too.

In marketing your messages, doing so in the form of stories is very powerful. In fact, this is addressed on the Heath brothers blog where research indicates that stories carry more weight than advertisements. Well, obviously - assuming the story is well told, has substance, is believable, appeals to the buyer's emotions - - ahh, is sticky!

Well, I suppose they're on to something.

A long-time retailer in our Greenville-SC market recently closed after nearly 50 years of serving customers well. As a feed and seed store, they succumbed to the competitive pressures that our beloved big box retailers have been known to apply to the small guys out there.

What's interesting about this store as noted in the Greenville News eulogy, is the legacy they left. Rather than going down with the sunset, the former owner reflected back on the good times - the times that made great memories because of great customer service.

For years, everyone in town knew the store by it's gray, life size horse that stood outside the store marking it's location. If someone called the store, the staff would simply tell them to look for the gray horse and instantly people connected with that image. What a powerful brand icon!

But, the store wasn't just known for the familiar and stately gray horse. Once you entered the establishment, you were treated like family and nearly always returned. The brand experience was powerful and that's what we'll all miss. The personal service, the ability to get whatever you needed even if they didn't have it and the warmth of a place that felt like home.

That's what having a powerful brand can do for you. It isn't just some logo, icon or clever tag line. It's the experience that satisfies a need. Does your business have a gray horse that delivers for you?

Demonstrating marketing ROI presents plenty of challenges, but it isn't impossible. If companies will take the time to determine what they want to measure and what is reasonable, then the process will make a lot more sense to everyone involved. One of the misconceptions is that ANY marketing tactic will result in significant sales - immediately. Well, we all wish that was the case, but marketing is a process that paves the way and provides the tools for effective selling.

The best way to measure is to implement the proper tools that can provide meaningful data. For instance, a CRM solution integrates both sales and marketing activity so that you have a single view of all initiatives. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a good example and an implementation expert like Customer Effective is worth considering who has a sole focus on making CRM effective. Other tools help measure web site traffic and important statistics related to campaigns where site traffic spikes should be tracked. WebTrends has a fantastic web analytics solution for that very purpose. And, WebTrends is integrated into CRM so you have a seamless reporting capability for all data points.

Obviously there are other ways to measure - some are intangibles like name recognition and market education. The point is to have some type of ROI component in place to measure your marketing effectiveness. Having the right tool can make this process a simple one and eliminate the pain-staking task of manually pulling your data together.

What does it mean to be loyal? Many definitions use words such as allegiance, steadfastness, faithfulness and committed. This is especially true for many in our military forces who have a defined 'commitment' to defend our country and ensure the freedom we all enjoy.

This isn't always the case in sports. Many people will lay claim to their favorite team only when that team is winning. These are the fair weather fans. As soon as the team starts to lose or experiences a dip, these fans disappear into thin air.

What about customers in your business? Would you describe them as being faithful or having an allegiance toward your products, services or solutions? If not, then determine why and create the programs that will ensure your company is where they will turn every time they have a need that you can solve.

Consider the cost of obtaining a new customer. Then, consider the investment it takes to keep them. It's nearly a no-brainer to find ways to keep them when you look at the numbers involved.

Having loyal customers is of great value. Making sure you consistently deliver what they need, when they need it and in a way that provides a benefit to them is key. If you falter in delivering value, then you risk having fair weather customers.

Football season is now upon us and already the college football faithful have been treated to some unbelievable games. Fresh on all of our minds is the major upset that Appalachian State pulled off against powerhouse Michigan. The headline pretty much said it all: 'One and Done'. That's a powerful headline and it sums up the situation for Michigan very well - they played one game, lost it and with that their dreams of a national championship.

Think about the power of headlines as they related to your marketing efforts. Are they meaningful? Do they stop the reader in that 2-3 second slot of time you have to capture their attention? Your goal is to make a very quick connection with the reader or passerby who says 'wait a second...what is this?' The body copy and graphics then work together in harmony to effectively tell your story - but with precision and crispness - to lead the reader to a call for action.

While attending a recent college football game in a famous stadium known in the Southeast as Death Valley, I couldn't help but find my attention drawn to the big, bright, flashing advertisements and promos running along the border between the upper and lower decks. What I found fascinating was the lack of any message. In all fairness, most of these high-dollar sponsors had some local brand recognition so this was definitely positive reinforcement. But for those 'me too' guys who spent who knows how much to have their logos animated in neon - - well, I'd really like to know their ROI. No web address, no solution bullet listing - - just a flashy logo in front of 83,000 people who were given no reason to check these guys out.

Have purpose when you advertise. Do it with a goal and solid objective in mind. Don't be one of these people that wonders six months from now why their big dollar stadium advertising went no where. Instead, approach it with purpose like a true business winner!

In recent weeks, I've had several encounters with various businesses where each time I was the buyer - the customer. My point isn't to blast anyone, rather to demonstrate where the road to loyalty begins or where it never starts. That's a choice every business makes. Here are the highlights of my experiences.

In June, we purchased a pre-owned vehicle from our local Toyota dealer - Toyota of Greenville. Since it had been more than 11 years since my last automobile purchase, I wasn't looking forward to the experience. To my surprise, it was actually a delight thanks to Tom Jones, our sales representative. He applied no pressure, was honest, straight-forward and made the experience one that I said I would share with others - so I am.

At that same time, I visited our local Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my driver's license. Again, cringing at the thought of wasting my entire afternoon waiting in line, I headed to the DMV. Another delightful experience - I was in and out in 20 minutes. No hassles, no nothing - just the service that I've ALWAYS wanted from the DMV.

Then, a couple of weeks later, we decided to pick up lunch one Saturday at Wendy's. I confidently approached the counter, placed my order and then it all broke loose. All I wanted was three burgers - each fixed slightly different from the other. I even had it written down. No matter how many times the MANAGER started over with my order, he never gave me the confidence it was right. Well, that proved to be the case when I arrived home and NONE of the burgers were right. That was perhaps the worst fast-food experience I've had. Ironically, check out the statement on the Wendy's home page at the bottom: "At Wendy's®, we're unrivaled in our passion for giving people what they want — and uncompromising in giving people what they deserve.." I received neither. Guess what fast-food restaurant is now off my list?

Finally, I bought another car recently. This time it was a new one. After all the negotiating and time spent in the dealership, it was time to take delivery of my new car. While waiting on the sales rep to finish up some paperwork, I noticed he hadn't reversed my tires like I had asked and as we had agreed. In an effort to make it right, we both entered the sales manager's office to explain the situation. A rather cool greeting was extended to me by this sales manager who proceeded to cry about only making $65 profit on the car AND THEN barking about losing $10 if they fulfilled their promise to me because of a service fee they would incur. I couldn't believe my ears. Was this MY money they were worrying about or THEIRS? What a joke. Another ironic twist to a story - the same day this occurred, our local newspaper, The Greenville News, had published my marketing article that discussed how to build customer loyalty by treating the customer properly and with respect.

And that's really the entire point of these stories. In two situations, the companies and organizations were well trained and kept their eye on the ball - the customer. In the other two, they didn't seem to care as their interests were more important than the person with the check book.

Granted, we all have bad days, but a single bad day that results in losing a customer can have a negative snowball effect on your business. Stay poised and treat those well who have entrusted you with their wallets. Doing so means you both will win.

For years, I observed with great internal humor co-workers attempting to be more than they really were. In a Fortune 100 corporate environment, that's not too surprising as everyone seems to be vying for position and using every political maneuver known to man to make their special mark. What humored me was to watch well-educated, talented and skilled people take on the persona of something they were not.

As in many big corporations, executive management level personnel like to wear the standard issue navy blazer when it comes time for client meetings, internal departmental meetings, special events, etc. This became increasingly popular when the casual attire rules became wide spread and ties were no longer required. We've all seen them. Executive VP's would drop in from corporate headquarters adorned in their special navy blazer to check on the worker bees.

Why? Well, you have to set yourself apart somehow to demonstrate your authority over others. I guess a title and hefty salary aren't enough.

The sad truth to this is that those who thought they were executives did the same thing - wearing the navy jacket to meetings. It seemed that if you had anyone that worked under you, then you must put on the special coat. Not everyone played this game - including myself.

Part of this story works - setting yourself apart in business from competitors is a must. You certainly want to distinguish your services, solutions, products, people, etc. from all the rest.

However, it is the other half of the story that can bite you on the backside. If in your attempts to be singled out or distinguished means looking like everyone else or doing what others are already doing, you haven't accomplished anything.

That's what happened with the navy jacket scenario - the wanna-be's wore them too which degraded the purpose of the coat. I even had a colleague who was new to the company, asked me about the jacket situation, then decided to wear one himself to a group meeting - as a joke. Turns out that none of our executive management members wore theirs! Purpose defeated.

And that's the point - have purpose to your efforts to stand out. Create value distinctives that are unique to your business. Develop a company snapshot that no one else can claim. Plan to succeed with a strategic roadmap that specifies where you need to focus your marketing efforts. Be creative, noticeable and attractive to your intended market. Leave the navy jacket at home.

It's been said that 'strategy is everything'. There are certainly good arguments to support that statement especially those that pertain to your business.

Most people wouldn't dream of taking a road trip without a map. But many businesses feel they can 'fly by the seat of their pants' and do just fine. No plan, no map, no strategy and no real direction. Where does that usually take you? In most cases, the land of frustration which is full of shattered dreams, missed opportunities and plenty of headaches.

Your remedy? A well defined plan. If you are expecting great results from your business efforts, you have to put a plan in place to indicate where you are going to go. Because your marketing is the primary driver behind your sales efforts, you must put a strategic roadmap in place that defines where you want to go, why you should go there, what opportunities there are, what you can expect to achieve, how you will conquer and who you will win.

Your strategic marketing roadmap becomes the guide that answers the logical who, what, where, when, how and why questions. It includes a schedule, time line, resources required and budget needed to meet that revenue bogey that you established.

Knowing which pathways to take and include within your roadmap are key. And, knowing which 'vehicles' to use is equally important. You'll also want to be certain that your tactics are prioritized and are in logical sequence.

Capture results and measure the effectiveness of your plan. Simply having a plan doesn't guarantee anything. It is how you put your roadmap together, execute and manage it that will determine its effectiveness.

Go out there and enjoy your revenue-seeking travels...and be sure you know where you're headed!

Who doesn't remember the 1979 Coke commercial featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers 'Mean Joe Greene'? Yeah, the one where he guzzles a Coke and in appreciation (instead of a major burp) tosses the kid his game jersey to the line of 'Hey kid, catch'. Oh how this delighted TV viewing audiences for what seemed like forever. The commercial won all kind of awards and is noted as one of the most popular television commercials of all time.

So how successful was this commercial? The creative guys and ad agencies would all quickly thump their chests and proclaim this a heart warming moment where 'football giant makes happiest day of small boy's life.' And in the center of the spotlight is our favorite soft drink brand - Coke. Ahh. How nice. Hey, I'm not knocking it. This remains a fantastic commercial memory.

But did you know Coke jerked that commercial off the air the moment it failed to produce additional sales? They didn't keep it aired just to satisfy consumer fluffiness. No sir. Instead, they took a business approach and determined based on measurement and ROI that the commercial had run its course in driving additional revenue for Coke. Sergio Zyman - then Chief Marketing Officer for Coke - now head of Zyman Group - pulled the plug.

How many of us would have been that bold? How many of us have been guilty of wasteful marketing spending?

Think about that. Unless your marketing dollars - - whether advertising or other - - are tied to new business and additional revenue, it's probably a really good idea to scrutinize what those dollars are accomplishing for you.

Marketing is an investment. And, investments are supposed to yield favorable returns. Mean Joe Greene turned 'softee' in that famous Coke commercial for just a few seconds. In reality, it was the Coca Cola Company who avoided the trap and made the right business decision to move on.

Have you ever attended a trade show that was just absolutely 'over the top'? I still recall a show in Las Vegas several years ago that was undeniably first rate. It was actually a software company's annual conference, but it included numerous exhibitors and some of the normal trade show flair. The event included very well done exhibits, excellent conference sessions, plenty of food, entertainment - the list goes on. They even brought in the famed Doobie Brothers for two free concerts at the Hard Rock Cafe. Can't beat that.

While discussing the event with a colleague after returning from the conference, neither of us could find the right word to describe it. Finally, he nailed it - Galactic! Bigger and almost better than life.

Even though you may not be able to influence your next trade show beyond your company's exhibit, you can make your visitor's experience 'galactic'. Focus on doing everything right from your booth design to those who will be in your booth interacting with visitors.

You may also benefit from engaging the services of a trade show expert like Julia O'Connor. She provides
online trade show training to ensure you maximize your show experience. This takes into account all of the components from pre-show planning to post-show follow-up - - and the all-important in-between tactics that need to be organized, planned and properly executed.

And, ensuring that your exhibit provides an engaging message to show attendees is critical toward your success.
Skyline Exhibits & Design does an excellent job at determining what kind of exhibit is right for your company and then designing that exhibit for your display needs.

Don't cut corners and fail to plan for your trade show marketing. Simply showing up in your booth and watching aisle traffic will result in nothing more than disappointment. You can have a galactic experience with your next trade show if you plan, strategize and execute well. And, you'll be very pleased with the ROI.



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