Saturday, February 09, 2008

Understanding the Baby Boomers

Just because Bob Dylan sold his music to Victoria's Secret a few years ago (for one of their ad campaigns) it doesn't mean all baby boomers can be lumped together. As a matter of fact, there is a big difference between those born in 1946 and those born in 1964.

A couple of days ago, I met an auctioneer who is in his 60's who loves the music we play on our Adult Standards radio station. Click here and check it out yourself. You can listen on line.

One of the most popular air personalities in town is Doc West, on our classic rock station. Doc is about 10 years younger than the auctioneer. Click here and check it out yourself. You can listen on line.

Adage last week ran an article about the misunderstood generation and they were not talking about today's teenagers. Read it for yourself:

The Misunderstood Generation

They comprise nearly 24 percent of the population, have a buying power of $3 trillion, and include many of the country's current business and political leaders. But marketers misunderstand -- and inefficiently target -- this country's 78 million baby boomers.

That's according to a new 22-page survey of 1,320 baby boomers from Edelman shared exclusively with Ad Age. Conducted with the agency's in-house market research subsidiary, StrategyOne, the study was undertaken after a group of senior Edelman executives (many who are boomers themselves) decided to test a theory that says marketers are failing to connect with consumers born between 1946 and 1964.

And indeed, the results found that marketers overgeneralize, misrepresent and sometimes ignore the generation, lumping them together and, in the process, alienating them. "We really set out to blow up some myths," said Jody Quinn, exec VP-general manager of Edelman's Boomer Insights Generation Group. "The longer that marketers keep treating [boomers] as a huge mass as opposed to individuals, the longer it's going to take them to enter the market."

Many resent generalization

Only 71 percent of those surveyed defined themselves as boomers, which means 22 million Americans -- generally those over 60 years old and under 46 -- don't even consider themselves as part of the demographic, said Laurence Evans, president of StrategyOne. While advertisers may think they're appealing to a wide audience by using the term baby boomers, they're in fact distancing those who resent the generalization.

"It would behoove marketers to consider that boomers are not a widespread demographic," said Marilynn Mobley, senior VP-strategic counsel at Edelman. "Baby boomers have always been considered the 'me-generation,' and that doesn't change with age. We're still just as self-centered and we want things very customized."

The study also found that boomers don't show a lot of brand loyalty. At least half surveyed (50 percent of the males and 60 percent of the females) said they were "not at all set for life financially," which supports the notion that brands don't always matter to a generation looking to save rather than spend.

"I've presented our findings to a few Fortune 500 companies," Ms. Mobley said. "For the first time, they understand the connection between a boomer's concern for finances and their willingness to spend money on brands."

A gap bridged by Leno?

Those weren't the only glaring gender differences that the study found. After weighing several questions, the study concluded that men were more optimistic and enthused about the future ahead, while women were more stressed and concerned about the direction of their lives and finances. And then there was a gender gap in how they consume media.

According to the study, men consume media with their heads, seeking information on sports, news and business from AM radio, online, and print news sources such as the Wall Street Journal. Women seek information with their hearts, choosing to read home, food, fashion, and travel magazines and newspaper sections to find practical, do-it-yourself advice and heart-warming, inspirational stories rather than straight news. Despite these differences, they did agree on one thing: "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

Given the variance of the generation, the study suggests marketers need to identify and target influential "bull's-eye boomers," a term Edelman coined to describe boomers whose opinions are well-respected and often solicited. The study showed that bull's-eye boomers are typically wealthy, highly educated empty-nesters who are actively engaged socially, tuned-in politically and heavily involved in their community. Acting on research that indicates boomers listen to other boomers, Edelman believes bull's-eye boomers carry a lot of influence.

Targeting bulls-eye boomers

"It's really important for a brand to understand who my brand's bull's-eye boomer is," Ms. Mobley said, "and the way to do that is to determine what those 'bulls-eye boomers' consume from a media standpoint."

An overwhelming majority of survey respondents felt misrepresented and neglected by the advertising industry (54 percent), the media and entertainment industry (91 percent), and politicians (76 percent). "This is a generation -- because of the sheer size of their demographic -- for which the world has always changed to meet their needs," Mr. Evans said. "Now [boomers] are finding that they're feeling a little left out by political campaigns, media and TV that are focused on younger groups."

So how do marketers cater to the boomer generation's needs? "Good marketing is ultimately about targeting segmentation," he said, "[so] just recognize that boomer is a description of a birthday, not a generation."

(Source:, 2/5/08)

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Macy's Marketing Mishaps

What happens when you try and transform two or three well known brands into one? Such is the case of Macy's/Marshall Field/L.S.Ayres.

In Fort Wayne, L.S. Ayres was THE upscale-ish department store for the middle class. Then the consolidation began. L.S. Ayres was renamed Macy's.

And before this, we had both Marshall Field and L.S. Ayres as anchor stores in Glenbrook Mall, the largest Mall in Indiana.

There was outrage in Chicago-land when they lost their hometown store, Marshall Field, as it was renamed Macy's, a New York City store. In Fort Wayne, the Marshall Field anchor store at Glenbrook is empty.

Meanwhile the lean and mean Macy's is becoming even leaner. Mediapost reports:

Macy's Sales Skid, Cuts 2,600 Jobs
Thursday, Feb 7, 2008 5:00 AM ET
WHILE MOST RETAILERS WON'T POST their January same-store sales until today, Macy's got the expected bad news rolling a day early.

The company says its same-store sales fell 7.1% in January, worse than the 4 to 6% decline it had forecast. And it announced a sweeping reorganization, which will eliminate some 2,600 jobs and strengthen local market focus.

"Improving sales and earnings performance requires innovation in engaging our customer more effectively in every store, as well as reducing total costs," the company says in its release. "We believe the right answer is to reallocate our resources to place more emphasis and talent at the local market level to differentiate Macy's stores, serve customers and drive business."

--Sarah Mahoney

You can read more about the background of these stores here.

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A back up plan for your back up plan

Looking back on it, I thought I was the kiss of death. But I was wrong. I'm only human.

In the year 2001, I believe, I was doing some voice over work. That means getting paid to narrate something, like a radio commercial.

A local advertising agency called me up and wanted me to do these spots for Roots Outdoor Outfitters. These commercials would air on radio station WAJI whenever they did a ski report.

Well, the time to go to the recording studio arrived and I was having problems getting there. It was at Sweetwater Sound, a national company based here in Fort Wayne. Problem was the road to get there was closed and I needed to take some back roads through the boonies and, well, I was late.

After arriving and cutting the spot, I told them not to pay me, since I was late, but they insisted and a few weeks later a check for my services arrived.
Now the commercial was to air when we had enough snow for the area ski resorts to do a ski report on the radio. Problem was, that year, we had no snow. That nearly put Roots Outdoor Outfitters out of business.

So, do you have a back up for your back up plan? I mean not just a "Plan B", but a "Plan C" & "Plan D"?

Harvey Mackay wrote about this subject recently:

Don't panic if the bottom line bottoms out

Stash something aside for a rainy day? Good advice for people and businesses both. How about stocking up in case there's a warm and sunny one? That can work too. It's exactly what the outerwear maker Weatherproof Garment Company just did when they bought $10 million of insurance coverage to insure against unseasonably warm weather in December. On Dec. 12, the thermometer climbed to 66 in Pittsburgh. It's the first time an apparel maker has hedged its financial exposure to the weather with a policy. Contingency planning can pay off. And companies are diving for rocky-time shelters undreamed of a decade ago.

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst . . . and prepare early. That's something the barons of finance didn't do in the face of the recent credit crunch. Road kill is littering Wall Street. In less than a month, Stan O'Neal was ousted as CEO of Merrill Lynch, and Chuck Prince left Citigroup's helm. To show there's a glass basement that goes along with the glass ceiling, Morgan Stanley's Zoe Cruz, the top-ranking woman on Wall Street, joined them out the door days later.

The sweet can sour fast these days. In November, it was a kiss-off for six Hershey's board members. At Motorola, Ed Zander's watch as CEO of Motorola ended after months of pressure for the sharp decline of the company's cell-phone business. CEOs have never been paid better and are never more in peril of tumbling off the perch. If CEOs are hitting the pavement, you don't have to be an Einstein to figure out what's happening a level or two down.

Thinking about how you might pare back if you have to? Forget about the axe. Even a scalpel could be too clumsy. Better work with a laser instead. Want your business to live to a riper old age? Here are some New Age tips that could help:

  • A decade ago, trimming R&D and technology expenses was a 'gimme' in a downturn. Now it may be a fatal error. Information is the plasma of modern business. You could be hawking Bluetooth communications gear or corporate bonds. It doesn't matter. The former director of a defunct investment banking outfit noted in Inc. magazine: "We were a successful sales organization, but our credibility with customers was based on the underlying research we brought to problems ... Unfortunately, the president didn't understand that, so when he needed to cut costs, he cut back on research. Almost instantly, our sales melted away."
  • Considering cutting back your sales force? Dangerous step. Again, are you taking care of "I" . . . and "I" means information? Are you giving your salespeople the right leadership and the right leads? Expert James M. Rubenstein writing for Crain's says: "A telemarketer can give 10,000 four-minute quality sales presentations per year." I'll guarantee you not a one will be worth the dial tone unless you are qualifying your prospects properly in the first place.
  • Stay close to your best people. In tough times, you'll need them the most. When business is booming, who can spare a day for a seminar? Some wisdom from FastCompany on training in downturns: "Now people have more time. And it's the time to develop them." If you never stop the clock to groom your stars, someone else will.
  • Some customers have the jitters. Does your marketing make a strong value statement? Anticipate customer pressure. If a downturn happens, they'll want price concessions. Know which ones you'll give beforehand, and it will help you identify how to cut costs today.
  • Track your competitors. Watch their websites. Monitor press coverage on them daily on the Web. Maybe they're more pessimistic than you are. Maybe they're already panicking on pricing. No matter why they're doing it, one thing is sure: The marketplace is changing and the customer is paying attention.

Times have been good for a long stretch, and here's hoping they will be again soon. The best way to dodge a downturn is to run a tight ship 24-7. Investing in your valued competitive edges and your best people can do better magic than simply making expenses and people disappear.

Mackay's Moral: Rough water is no place to check to see if you packed your life preserver.

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Blogging Every Single Day

Word for word, I agree with the following from Seth Godin's Blog:

Have to vs. Get to

Someone asked me the other day if posting a blog post every day is intimidating or a grind.

I view it as something I get to do. I spend most of my blogging time deciding what not to post.

The best work, at least for me, is the stuff you get to do. If you are really good at that, you're lucky enough to have very little of the have to stuff left.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Baby Boomers are Still Booming

Looking for information on those Baby Boomers? The ones that were responsible for Elvis, Beatlemania, and Disco? The ones that were called Hippies, Yuppies and other funky names?

This is where the money is, still.

The Boomer Blog Trend report has what you are looking for. For example:

For the first time in our country’s history, four generations are at work in the American workplace, vying for recognition, compensation and power. The Ikes, those born between 1932 and 1945, are finishing up the work of their Greatest Generation. Generations X (1965 – 1979) and Y (1980 and beyond) are claiming their places and carving out their niches.

But it’s the Boom Generation—the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964; the healthiest, wealthiest and most educated generation in history—that will dominate for the next 18 years.

Read the Report >>

Read the Research >>

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Is Superbowl Advertising worth the money?

We are still getting feedback from the Superbowl and the gross amounts of money spent to advertise and when you throw in the production costs for those commercials, people are wondering, is it worth it?

Let's say you take 4 million dollars. You probably cover the production costs of a basic ad, and get your shot at 30 seconds of fame.

If you were able to get just 50% of the estimated 95 million plus viewers to see your commercial, your cost per person would be less than 9 cents! Problem is that is only 1 impression per person, and human behavior does not work that way to generate response (in most cases).

However, this year the problem of just one impression is solved by the device you are looking at right now.

Yes, the internet, is where those 30 seconds of tv time will live forever, and be played more than once. The best will be seen perhaps dozens of times by a certain group of people who want to see the ads again, and again, and again.

As a matter of fact, there are people that did not see the 30 second ad during the Superbowl, that WILL see the ad online. This is classic Word Of Mouth, which is how human behavior works.

Now more than any other Superbowl, ever, the money spent was well worth it..... IF and this is a BIG IF.... IF The commercial was memorable for the product or service and motivates action and/or branding.

The folks at TNS and have more on this subject:

More Super Bowl XLII Advertising Stats Than You Can Shake a Stick at

Data on spending trends across categories, viewers’ reactions, impact on commercial ratings, and social-media buzz are included in a TNS analysis of Super Bowl commercial winners and losers issued this week.

TNS Media Intelligence, TNS Media Research, TNS Media and Entertainment and TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony provided the information. Below, among the findings released by TNS.

Advertising Trends across Brand Categories

Record-Setting Level of Ad Time

Super Bowl XLII featured a record-setting amount of network commercial time, according to TNS Media Intelligence:


  • Between the opening kickoff and the final gun, Fox aired 45:10 mm:ss of advertising messages, including paying sponsors, messages from the NFL and promotional plugs from Fox for its own programming.
  • The past three games now occupy the top three spots in terms of Super Bowl ad clutter:

Category Wars: Battle of the Brands

Anheuser-Busch was again the exclusive beer advertiser in the Super Bowl - in contrast to the message clutter from movie studios and non-alcoholic beverage brands:


  • Consistent with recent years’ trend, eight motion pictures were advertised in the game - the largest number of competing messages from any single category.
  • There was a surge in advertising from non-alcoholic beverages, as well:
    • Six brands aired spots in the game, an all-time high for this segment.
    • Along with the familiar presence of Pepsi and Coke sodas, there were competing messages for energy drinks (Gatorade; Amp) and flavored waters (SoBe Life; Glaceau Vitamin Water).
  • Combined, movies and non-alcoholic beverages accounted for approximately 30% of the paid ad time in the game.

Second-by-Second Commercial Ratings

TNS Media Research analyzed audience viewing behavior during the game and the commercial breaks. The following highlights are based on second-by-second clickstream data collected from over 300,000 Households (HHs) in the Charter Communications Los Angeles digital cable system:

  • On average, 30.3% of HHs tuned in to the game itself. The pre-game show averaged a 23.7% rating, while over 33.7% of homes viewed at least one second of the post-game award presentation.
  • 5.7% of HHs viewed the game on FOX-HD - close to 19% of the total audience.
  • As expected, few viewers tuned away from the commercial breaks during the game with the spot-to-program retention index averaging 100 (Commercial Viewing Index):
    • The highest commercial retention score went to the Ford F Truck - F Series 30-second commercial, which posted a 112 in the spot just prior to kick-off.
    • Not surprisingly, the lowest commercial retention occurred during the post-game as viewing dropped from a rating of 31.4% to 21.6%: The last pod, airing prior to House, averaged a CVI retention score of 78.
  • A second-by-second look at commercial avoidance reveals that less than 1% of commercial seconds were avoided by channel changing.
  • The FOX-HD audience was even less likely to tune away, with only 0.5% of those seconds being lost, perhaps reflecting that almost all of the Super Bowl advertising was presented in high definition.

Which Commercials Delivered on Their $2 Million+ Price Tag

TNS Media and Entertainment surveyed online a nationally representative sample of 1,048 adults 18-54 years of age on Monday February 4 who had watched the Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. All respondents were panelists from the TNS 6th Dimension Interactive Panel. Among the findings:

Levels of Recall

On average, each Super Bowl viewer recalled 39 commercials. The E*Trade Financial Services commercial featuring the talking baby garnered the highest level of recall - 70% of all Super Bowl viewers. The following closely followed:

  • Bud Light: Jackie Moon (69% recall)
  • Budweiser: Horse training to Rocky theme (67% recall)
  • Sobe LifeWater: Naomi Campbell with lizards (67% recall)
  • E*Trade Financial: Talking baby with clown in background (66% recall)

Best- and Worst-Performing Ads

All 79 commercials broadcast during the game were evaluated on three dimensions among respondents who recalled the commercials - commercial likeability, positive brand impact, future purchase consideration - which comprise the Commercial Performance Index (CPI).

The best performing commercials based on the TNS CPI were as follows:

  • Budweiser: Horse Training to Rocky Theme (+387 CPI)
  • Coca Cola Classic: Charlie Brown Balloon (+373 CPI)
  • Bridgestone Tires: Screaming Animals (+352 CPI)
  • National Football League: Living A Dream (+321 CPI)

The ads ranked with the lowest CPI:

  •; Ramesh (-307 CPI)
  • Pandas (-237 CPI)
  • Zantac (-129 CPI)
  • Sunsilk (-118 CPI)

Pod Position Effects

TNS researchers also uncovered an interesting finding: ads in the first pod position had higher average CPI scores than ads elsewhere in the commercial break. This has relevance to the ongoing industry discussion about commercial placement and commercial pod construction.

Buzz Generated in Social Media

TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony analyzed the level of online discussion about Super Bowl commercials on social media. As of mid-day Monday, February 4, only seven brands were generating significant levels of discussion.


High Volume of Discussion

  • Overall, viewers are highly positive toward the ads. Anheuser-Busch (representing the sum of discussion of all individual Budweiser and Bud Light ads) is getting twice the conversation of second-place Audi.
  • GoDaddy is getting significant discussion but it skews negative. Strong negative feelings are, understandably, a driver of discussion.
  • Coca-Cola discussion is extraordinarily positive - viewers enjoyed the Balloon and Carville/Frist ads.
  • Both TNS’s CPI scores and Cymfony’s analysis put Anheuser Busch, Bridgestone and E*Trade in the top tier.
  • Interestingly, a number of advertisers did well in CPI, but not in social media discussion, including NFL, Tide and most in the movies category.

Low Volume of Discussion has low volume, but the posts are strongly negative. Many of them express the opinion that the commercial used racially offensive stereotypes.

This year, ads with upbeat, positive messages were effective with consumers and also generated additional brand value in word of mouth.

See TNS’s Super Bowl XLII 2008 Creative Log for a complete log of all Super Bowl 2008 commercials and the full detail of TNS’s Super Bowl research.

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American Consumer January 2008 Retail Results

Mediapost sent out this tidbit of information. Smart businesses are able to adapt and gain when the marketplace shifts. And this was not a sudden shift so you should have been prepared. The "floating question" however is what is a "need" in 2008. Ten years ago a cellphone was on the "want" list. Can you predict what will move from "want" to "need" this year? Here's the results:

January Sales Stink, As Consumers Sort 'Wants' From 'Needs'
by Sarah Mahoney, Friday, Feb 8, 2008 10:34 AM ET
WHILE THE SAME-STORE SALES OF major U.S. retailers actually picked up a smidge from December, the overall weak results are giving retailers more clues about what's weighing on consumers' minds: Necessities are in, and anything else isn't.

"Gift card redemptions were below expectations, and customers appear to be holding gift cards longer and using them more often for food and consumables rather than discretionary purchases," Wal-Mart says, in announcing that its same-store sales gained 0.2% for the four-week period.

Sales at drug stores and warehouse clubs gained, but in every other category, consumers just weren't spending. In fact, it was the worst January sales results since 1970, reports the International Council of Shopping Centers, with same-store sales growing 0.5%, compared to the previous year, according to ICSC's index.

"Gift cards left over from December failed to buoy the month's sales as they have in previous years," ICSC says. "With uncertainty about the economy, and the possibility of a recession, consumers have pared their spending. Looking forward to February, we expect much of the same."

"People are still buying food," says Ayuna Kidder, an economist at TNS Retail Forward, a Columbus, Ohio-based retail consultancy, "but for everything else, they seem to be waiting." TNS also tracks sales result, and its index showed sales inching up to 1.0% from the prior month. Its sales-weighted composite is up from a 0.2% reported last month and down from the 4% composite reported in January 2007.

No matter how you index the results, there aren't many winners. Target's sales fell 1.1%. And while both Saks Fifth Avenue (up 4.1%) and Neiman Marcus (up 3.3%) showed increases, same-store sales at practically every other department store took a header. At Dillard's, sales fell 12%, at Kohl's Corp., 8.3%, at Macy's, 7.1%, and J.C. Penney, 1.9%. Even the chi-chi Nordstrom struggled, with sales sliding 6.6%.

Shoppers also shunned specialty retailers. Same-store sales at Limited Brands, which owns Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, dropped 8%, and sales at the Gap fell 2%. Some teen retailers struggled (sales at American Eagle Outfitters slipped 7%, Wet Seal, 5.7%, and Hot Topic 3.6%.) Abercrombie & Fitch managed to come in flat, and at Aeropostale, sales rose 4.7%.

In women's apparel, a sector that has been struggling, same-store sales at Chico's FAS plunged 22.1%. Earlier this week, Talbot's which also owns J. Jill, reported that it same-store sales fell 6% for the quarter, and that it would close an additional 22 stores.

By the end of January, according to TNS Retail Forward's ongoing ShopperScape Survey, half of the value of gift cards received during the holidays has been redeemed, and consumers expect to use two- thirds by Valentine's Day. Some 61% of households received a gift card during the holiday period--up from 56% last year, with an average value of $139.

Sarah Mahoney can be reached at

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Finally! Someone understands Why we advertise!

Okay, I love the creative side of advertising as much as anyone else who has been in this business or has watched, listened to or observed creative advertising.

But the bottom line is still the bottom line.

I got in the radio business to talk and play tunes and have fun.

Then I grew up a little and learned that the radio business, just like all other media is actually an advertising vehicle. Or a connection vehicle.

Using radio as my example, we have say, 100,000 people listening to our radio stations every week. These people buy stuff. We let them know what they can buy, where they can buy it and sometimes how much it is. This is the connection that pays us and all the support staff in the office and the jocks on the radio money, which keeps everyone employed!

Businesses pay for advertising to reach people who will buy their stuff and radio (and other media) is the mouthpiece.

Nowhere in this equation is "creative" by itself, considered. The creative is just a method of formulating the message that people respond to, to get them to, first of all, think of the product or company, and then second of all, persuade the consumer to take action and spend their money with the company and complete the transaction that creates a win-win-win situation for everyone.

A week has almost passed since the Superbowl aired. The questions behind the millions of $$ spent on creative and then airing of what are supposed to be the best TV commercials all year is... (drum roll).... "Do you remember who advertised in those commercials? and Did sales increase for those companies and their products that spent the millions?"

IAG has done the research on this topic and here are their results that came in my email today:

IAG: Breaks Down Popular/Recalled Super Bowl Spots
by Wayne Friedman, Friday, Feb 8, 2008 8:45 AM ET
SUPER BOWL SPOTS MAY BE well-liked--but are they well-remembered?

Research company IAG chimes in with its analysis of the Super Bowl and breaks down these spots in two key areas. One glaring example of the differing criteria comes from an NFL commercial--a spot that tells the story of how Ephraim Salaam, a big guy who plays the oboe, finds his way into the NFL.

It was rated the most likable of all Super Bowl spots. But as for being the most recalled--the spot wasn't even on IAG's top 10 list.

A Coca-Cola commercial featuring parade balloons chasing after a Coke balloon also scored well in likeability--taking a third-place spot. But it didn't make the top 10 of spots recalled.

Similarly, a Bridgestone commercial--showing critters screaming as a car, traveling at night, misses them thanks to good tires--achieved high likeability, with a fourth-place spot, but it didn't make the top 10 of spots recalled.

Conversely, the FedEx spot featuring an entrepreneurial executive who solves his shipping problems with giant carrier pigeons was the most-recalled spot, according to IAG. But it wasn't as well-liked in relation to other TV commercials, and it did not appear on IAG's top 10 list.

Other spots did well on both lists: The Budweiser spot featuring a Dalmatian training a Clydesdale to make a beer wagon team, all to the tune of the "Rocky" theme music, scored well in likeability and recall --coming in at second place on both lists.

The Doritos spot where a man looks and waits to catch a mouse and ends up getting attacked by the giant mouse was the fifth-best-liked spot and fourth-best spot recalled. This is the second year that Doritos has allowed consumers to compete to produce a Super Bowl spot. Doritos also did well in other industry surveys.

Other spots that scored well on both likeability and recall lists include: E-Trade and its smart investor-talking baby; and Planters and its uni-brow woman in pink who rubs cashews on her like perfume.

You can click here to watch those ads again if you really want to.

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Most Aired TV Commercials

Off the top of my head, I can only recall 2 (maybe 3) of these by name. And as my wife pointed out, the dippy guy in the Arby's commercial is also thinking about Campbell's soup in another commercial.

IAG's Top 5 Most-Aired TV Spots

1. "Toyota Sequoia" Sequoia hauls trailer with family; best evenings usually don't end with television; fold-flat rear seats; kids use telescope (:30)

2. "Arby's" French Dip & Swiss Toasted Sub; couple on blanket; let's go for a dip; girl skinny dips, boy runs to car (:30)

3. "H&R Block" Taxcut; man is stuck; get people to help; we used a box; tell the box you're stuck; direct access to professionals (:30)

4. "Tropicana" Kids try to squeeze oranges; 18 oranges into every carton; made by oranges, squeezed by Tropicana (:30)

5. "Long John Silver's" Men on pier; is that the #1?; is that the #2?; want something different?; Alaskan flounder or chicken; $2.99 (:15)

Above are the Top 5 most-frequently airing national television ads in January 2008, according to IAG Research monitoring.

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How to handle your competition

Ben over at the Church of the Customer Blog wrote about taking the high road when dealing with competitors. I agree for many reasons including:

  1. Your might end up working for your competitor one day.
  2. Nobody really likes negative campaigns for politics or anything else.
  3. You are being immature and childish.
  4. You and your competitor probably both need positive P.R. for your industry and as the old saying goes, "He who throws mud, only loses ground."
Here's what Ben has to say:

Being a gracious loser means...

Congratulating your competitor(s).

Smiling through the pain, even if it's through tears.

Highlighting your strengths by talking about those of your competitor(s).

Permitting people to empathize with you in your moment of vulnerability by admitting obvious mistakes or miscalculations.

Preparing oneself to be the future underdog.

Embracing your underdog status.

Never criticizing others, or scapegoating, or demonizing future competitors. It's hard to root for character suicide.

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Update on Yahoo & Microsoft, (or is it Google)?

Apparently Yahoo doesn't consider itself to be in such dire straits that they need to jump under the covers with Microsoft. It looks like they are dating around and haven't slipped a ring on yet.

Check out this story from the L.A. Times Thursday:

Yahoo is said to step up talks with Google; CEO Jerry Yang tells employees the firm is studying alternatives to Microsoft's bid.

Jessica Guynn, Times Staff Writer -- Los Angeles Times , February 7, 2008 Thursday Home Edition

Yahoo Inc.'s negotiations with Google Inc. have intensified as Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang races to find alternatives to Microsoft Corp.'s unsolicited $44.6-billion takeover offer, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

Yang told Yahoo employees in an e-mail that the board of directors was evaluating "a wide range of potential strategic alternatives" and had "made no decisions" about the Microsoft bid, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He did not offer specifics, but the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Internet company has hired investment banks Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Lehman Bros. to evaluate options.

Analysts said Yahoo's best hope for maintaining its independence would be a search advertising pact with Google, which generates significantly more revenue for each search query than does Yahoo. Although it could raise antitrust concerns, such a pact could open the door for rival bids, other financing deals or a sweetened offer from Microsoft.

Neither company would comment on the discussions.

No "white knights" have emerged, with News Corp. and others saying they were not interested.

"Jerry is as motivated as hell to try anything he can," a person familiar with the matter said. "Google is hyper-competitive and it wants to do anything it can, any time it can, to stop Microsoft from getting one foot in the door."

Former executives say Yahoo has long considered turning over its search advertising business to Google, most recently in Europe. Doing so would mean that Google would place paid ads on Yahoo search pages, and the two companies would share the money generated. That would dramatically increase revenue and cut costs for Yahoo, a step that analysts have long called for.

Google generated 71.2% of U.S. search-advertising revenue in 2007, dwarfing Yahoo's 8.9%, according to research firm EMarketer Inc. A Citigroup Inc. analyst estimated that Yahoo could boost its cash flow by 25% by outsourcing its search business to Google.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has determined that it cannot bid for Yahoo because of regulatory hurdles. Even a partnership between the two biggest search providers would raise concerns about competition in online advertising, antitrust experts said. But such a deal could help Yahoo regain investor confidence, which has slipped as it continues to struggle under Yang's leadership. Yang, who co-founded Yahoo, took over for ousted CEO Terry Semel last summer.

Yahoo rejected advances from Microsoft last year when Yahoo's stock price was much higher. Microsoft made the $31-a-share bid Friday. Google CEO Eric Schmidt phoned Yang that day to offer the assistance of the search giant.

Yahoo has not set a timetable for responding to Microsoft. Analysts say pressure will mount on Yahoo to make a decision in coming weeks.

"This is an unsolicited offer, so it is clear this was not Yahoo's first choice," said Ellen Siminoff, who worked with Yang at Yahoo and now heads search-engine marketing firm Efficient Frontier.

By bidding for Yahoo, Microsoft is looking to secure a larger stake in Web advertising and search to take on Google. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said the combination would create a stronger No. 2 challenger to Google.

Google has launched a campaign in Washington to challenge the proposed deal. The company's lobbyists are asking regulators to scrutinize the proposed merger, saying it raises competitive issues.

This marks an escalation in the acrimony between Google and Microsoft, which increasingly compete on numerous fronts. Google is challenging Microsoft's dominance in desktop software by expanding its online offerings of word processing, spreadsheets and other software. Google plans to release a version today that allows teams to more easily collaborate.


Copyright © 2006 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Stop Giving Away Your Profits!

Another great story came in my email from Art Sobczak:

Here's How To Stop Giving
Profits Away


At a home accessories and furniture store
I saw a couple of large metal wall pieces I
liked for my office. This place looked like a
family-run operation. The owner saw my
obvious interest in one, came over, and
asked if I liked it.

I tried not showing too much emotion and
asked how much better he could do. His reply
was brilliant:

“These are almost double this amount at Robb &
Stucky’s (a high-end furniture store in Scottsdale).
You can have it for only $295.”

Great answer!

I’m always prepared to pay full price, but I also
like to ask for the sport of it, and, well, because
it works. So I then said,

“How much better can you do if I also get that
one over there,” pointing to a similar piece on the

I expected something solid like, “Same thing with
that one. Together, you’ll double your savings from
anywhere else.”

Suddenly, though, he turned into a different person.
He caved in, saying,

“Ah, well, OK, I can give you $75 off if you get both.”

He gave away pure profit.

Here’s something that’s not too profound at first glance:

“A dollar in cash money or credit that you give away is
always a dollar of lost profit.”

However, this has enormous implications when you
put it in the context of price objections, negotiations,
and concessions, and also special offers, discounts, and
incentives to purchase.

And with that context in mind, here’s another piece of

“The perception of the value of what you give away—
in the mind of the receiver—can be greater than its price

OK, so what does all this mean?

Here's an example. A printer had missed a deadline
date for an order. It caused me inconvenience. In the past
I’ve had printers who knocked something off the price
when they screwed up. Instead, she apologized profusely,
and recovered with this:

“Here’s what I’m going to do for you. I’ve run 20% more
than what you ordered, no charge. And the next time you
do a black and white printing job like this, I’ll throw in a
second basic color at no charge.”

If she would have knocked $100 off the bill, that would have
cost her $100. I imagine she probably has to do at least $400
worth of business to make $100 net profit. Instead, she offered
to give me 20% more than what I ordered, which cost her very
little, since she probably ran 10% more than what I ordered
anyway and would have just wasted it, and her additional
cost was essentially just for the paper.

As for the second color on the next job, not only is
that a clever way to ensure future business (kind of like
having a gift certificate—who hasn’t made a shopping trip
to redeem it even if we didn’t need anything?) but it also
had a high perceived value to me because it’s something
I normally pay for.

Her only cost is to run the job through the press a second
time, and for the colored ink (which she’d likely have on the
press for another job anyway); again much less than the
perceived dollar value.

Think of how you might be able to use these ideas to avoid
giving away dollars in cash, and persuade people to
buy, or buy more quickly.

Here are some ideas.

Understand what’s important to them. Of course, all selling
gets back to this. Money often takes a back seat to other
priorities. For example, if you’re in a price negotiation
and you also know the buyer is under a time crunch,
you could offer quicker delivery instead.

Give product instead of dollars. Instead of dropping price,
throw in some additional products. Give them something
they’re not buying from you now. It gives them the opportunity
to test something out, which could lead to future sales of
that product. This also works great if they are a reseller. They
can then make a profit from what you give them. Also, the
actual retail price of the product could be much greater
than the concession or discount they want, but your actual
cost is lower.

Offer services. How many people do you know who buy
extended warranties, and then actually take advantage of all
the free services that come with them? Sounds valuable at
the time of purchase, but probably a very low redemption rate
by customers.

What can you offer that is high perceived value, high margin,
and low redemption?

Use cross-promotions. One of the discount stock
brokers offered 10,000 frequent flier miles from one of the
major airlines to open up a brokerage account with them.
Every party in the transaction wins there.

Get creative, and don’t give away those hard earned dollars.

A dollar given away is always a dollar of profit.

And, oh, want more word-for-word techniques on how
to deal with price resistance, even avoid it, AND get
full price for what you sell? I suggest you get the one-
hour audio interview/seminar I did with sales expert,
Bill Lee, "How to Sell Value, Get Full Price, and
Overcome Price Resistance and Objections" Go
and scroll down to that title.

"Being busy does not always mean real work.
The object of all work is production or accomplishment
and to either of these ends there must be forethought,
system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose,
as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing."

Thomas Edison

Go and Have Your Best Week Ever!


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7-11, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and others are all fighting back the struggling Starbucks. Yes, I said 7-11. Here's the story on 7-11 from Convenience Store News:

7-Eleven Perks Up Coffee Ad Campaign

DALLAS -- 7-Eleven Inc., seller of at least a million cups of coffee a day, is launching a multimillion-dollar "freshness guaranteed" advertising blitz this month. With taglines like "Our coffee's fresher than your average Joe" and "Guaranteed fresh or we'll brew it new," 7-Eleven wants to educate coffee drinkers about its commitment to quality.

The new 7-Eleven campaign includes radio advertising, billboards, messages on the side of buses and posters at Long Island Railroad stations, according to a company statement. Signs inside and outside of the more than 5,500 U.S. 7-Eleven stores will let customers know they can ask a 7-Eleven employee to brew a fresh pot on the spot. Local promotions also will be a part of the marketing mix, the retailer reported.

"We want to communicate quality along with convenience," said Kerry Burson, 7-Eleven's senior director of beverages. "7-Eleven and convenience are synonymous, but not everyone may know that each time we brew a pot of our top-selling coffees, we first grind beans just for those pots. Not all major coffee retailers can claim that."

7-Eleven has been grinding coffee beans in its stores since the mid-1980s. Packages of 100-percent Arabica whole beans are delivered to the stores, where they are ground fresh just before being brewed, one pot at a time (in some 60 California 7-Eleven stores, coffee is made in larger urns), the company noted. The chain's most popular flavors are Exclusive Blend and Dark Mountain Roast for the majority of 7-Eleven stores, and the Exclusive Blend and Colombian varieties for its stores in the upper Midwest.

Coffee is the retailer's No. 1-selling proprietary beverage, and more than half of customers purchase a beverage when they visit the stores. "We're selling more than a convenient cup of coffee," Burson said. "We offer quality, fresh-ground, fresh-brewed coffee for people on the go. Our customers want a great-tasting cup of coffee, fast and at a good value. Ounce for ounce, 7-Eleven offers one of the best coffee deals around."

7-Eleven coffee prices range from a little over $1 for a 12-ounce cup to $1.49 for 24 ounces. Customers can customize their coffee and other hot beverages to suit their likes, adding as many flavored creamers, syrups, spices and condiments as they wish -- at no extra charge. The per-cup price is the same no matter which hot beverage is chosen.

Burson added, "And, when you think about it, the smallest cup at 7-Eleven, a 12-ounce size, averages about 9 cents an ounce. 7-Eleven's 24-ounce size cup costs only 7 cents per ounce -- complete with any and all coffee condiments. This is still a hard-to-beat value, especially as a tougher economy causes consumers to carefully consider where to spend their money."

7-Eleven also is continuing the sales momentum of its January Supreme Breakfast Bite and coffee "meal deal" offer with additional radio advertising. The company said it will create a separate radio spot for February promoting the new sausage, egg, cheese, peppers and onions roller grill product along with any size cup of coffee for just $1.99.

Based in Dallas, 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses more than 7,300 7-Eleven stores in North America. Globally, the company operates, franchises or licenses close to 34,000 convenience stores in 17 countries. During 2007, 7-Eleven stores worldwide generated total sales of more than $46.6 billion.

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Honda Hybrid

Clever TV ad. Is it memorable? Do you recognize the voice at the end? Do you care?

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The paperless newspaper business

Mediapost has a story on how the newspaper business is trying to reinvent itself.

If only all traditional media and advertising mediums would jump on board.....

Here's the story (remember you read it ON LINE!):

Newspapers Turn to Online Networks for Display Ads
by Erik Sass, Tuesday, Feb 5, 2008 8:01 AM ET
LOCAL NEWSPAPER WEB SITES ARE seeking safety in numbers and convenience, joining large networks for online display ads. These networks are proving to be a key part of online strategy for newspapers, which must build their display ad revenues to offset slowing growth in online classifieds.

One company, MediaSpace Solutions, has formed relationships with about 4,500 newspaper partners globally--most in the United States--which are organized into smaller network buys along behavioral, geographic and demographic lines. Examples include its "family channel," Hedge Funders, Gen XYZ (covering 18-35) and Wired Boomers.

MediaSpace can handle all the logistics and measurement of a display ad campaign on its networks, including an in-house creative operation, consultative media planning, consumer and media research, purchasing ad space, collecting traffic data from comScore and click-through rates.

Citing comScore data, Deborah Armstrong, MediaSpace senior vice president of sales and marketing, noted the desirability of local newspaper Web sites as ad platforms. "Newspapers dominate their local markets--in some cases they have two or three times the traffic of local TV or radio Web sites," she notes.

In addition to the Web sites themselves, MediaSpace can also place display ads in e-newsletters and email updates--for example, sports or health.

Of course, Armstrong noted, different target audiences "don't always work on the same platform," prompting MediaSpace Solutions to create a combination online-print service, Online:Onpage, that can run adds in newspapers as well as Web sites. Armstrong said "integration really does give you the strongest local reach." For instance, it helps reach older readers who may still favor print. At the same time, "frequency builds consideration."

In a big potential market with few players, one of MediaSpace's main competitors is Centro, which has formed relationships with over 3,000 local newspapers and publishers in the U.S. alone. Like MediaSpace, Centro does research, creative, trafficking, billing, analysis and optimization. It also serves as a media-buying proxy for its advertising clients, with buys distributed based on newspapers' back-end data from impressions to click-throughs, to time spent, to interaction rate.

All Centro decisions are made on research and target demographics. This data lets Centro "grade" and sort local papers to achieve geographic and demographic targets. It offers a range of buying options, and has executed campaigns for about 150 Fortune 500 companies.

Online display ads are an increasingly important source of revenue for newspaper Web sites, which have seen growth slow in online classified ad revenues over the last year. This is due partly to the way online classifieds have been sold, as "upsells" to print classified listings. As print classifieds continue to tumble, posting double-digit losses during all quarters of 2007, there are fewer opportunities for these online upsells.

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Geico goes modern privative again

The out-of-work Cavemen (due to the writers strike) are back to work.
In case you forgot due to an overdose of reruns and reality tv, ABC aired a series based on the cavemen spokes guys from Geico.
The question remains, "Can a couple of Neanderthals, sell car insurance?" That, after all is the bottom line.
Here's the story from

Geico Brings Back Cavemen

Characters Appear in Ads For First Time Since Launch of ABC Show

By Brian Steinberg

Published: February 04, 2008 NEW YORK ( -- Geico's popular cavemen characters are back on TV in a space many think they never should have left: in commercials.
ABC's 'Cavemen' has so far fallen flat among critics, and the characters' reappearance in spots after the Super Bowl suggests Geico wants to reclaim them.
ABC's 'Cavemen' has so far fallen flat among critics, and the characters' reappearance in spots after the Super Bowl suggests Geico wants to reclaim them.
Photo Credit: ABC

Two of the cavemen characters appeared in local TV ads that ran just after the Super Bowl in select markets, including New York, Dallas and Los Angeles. The pair make light of the fact that, at least these days, they are better known for appearing in an ABC series based on the central conceit of the Geico ads. In those commercials, the peevish characters grow offended anytime someone suggests that getting Geico insurance is "so easy even a caveman can do it." In the ads that aired Sunday night, the characters seem bemused. "Huh," says one. "A TV show -- about us," replies his friend.

ABC launched "Cavemen" -- which featured new versions of the intelligent but hirsute ad creatures -- in early October, and the notion of transplanting well-established characters from a commercial to a weekly network sitcom generated buzz among viewers and pundits alike. (One of the creative forces behind the cavemen, Joe Lawson, even left the Interpublic Group of Cos. agency that birthed the characters, the Martin Agency, to work on the program.) The show has so far fallen flat among critics, however, and the characters' reappearance last night suggests Geico wants to reclaim them for promotional purposes.

Fans left hanging
"We felt we owed it to Geico Cavemen fans to see the next chapter in their lives after the show, and I think that's kind of what we wanted to do with this," said Steve Bassett, creative director at the Martin Agency. In the current ads, the two cavemen comment on the makeup and diction of their ABC counterparts.

Mr. Bassett said the characters had been on a kind of "hiatus" while the ABC program launched, and that the agency wanted to see viewers' reaction to the new ads before determining how the Cro-Magnon favorites might be used in the future. Even though 13 episodes of "Cavemen" have been shot, a spokesman for the ABC program said the network does not have a return date for the show. The spokesman said ABC had no comment on the new commercial.

Taking a popular character from a 30-second milieu and placing it in a 30-minute one can be fraught with challenges. Ad characters "really have to tap into something deep and true in the brand in order to be successful for the brand in the first place. That may, in many cases, make them not very appropriate for a broader entertainment vehicle," said David Altschul, president of Character, a Portland, Ore., company that specializes in developing story lines for products. There are other potential conflicts too, he added. "If you are a producer, then the last thing you want is a brand manager looking over your shoulder, but if you are the brand manager, how do you protect your equity after you've turned [the character] over?"

TV show as promotional tool
Geico has had no script approval or say in the program's creative direction, but the show still has been viewed as a wonderful promotional tool for the Berkshire Hathaway-owned insurer, which has risen in prominence along with its quick-hit ads that also feature a talking gecko and C-list celebrities such as Charo translating the insurance stories of average people.

So strong was "Cavemen's" association with Geico, however, that many rival insurance companies balked at the idea of running ads during the series. Thanks to viewers who are more resistant to advertising or even prone to skipping commercials, new ad techniques involve giving a particular marketer more of a spotlight during a particular commercial break, show or specific evening. So even though the show was not a vehicle for the insurance company to brand itself, rivals couldn't be sure it wouldn't be perceived as such by viewers.

The Geico Cavemen originally appeared in 2004, after Geico sent a brief to the Martin Agency requesting ads that demonstrated how easy it was to get and use its insurance. The first spot centered on a talk-show host using the "so easy a caveman could do it" phrase, insulting a caveman who happened to be working on set as a mike grip. More cavemen appeared in a spot in which the TV-show host apologizes over lunch while one of the hirsute group orders "roast duck with mango salsa." Another is so offended, he snippily replies, "I don't have much of an appetite, thank you." Including the ad Sunday night, a total of eight commercials featuring the characters have aired.

Other ad characters simply can't be contained in commercials. The California Raisins, for example, appeared in a Christmas special on CBS in 1987 and went on to star in a Saturday-morning cartoon show on the same network in 1989. Just like ABC's "Cavemen" program, the "Raisins" series didn't tickle all critical palates. "Rather than make the animators draw a lot of wrinkles, the Raisins have been redesigned with smoother bodies, which makes them look like the California Eggplants," the Los Angeles Times wrote of the show.

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2007 Internet Review

All year long we hear about the growth of the internet and wonder, what does it have to do with me and my life/business/retirement/future/love life/etc.... I don't have the answer to that big question. But I do have some numbers for you to look at:

It's A Wrap: The Internet Year 2007

comScore, in a recently released report, The 2007 U.S. Internet Year in Review highlighting the major trends in U.S. Internet activity, finds that that top gaining properties and site categories featured some of the top Internet brands, including Google, Facebook, Wikipedia and Craigslist.

  • Social networking giant reaped the benefits of opening registration to all users, jumping 81 percent versus December 2006 to 34.7 million visitors in December 2007
  • Wikipedia Sites gained 34 percent to reach nearly 52 million visitors, continuing its reign as the Web's most popular reference hub
  • jumped 74 percent to 24.5 million visitors
  • AT&T grew 27 percent to 30.2 million visitors boosted by its exclusive deal with Apple as carrier for the iPhone
  • Yellow Book Network jumped 137-percent to 10.4 million visitors

Several of the top-gaining properties were driven by the acquisition of Web entities including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Everyday Health gained 349 percent driven by its acquisition of and other sites
  • Women's category leader, Glam Media, grew 213 percent during the year, due in large part to the addition of several new entities, including Quality Health Network,, and, among others
  • Yellow Book Network grew 137-percent to 10.4 million visitors, as visitation to sites tripled (up 207 percent to 4.6 million visitors)
  • The Women's Network, gained 27 percent with the addition of Sugar Publishing,, and, among others.
  • Demand Media added numerous entities under its Demand Media Knowledge and Demand Media Games media titles, which contributed to its 149-percent growth
  • OfficeMax's 199-percent gain was driven primarily by a December 2007 surge in visitation to its popular viral holiday greetings site

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What happens next....

Dear Salesperson,

Congratulations, you made the appointment, you had your first meeting, and now, well now.... what happens next?

Do you have a follow up plan? A follow up routine?

Are you even doing any follow up? Or are you a one pitch sales person that is forgotten.

Look, there's lot's of books, websites, articles, seminars, and training that can tell you what to do, how to do it, even sell you a system to do it easier, but......
Are you going to follow up?

At the risk of repeating advice you may already have heard, I'm going to share with you an article about follow up from the website.

This pertains to follow up after a networking event. Read it and do it!

3 Tips For Following Up On Your Networking Conversations

By Ilise Benun

On my way home from a conference recently, I sat next to a blonde woman in her mid-40's wearing matching Prada shoes and bag. From the looks of her, a successful businesswoman.

I couldn't help peeking over her shoulder and seeing that she was composing email messages in Outlook. I could tell she had just attended a meeting and was diligently doing her follow-up. The problem was that every single message she wrote was the same – and, in my opinion, really boring.

"Dear [Blank], it was a pleasure to meet you at the meeting this weekend and I hope we can meet again soon."

That was it. No reference to who she was, what they talked about, what ideas she had since they met or what they could do together in the future.

Anyone who knows me (or has heard my networking presentations) knows that I am a follow up freak. But I'd say it's better not to follow up than to write the type of generic follow up messages this woman was about to send out.

The problem so many people face is that they have no idea what to say when they follow up, and that often stops them from doing so. So here are a few ideas about how to build on the momentum of meeting someone in person, to reinforce the impact of your personal presence.

1. Set the foundation for follow up while you're talking.

Follow up starts when the conversation starts. As you're talking, be looking for something to say in your follow up. As soon as it hits you, make a note of it on the back of their card. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Find something in common. A topic of interest – whether personal or professional – is perfect for reaching out later (and more than once). After the initial follow-up, when you come across something related to the topic, whether it's an idea, event, article or opportunity, you can simply pass it along, simultaneously keeping your visibility high.

  • Learn something new. It may be uncomfortable, but lead the conversation in a direction you know nothing about, (but they do), and ask lots of questions. For example, a man I met recently mentioned he used to race cars. That's a topic I wouldn't normally be interested in, but I asked a few questions and learned a few things about car racing – and about him. That information later becomes useful when I come across an article or reference relevant to him.

    Doing this strengthens your ties, and you can do it with any topic on earth.

  • Offer an idea, a contact or some other resource. As you're learning about the other person and their interests, search your mind for something or someone with whom you can connect them. Mention the connection, then promise to send them more details. Then, when you follow up with, "Here's the information I promised," it shows you're reliable too.

2. Follow up right away.

Do this to build on the momentum of the conversation and your freshness in their mind. If too much time passes before you follow up, the conversation may slip into the recesses of their mind or blur with that of someone else they met recently. If you wait, it won't have as strong of an impact. Do it the next day if possible, or at the very least, sometime before the week is out.

3. Suggest the next step.

This will be different for every encounter, but the main idea is to keep the ball rolling.

  • If you sense someone is a good prospect for your services, don't hesitate to propose a meeting (phone or in person) to discuss how you can help.

  • If you enjoyed the conversation, but can't yet tell how much business you can do together, offer to take your new colleague out for coffee to continue the conversation.

  • If all you did was exchange business cards, but never actually chatted (this happens a lot), suggest talking on the phone to find out more about what they do.

For each case, be sure to propose a time/date. Otherwise, possible interest might get lost in the sea of everything else they want to do. And finally, always follow up. This is Networking 101 but it bears repeating because no matter how well you know the importance of follow-up, the reality is that very few people actually do it.

Maybe it's because we are just too busy. Or maybe we just don't know what to say. It does take a few minutes to compose a short email message, and, if you don't remember exactly what you discussed, you may assume the other person doesn't remember either.

No matter what, you tell yourself when you're sitting in front of a blank screen with a stack of cold business cards, push yourself to make the effort to write a short note. That way, your email address and message is in their inbox, just in case.

Ilise Benun, a Hoboken-NJ based consultant, is a national speaker and the author of several books, including Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive and Designing Websites for Every Audience. She is also founder of Marketing Mentor, a one-on-one coaching program for small business owners. You can reach Ilise at

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Build it and they will come in 2008

Recently I discovered a website (, that sends me an update each week of "new business ideas for entrepreneurial minds". This falls into the Creative Process classification of this website. Take a look at some of the ideas:

More than half a century ago, the Polaroid camera produced the world’s first instant printed images, spitting out photos just a minute after they were taken. And while today’s cell phones and digital cameras take snap shots that can be transmitted to other phones or computers instantly, people still have an old-fashioned desire to hold printed copies of their snapshots in their hands.

Proof: one of the biggest buzz-generating products to come out of this year’s Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show was a printer about the size of a deck of cards that can create 2x3 inch photos in under a minute. The printer is the result of a collaboration between Polaroid and Zink, another US firm that developed the device’s inkless printing technology. With a store-delivery date slated for this fall, the Digital Instant Mobile Photo Printer can be linked up via Bluetooth or USB to other portable media such as cell phones and digital cameras—all for a retail price of USD 150, plus USD 4 for a 10-pack of paper.

Granted, the instant mobile printer may not be as disruptive as the iPhone, but it does show creative entrepreneurs how an older company can neatly reinvent itself, even if it’s products have long been technologically leap-frogged. Polaroid’s pocket-sized printer harks back to the company’s original breakthrough, making media instantly available for sharing. It was an idea that spawned a small-scale social revolution as millions devised innovative uses for the product: everything from instant photos of wedding receptions to the identification-card making devices used by organizations and governments.

No doubt people will devise new uses for Polaroid’s minuscule printer. But the real lesson here is that there’s a wealth of opportunity to be mined in old ideas, provided you have the creativity and the capital required to reinvent them.


Today's consumers may exhibit varying degrees of infolust for new products and services, but their interest doesn't often extend to direct mail. Enter Matter, which is taking an unconventional approach to direct marketing by sending out boxes of "interesting stuff" instead.

London-based Matter works with product manufacturers to compile collections of items carefully designed to please specific audiences, and it sends them out to consumers at no charge. Each participating company creates and contributes an item—something that explains what the company does, says something about its ideas or values, or can be tried out.

Matter then combines the items in a targeted fashion and sends them out so that they arrive on a Saturday—when consumers are more likely to spend some time with them. The pilot box, which just hit consumers' doorsteps on February 2nd, included items from Sony Ericsson, Stolichnaya, Nintendo, Nissan, Penguin and Virgin Atlantic, among others. Sony Ericsson's item, for example, was a small figurine of the Music Monster—a cultish figure intended to represent consumers' personal musical desires—packed in a straw-lined case complete with bite-marked brochure. Nissan's item was a set of "crayons" that are really soap—intended to send the message that the brand is not what consumers expect, according to the Matter blog. The next edition of Matter will be aimed at males aged 25-35 and is scheduled to ship out this summer.

Matter is a collaboration between Artomatic and Royal Mail, and it targets consumers in the UK only. One to experiment with in other parts of the world?


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