Saturday, March 01, 2008

Is the Sears Tower Crumbling?

I hope these guys can get back on their feet again. I'm rootin' for ya. Sears. The home of Craftsman tools that are guaranteed forever. But how long is forever? Here's the latest from Mediapost:

From Bad To Worse At Sears, Kmart
Friday, Feb 29, 2008 5:00 AM ET
SEARS HOLDINGS, IN THE MIDST of a search for a new CEO, reported its fourth-quarter and full-year results, and things are getting tougher for the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based company.

Net income plunged to $426 million from $811 million in the same quarter a year ago. The company was hit hard not just by declining sales, but also eroding margins, as it continued to mark down prices in an effort to tempt consumers.

Comparable-store sales declined 4.5% in the quarter, with sales at Sears' U.S. stores slipping 4% and Kmart falling 5.2%. For the year, domestic comparable store sales dropped 4% at Sears, and 4.7% at Kmart.

"Our fourth-quarter and full-year results continued to be negatively impacted by the worsening economic conditions faced by both our customers and competitors, as well as increased markdowns taken to clear excess inventory," the company says.

--Sarah Mahoney

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Clever Ad for Subaru

This comes close to being memorable...

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Blogs are Real

After having fun with videos and Burger King Pictures comes a reminder that if you use this thing called the internet, be responsible for your actions.

Actually, it is good advice in all areas of your life.

Former Fort Wayne newspaper writer Nancy Nall lives in my old stomping grounds in Michigan and Friday did some investigating. In a matter of hours, a major story about plagiarism broke out resulting in someone losing their White House job.

Anthony Juliano writes about it with plenty of click able links.

This is a reminder that it is important to cross link, to give credit, to be honest and not steal other peoples words and work, etc. I am careful to do these things and you should too.

This is the new media, and like the old media, there is power. Don't abuse it, get used to it. Now there's some wisdom for all of us.

By the way. The above photo of Nancy is from :

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Supermarket Ad from th U.K.

I haven't seen this in the USA:

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Missing the point

This weekend, I'm posting some video's, some are good, some are weird, some miss the point. Like this one. Sprint has produced all these videos with the idea of using social media to get their name out there. Problem is, these video's say nothing about Sprint. They could be for any phone company, or this one could be for a blender... Take a look:

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Talking Body Parts

Coke has some weird ads running in other countries...

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Where's Waldo? No, where's the BK King?

The King has been getting around...

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Creative Popcorn

Let's start with this from Wikipedia, "...Orville Clarence Redenbacher (July 16, 1907September 19, 1995) was an American businessman most often associated with the brand of popping corn that bears his name.

Born in Valparaiso, Indiana, Orville graduated from Brazil High School in 1924 and was in the top 5% of his class. He attended Purdue University, joining the agriculture-oriented Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and graduating with a degree in agronomy...."

Okay, so he's a Hoosier, no he WAS a Hoosier. He is no longer living, except in these new commercials:

Read about the reaction to bringing back the dead to sell popcorn here

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Lowering Prices on Concert Tickets, I-Phones & Vista

There is a big difference between lowering your price and lowering the value of what you are selling. And the results can have opposite results.

I work with two local musical organizations that have made price adjustments in the past year or so. The Fort Wayne Philharmonic cut their prices by as much as 50% for some of their concerts.

Why? They were not filling the house. 1/3 of the seats were filled at some events. And so they decided to make it more affordable by lowering the prices on some of the "Cheap Seats". And it worked.

Granted, there are other contributing factors, such as how many performances they do, the type of concert, including their Pop's Concert Series, but overall, it looks like it was a good move. They lowered the price, and enhanced the value.

(The other musical organization, The Heartland Chamber Chorale is going to be doing a similar change I believe.)

Getting a mixed review when they lowered their price was Apple, when they dropped the price of the I-Phone after they sold at a substantially higher price, and they tried to make amends by offering rebates to those that paid the big bucks. They lowered the price because the value was less than the initial customers paid for.

Now comes this news about Microsoft and Vista:

SEATTLE (AP) — Microsoft Corp. will cut the price of some versions of Windows Vista, the software maker said late Thursday.

The move came a day after court filings revealed internal dissent over which Windows XP computers would be considered capable of running the new operating system — and a feeling on at least one executive's part that the company had "botched" the marketing of computers as "Vista Capable."

Only copies of the year-old operating system that are sold in boxes directly to consumers are affected by the price cuts — not the versions pre-loaded on personal computers. The cuts will range from 20 percent to 48 percent.

The reductions are to coincide with the late March release of Vista Service Pack 1, a collection of security fixes and other improvements.

Microsoft said the new prices will apply to the Home Premium and Ultimate versions of Vista, in both their full editions and the editions that upgrade an older or more basic operating system.

Both versions serve the tiny percentage of users who install an operating system on their own; most people get the latest version of Windows only when they buy a new PC.

Windows Vista's January 2007 launch was plagued by delays. To keep consumers buying PCs in the holiday season of 2006, Microsoft and PC makers promised free Vista upgrades later to shoppers who bought Windows XP computers.

At the launch, Microsoft was widely criticized for offering too many versions of the operating system — including Home Basic, which didn't have the snazzy new signature look called "Aero" — and for setting the price too high for the high-end versions.

Brad Brooks, a corporate vice president for Windows marketing at Microsoft, said in an interview that the company has since tested lower prices and found "product was moving much, much faster."

Brooks said he expects so many customers to buy Vista at the new prices that the price cuts will increase Microsoft's revenue, not subtract from it.

A federal judge recently said consumers could pursue a class action suit against Microsoft for labeling PCs as "Vista Capable," even though many were not powerful enough to run all of Vista's features, including the Aero interface.

Company e-mails produced in court chronicle Microsoft settling on a plan to market a wide range of XP-based PCs as "Vista Capable" after company officials realized in early 2006 that 30 percent or fewer of computers on the market could run the full-fledged version of Vista with Aero.

That realization apparently caused computer makers like Dell Inc. to worry that people would stop buying PCs for almost a year — until Vista launched.

The e-mails also showed Microsoft lowering the bar for "Vista Capable" to protect Intel Corp.'s sales of some widely used chips that weren't powerful enough for the full Vista experience.

Microsoft employee Anantha Kancherla was particularly blunt in his March 2006 response to a question about whether a certain PC configuration would be considered "Vista Capable."

"Based on objective criteria that exist today for "capable," even a piece of junk will qualify," he wrote. "For the sake of Vista customers, it will be a complete tragedy if we allowed it."

According to the e-mails, Jim Allchin, the executive in charge of Windows at the time, wasn't involved in the decision to brand a wide swath of XP computers as "Vista Capable."

Upon learning the details, Allchin wrote, "We really botched this."

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Just curious...

Over at my other blog that I update daily, I did an observation and have a question for you as you read this blog. Click here please...

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The 2008 American Consumer Preview part 6

Two months down and I already have 6 postings on this subject. The most recent talk in the news this week is revolving around the word recession. I have written about what to do, how to prepare and linked and referenced articles and stories from others.

But what if it doesn't happen?

Here's a new report to look at as we march into month 3 of 2008 (pun intended):

Consumers Speak Out On the U.S. Economy

The NPD Group, Inc., a leading provider of consumer and retail information, announced the results of a recent "Fast Checks" study entitled: Consumers Speak Out On The U.S. Economy. According to the study's results, most consumers think the U.S. is in a recession or headed for one.

It appears that consumers, across many retail segments, do not intend to change their behavior yet. "Even with all the media attention on the economy, consumers still seem to be focused on their needs and desires," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc, "Consumers are tuned into news about our economy, but they aren't so quick to change what they are doing, including where they shop."

More than half of consumers surveyed said they were least likely to change spending habits on affordable purchases like books, movies, cosmetics, fragrances, or an indulgence that can pass for a necessity like footwear. Interestingly, more than one in 10 who plan to spend on home improvement plan on spending more. "Certainly the housing market is another source of concern for consumers. These results would suggest more people are looking to improve their house to spruce it up for themselves or to make it more attractive to a potential buyer." observed Cohen.

What is the one thing that would most likely tip the balance for consumers and rein in spending? Cohen says it's job security. "Twenty-six percent of the study's respondents are concerned about job security. Should a real or perceived threat to U.S. consumers' jobs come along, that will shift the dynamic and likely have the greatest real effect on our economy."

What are the implications for retailers? Consumers will clearly be on the look-out for incentives to shop.

"I think the consumer is still going to be there, but retailers are going to have to do more to get them." Cohen said, "Certainly promotional incentives of all kinds will be key but how you market and communicate will help seal the deal."

(Source: The NPD Group, 2/28/08)

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Another Starbucks comentary

This one is from Laura Ries. Here's a snip:

"...The closing of Starbucks was national news. Celebrities who normally get out of bed around 2 pm were scrambling for their 4 pm “morning” cup of joe. The few bucks Starbucks lost in sales that afternoon was more than compensated by the massive PR coverage. It sent a message to consumers, investors, and most importantly, employees that Schultz was back and that Starbucks the king of coffee would defend its coffee crown with tenacity...." (READ MORE)

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A Harvey Mackay 2-Parter

Before I share with you the latest column from one of my mentors, Harvey Mackay, I want you to take a side trip and read about a personal experience that I had with Harvey and his assistant Kathy. Just click here.

Here's the latest Wisdom from the Master of Relationships:

Facts inform, but passion moves

I recently came across a terrific description of a salesperson ... and it's from the 1940s. Aside from the sexist language, a sign of the times, I think it's still right on.

During a convention of Chrysler sales managers in Los Angeles, Harry G. Moock, a company vice president, issued this description of a salesman:

"He has the curiosity of a cat, the tenacity of a bulldog, the friendship of a little child, the diplomacy of a wayward husband, the patience of a self-sacrificing wife, the passion of a Sinatra fan, the assurance of a Harvard man, the good humor of a comedian, the simplicity of a jackass, and the tireless energy of a bill collector."

What can I say ... I've always been a Sinatra fan.

Passion is at the top of the list of the skills you need to excel whether you're in sales or any other profession. A salesperson without passion is just an order taker.

If you're in sales, you can have a great product, a tremendous territory and a fabulous marketing campaign, but if you don't have passion, it's hard to make a sale. When you have passion, you speak with conviction, act with authority and present with zeal. When you are excited and passionate about a product—or anything for that matter—people notice. They want in on the action. They want to know what can be so good.

There is no substitute for passion. If you don't have an intense, burning desire for what you are doing, there's no way you'll be able to work the long, hard hours it takes to become successful.

"Make sure that the career you choose is one you enjoy," said Kathy Whitworth, who won 88 LPGA tournaments, more than anyone on the men's or women's professional circuit. I was lucky enough to be in attendance when she won four of them. "If you don't enjoy what you are doing, it will be difficult to give the extra time, effort and devotion it takes to be a success. If it is a career that you find fun and enjoyable, then you will do whatever it takes. You will give freely of your time and effort, and you will not feel that you are making sacrifices in order to be a success."

President Harry Truman once said: "Good work is never done in cold blood; heat is needed to forge anything. Every great achievement is the story of a flaming heart."

Mark Twain was once asked the reason for his success. He said, "I was born excited."

My readers have heard me say many times, "When you love what you do, you will never have to work another day in your life." In fact, the subtitle to one of my books is "Do what you love. Love what you do. Deliver more than you promise."

Socrates was approached by a man who asked the great teacher to help him learn. The master took the would-be student into the water and suddenly pushed him under and held him there. Surging to the surface, out of breath, the young man gasped, "Why did you do that?"

Socrates answered, "When you want to learn as badly as you wanted to breathe, you will."

Hopefully you're happy and passionate about your work every day. If you aren't, think back to the times when you were and what you can do or need to do to get that feeling back.

J. Paul Getty, the wealthy oil tycoon, actually ranked passion ahead of imagination, business acumen and ambition as necessary ingredients of business success.

Surround yourself with people who are passionate about their jobs. You'll catch their passion. And remember that you can't be passionate when you feel like it. You have to be passionate about your job, product or cause all the time. There's no off switch on a tiger.

Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-mart, had 10 "Rules for Success." Rule number one was "Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anything else. If you love your work, you'll be out there every day trying to do the best you can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you—like a fever."

So set an example for your co-workers or teammates to be passionate. There's nothing more powerful and more contagious than passion.

Mackay's Moral: The biggest challenge is not to add years to your life—but passion to your years.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Create a Niche and Create Value

From Marketing Profs comes this bit of advice about Niching:

What's Your Specialty?

Marketers choose to position a product on either a single feature or a combination of features. Which strategy you use can materially impact how consumers perceive the item's value and performance.

Consider three different brands of toothpaste—one claims to whiten teeth, another claims to freshen breath, while the third purports to whiten teeth, remove plaque and freshen breath. Research at Northwestern University demonstrates that if the prices are the same, customers are more likely to believe the brand that only claims to whiten teeth is superior to the other two in that aspect. Customers also were apt to believe the brand that only claims to freshen breath does so better than the other two.

Consumers subconsciously go through a zero-sum exercise, thinking various features balance out—so if a product does well at one task, it is most likely less capable at another. Without realizing it, consumers discount a brand that claims to do it all.

However, if you raise the price of the product that has multiple features, customers will believe the product to be superior to a less expensive product that includes only one attribute.

The Po!nt: To make your product stand out from the competition, highlight one characteristic or feature—or price your all-in-one product above similar products that only highlight one feature.

Source: "Jack of All Trades or Master of One? Product Differentiation and Compensatory Reasoning in Consumer Choice" by Alexander Chernev. Journal of Consumer Research, 2007. Click here and then click "Chicago GSB" to obtain the full report.

Copyright © 2000-2008 MarketingProfs, LLC All Rights Reserved.

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I hope your competition doesn't read this

I've talked about how to handle your marketing during a recession, now here's words of wisdom from others:

The Upside Of A Recession: 'The Dumbbells Cut Back... The Smart People Don't'

By Robert Croston and Patrick Cahill

The market drops 370 points in a single day, corporate earnings disappoint and housing prices continue to sink. We are in uncertain economic times. We may be in a recession right now, or could slip into one next week... or next month.

As optimists, we don't like forecasting difficult economic times. But, even optimists have to come to grips with the realities of our uncertain marketplace.

With economic anxiety looming, many of our clients are asking: how should I position and market my firm in the year to come? Assuming yours is a healthy company, here are our general recommendations.

The Cumulative Power Of Marketing

The laws of marketing never change, even in a recession. In fact, if played correctly, they can compound in your favor. Marketing, in any economic environment, is about sustained and integrated activity.

Like the principle of compound interest, a little investment, applied consistently, will pay great dividends down the road. There are of course short term benefits – marketing assists in generating immediate sales – but the real power of your marketing program is cumulative. This cumulative effect drives awareness and ultimately preference in your service so, at the elusive time of need, your prospect thinks of you first.

A sustained marketing effort will help ensure that your pipeline is consistently replenished, leads are properly nurtured, and your market presence is maintained.

The advantages to continuing your marketing in uncertain economic times go far beyond simply maintaining the status quo. The reality is many of your competitors are going to pull back their marketing. As a result, your dollar is going to go further than it is now. Your share of voice will grow. This represents a great opportunity for forward looking firms that are committed to growth because there are still lots of buyers out there.

The Reactionary Response

Many service firms automatically cut expenditures, and marketing is often on top of the list. It's an instinctive response to difficult economic conditions. Almost universally, this response will lead a company to have real trouble in the coming years, recession or no recession.

We can understand why firms think they need to cut back. The sensationalistic media attention given to the economy creates a quiet panic in all of us. We run all sorts of scenarios through our head: clients are going to brace for hard times... they will take longer to make purchases... perhaps they'll even cut service providers. As you think of sales cycles stretching, client retention diminishing, and project size shrinking, you may find yourself looking to cut costs.

Marketing is one of those initial costs that seem easy to reduce. It's hard to measure and you aren't quite sure if it's needed when it's time to hunker down. Why not cut it until things are looking up again? It's easy to justify: "We'll go full force once the market turns, it won't hurt a thing."

The Facts

Study after study demonstrates why this is not wise. Keith Roberts, of PIMS Associates, found firms that increase their marketing spend during a recession actually grow significantly faster than firms that maintain or decrease their marketing spend.1 Additionally, firms that invested more in marketing in a down market realized a 4.3% increase in their ROI. This compared to companies that maintained or cut their level of effort during the two years following a recession.

The study also pointed out that those who increased their marketing efforts during a recession gained market share three times faster in the two years following a recession than businesses that cut their marketing. While service firms don't play the market share game, this does illustrate the cumulative effect of marketing and the opportunity for advancement in a recession.

While the work PIMS did is compelling, it's hardly the only material on the subject:

  • McGraw Hill found that business to business companies that maintained or increased their marketing during the 1981-82 recession grew during and after the recession at a far greater rate than those who didn't maintain or increase marketing spending.2

  • The research firm of Meldrum & Fewsmith studied all post World War II recessions and found that advertising aggressively during recessions not only increases sales but it also increases profits, and at a far greater rate than those firms that cut back.3

  • American Business Media found that maintaining share of mind during an economic downturn directly related to current and future sales and that maintaining share of mind costs much less than rebuilding it after a period of marketing inactivity.4

  • According to Coopers & Lybrand, marketing during a time of economic difficultly solidifies your client case, portrays you as stable, takes business away from less aggressive competitors and positions your firm well for post recession growth.5

We could go on, but we're sure you get the point – this storyline, and the research behind it, is compelling.

The Silver Lining

As legendry ad man Ed McCabe puts it, "All great enterprises move forward in a recession, and the weaklings move back. The dumbbells cut back...the smart people don't."

Be one of the "smart people." Whether there will be or won't be a recession, maintaining a healthy marketing program will only build on what you have already developed. And maintaining and growing what you have toiled long and hard over requires careful planning, decisive execution, and plain old guts. Now more than ever the money you spend now on marketing matters. Not because dark times loom, but because there is real opportunity out there right now.

1 Roberts, Kieth. What Strategic Investments Should You Make During A Recession To Gain Competitive Advantage In The Recovery, Journal of Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 31, Issue 4.
2 International Journal of Research in Marketing, Vol. 22, Issue 2.
3 Ibid
4 American Buisness Media, The Value of Advertising During an Economic Downturn.
5 Ibid

Robert Croston is Vice President and Principal Consultant at the Wellesley Hills Group, a consulting and marketing services firm that helps service companies to grow. Robert can be reached at

Patrick Cahill is a Senior Associate with the Wellesley Hills Group, a consulting and marketing services firm that helps service companies to grow. Patrick can be reached at

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Know your competition

Chuck McKay updated his Fishing For Customers Blog this week with this challenge:

Imagine yourself the quarterback of a football team. You understand the game. You know what the goal looks like, and how to score. There's only one problem. You don't have any idea of where you are on the field. You could be on your own 30-yard line. On the other hand, you may be within ten yards of your competitor's goal. What should your next play be? Should you rush up the middle? Should you try for the long forward pass? Should you call in the place kicker? Truthfully, you can't answer this one. If you tried, shame on you. You're gambling the future of your team without any idea of where you are or where you're going. Navigating Without Landmarks I was recently discussing this tendency of business owners to “shoot blind” with Wizard of Ads © partner, Michael Keeseee, who directed me to the February 19 issue of Fortune Magazine, and an article titled The Pepsi Challenge.

“Nooyi also gave a pivotal presentation to the board in 1998 - just as the heat from Coke was becoming unbearable - that dissected the rival's business model and made a persuasive case that its double-digit growth was not sustainable.

"It was a tour de force," says Enrico, who is convinced that "at that moment the PepsiCo board understood Coke's business model better than Coke's board did." Four months after the presentation Coke stock peaked at $88 and began a long downward slide.”
Can you imagine knowing your competitor's business so well that you could predict how that competitor will react to various changes in the marketplace? What might Coke do if the price of corn syrup went up by 10 percent? Could Pepsi know which preemptive moves to take for that, or for any other business eventuality?

Based on their stock prices since 1998, the answer appears to be, “yes.”

But, if you're not one of the big guys...

OK. Granted, the world's a different place for two corporate behemoths who can afford hundreds of analysts each to do nothing but gather business intelligence and study each other.

But, I remember a weekend in 1979 in which the general manager of the company I worked for took the entire management team away for the weekend. Our mission? To presume the next Presidential election's possible outcomes, and to predict our competitor's actions under each scenario.

I don't believe it was coincidence that over the next two years we grew 17 percent and 22 percent respectively.

How well do you know your competitors? Do you know where your goal is? How accurately can you gage your own field position?

Can you afford not to sequester your key employees for a weekend of brainstorming?

Chuck McKay is a marketing consultant who works with professional practices and owner operated businesses. Questions about obtaining business intelligence and eventuality planning may be directed to Read more!

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Extra day=Extra training

We have an extra day in February this year, in case you didn't know. So here's an extra bit of wisdom. He's become one of my favorite no-nonsense sales trainers. Art Sobczak wrote this in his email this week:

This Week's Tip:
So You THINK You Have a Hot Prospect?
Yeah, Right.


Omaha, Nebraska is where my business is
based and where I maintain a primary residence.

As I travel the country and mention Omaha,
I hear a number of comments. Typical lame
farmer jokes (this is a metro area of close to a
million people), and comments from uninformed
elitists who think it is the same place as
Oklahoma (hullo, that would be a STATE).

Also, many people associate Omaha with,

-Omaha Steaks

-Mutual of Omaha and Wild Kingdom

-Warren Buffet

-For sports fans, the College World Series.
That is the focus of today's Tip. (Trust me,
there is a huge sales point here.)

Right now, even though much of the country
is still experiencing the frigidness of winter,
the college baseball season has begun, and
the goal of thousands of players is to get their
team to Omaha in June for the national

I've written about the College World Series many
times over the years. If you are a sports fan, you
really should try to get here to experience it.

The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association)
does not hold any other of its many championship
tournaments at a fixed location other than the
College World Series. They know it would be tough
for any other community to support it and embrace it
like Omaha has over the past 50 years.

And, Omaha wants to keep it forever. As a result,
every time the NCAA says "Jump!," the power people
in Omaha say, "How high, sir?"

Well, the NCAA has said that they want a new
stadium in which to play the games. A new,
$140 million downtown stadium. Of course,
Omaha said, "OK, but we need a new 20-year
contract to keep the tournament here."

I'll spare you all the details, but what it all has
boiled down to is that a major power struggle
has taken place here between the mayor, and
a few people on a commission that was appointed
several years ago to run a new arena that was
built. The ridiculous bickering over where to
build this thing could potentially mean losing
the entire College World Series.

OK, let me get to the sales point.

Yesterday, the mayor and a few other high-
powered execs on his own stadium committee
presented the NCAA with their proposal for a
building a new $140 million stadium, asking for
a 20-year contract.

The NCAA, which considers itself perhaps even
more important and powerful than The Vatican,
The Supreme Court, the IRS, and
perhaps even Oprah, replied,

"That's nice. But come back to us when you
have broad-based support in Omaha."

And the Omaha people left with that as a
result of their "sales call."

Kind of like a sales rep who gets off the phone,
thinking he has a hot prospect when he hears,

"Sounds good, we'll give it some thought.
Get back to us."


"Broad-based support"?

Now, I was not in the room, but if I was, I
would be waving my hand wildly, like a
second-grader, and would ask this simple

"Excuse me, but could you please define
what you mean by 'broad-based

I mean, if you were going to spend $140
MILLION to secure a sale, isn't it reasonable to
know exactly what you need to do in order to
earn that right?

Sales reps: look at your follow up files right now.
Pick a few of the prospects you are working on,
particularly the ones you think you have a good
shot with. Why do you think that?

Did they tell you something that sounded like
the "broad-based support" phrase? If so, I bet
you don't get the sale.

Sales Managers: How many times have you sat
with reps, reviewing their pipeline, asking about
specific prospects, and you hear things like
the broad-based support phrase? It often sounds

"They said they were going to do something.
They just needed to work a few things out."

Here's a pretty simple suggestion
that can move your sales process along more
quickly, and help you get more yes answers:

Get specifics on exactly and specifically what
needs to happen next. Leave no doubt.

"What specifically needs to happen on your end to
move forward?"

"What will we need to do in order to make this happen?"

"When you say you need ______, what does that
mean? What does that look like?"

"How do you measure ______?"

"When you are evaluating/demo-ing the product,
what criteria will you use to judge it, and what will
you need to see to move forward?"

Some squeamish types might argue that this is
being pushy. No, it is business.

And if the mayor calls, I'll be happy to go on the
next sales call with the NCAA.

We encourage you to reprint these Tips in your own email, online, or conventionally-
printed publications. It's free, as long as credit is given.

Art Sobczak, President, Business By Phone Inc. 13254 Stevens St.,
Omaha, NE 68137,
(402) 895-9399. Or,

Please Pass this Issue Along to Friends, Co-Workers,
Customers ... Anyone Who Could Benefit.

They'll appreciate it, and so will I!

Or, simply have them go to and enter the email address.

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Targeting your Advertising

Earlier today I wrote about Matching. Click here for details.

And here's a story about how the newspaper biz can fine tune their advertising efforts:

New Tool Can Go Sub-ZIP Level For Newspaper Ads
Ad Age
A media-buying firm says it can now buy print ads at a sub-ZIP code level. Interpublic's Newspaper Services of America claims to have developed a new analytical tool that can help its clients -- which include Home Depot, Sears, CVS and Bridgestone -- target consumers even more narrowly on a geographic basis than has been possible to date.

The tool lets advertisers that use major newspapers to blanket a whole metro area focus more precisely on individual neighborhoods so they can hone in on the homes of their most-desired customers via a combination of newspaper zoned editions, inserts, direct mail, shoppers and other publications, says NSA Media Chief Development Officer Craig Desens.

While that could be bad news for slumping newspapers that have benefited from widespread buys, Desens notes it could also bring in new business. - Read the whole story...

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What does it take to BEAT Commercial Skippers?

The Wall Street Journal has the answer...

Creative commercials.

But let me add to that.

Creativity only gets results if your company is remembered.

Try this experiment.

Next time you are watching a show, record it too.

When the show is over, write down as many commercials as you can remember and list them by the company or product.

Then review the tape. Fast Forward to the commercials and see how well you did. Actually it's how well the advertisers did.

Here's the story from the WSJ:

Why DVR Viewers Recall Some TV Spots

NBC Study Tracks
What Is Absorbed
In Fast Forward
February 26, 2008; Page B5

What do Matt Damon and an animated piece of phlegm have in common? Viewers seem to remember them especially well, according to a new test that measured what people recall about TV ads, even when they're zapping through them.

The test is part of a continuing effort by General Electric's NBC Universal to measure the effectiveness of television ads that viewers skip through with their digital video recorders. The bottom line: Viewers still remember the spots -- or at least some elements of them -- even when they're watching at up to six times the speed of regular live TV. (READ MORE)

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Product Placement Replaces TV Commercials

It may be one of the ways traditional broadcast media can save itself. Unfortuneately, it hasn't happened yet. But one of our local news channels has done it during the 11pm news.

They simply mention the sponsor several times and flash their logo and name, but keep giving us story after story after story.

Here's some research that shows what is happening right now with the current arrangement of TV show, commercial break, TV show, etc:

Time Shift TV Viewing

According to a recently released Digital Life America tracking study conducted by Solutions Research Group, nearly 80 million Americans (43% of the online population) have watched one of their favorite TV shows on the Internet, up significantly from 12 months ago when that figure was just 25%. 20% of the American online population said they watch TV on the web on a weekly basis, and that's ahead of the 14% who say they take advantage of cable's video-on-demand offerings.

The sample of Americans aged 12 and older said that 'to watch a specific show' was the main reason for 21% of all visits to major network websites in November 2007. Of the major network sites, received the highest user experience score among those who streamed a TV show, with 52% rating their overall experience as ‘excellent," followed by (44%)

Why People Visit Major Network Sites (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox)

Reason for Visit

% of Viewers (viewed 1 or more network websites in previous month)

Check schedule


View specific show








Weather, traffic




Source: Digital Life America Q4 '07, February 2008

Top major network TV shows viewed on the Internet included Heroes, Grey's Anatomy, Dancing with the Stars, Ugly Betty, Chuck, CSI and House, Kitchen Nightmares, Smallville and Gossip Girl.

Those who viewed one of the leading 20 prime time shows in the past 24 hours were asked to identify the source of viewing. Overall, 25% of prime time viewing was time shifted using a DVR, broadband, mobile or similar. Among viewers 18-34, one-third (34%) of viewing was time-shifted. And among 18-49 households with a DVR, a remarkable 55% of the leading 20 shows were time-shifted.

If a household has a DVR and broadband, DVR is the preferred means of time-shifting. DVR users are becoming more aggressive in skipping commercials-65% say they "always" skip commercials compared to 52% a year ago.

Skip Commercials on DVR (% DVR owners)


Always skip

Frequently skip

Oct. 2006



Nov. 2007



Source: Digital Life America Q4 '07, February 2008

For more information, please visit SRG here

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Radio's relationship with the WWW

It's nice to see someone else that "gets it". In a few years the new cars, trucks, SUV's and whatever else we will be driving will be equipped with wireless internet as standard (not optional) equipment. (CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW SOON)

When that occurs, the revolution that is occurring in the television broadcasting business will spread to the radio broadcasting business.

No longer will I be limited to the FM and AM stations I can pick up FREE, I will be able to tune to any source of entertainment, including radio stations world wide and listen as I am driving.

So instead of having 15 local choices, I will have 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 choices. (More or less.)

No longer will I need to apply for a license from the F.C.C., spend millions on equipment and a building and engineers etc to have a legitimate broadcasting station.

In the olden days, I had friends in the neighborhood that set up pirate radio stations until they were shut down by the F.C.C.

Today we have a local station that is Internet Broadcast only at

What will become of the traditional broadcast stations with the towers and transmitters? Read what Mark Ramsey has to say on his radio insiders blog

The new face of Internet radio

Yesterday I visited an Internet radio station (details about this station much later).

That's what you're supposed to call it, I guess.

Because they are an Internet radio station that has a full commitment to things that are very much unrelated to "radio" and much more related to "Internet."

One of the things radio stations fail to generally understand is that their existence online is not limited to buying a website template from a dedicated radio website template developer and pasting up banner ads and a stream player to their heart's content.

For radio, the Internet is not a brand extension, contrary to conventional thinking. It is the new brand.

So the question your station must ask itself is this: What would we be and do if we didn't have a broadcast tower at all and only had a website? How would we build this thing?

Granted, we function primarily in our local community, so the broadcast tower is our most significant marketing tool for our website (rather than the other way around), but what should our brand experience be online?

What community elements do we offer? What video do we provide? Can you get traffic and weather and news updates via TXT or email? How often does the content change (the answer should be "constantly")? Do listener hear everything you have when they listen to your stream or does the website add a visual and interactive component that your visitors (not listeners) can't live without? Is there a game-related element to the site? Do you encourage listeners to tell others about it via online links? In what ways are we either the best in the world or the most different at whatever we do?

How big is your commitment to making this happen?

Or are you too busy cutting staff to make an investment of this type in your future, one which clearly won't pay off tomorrow?

Compare your efforts to those of the Internet radio station I visited, which is plainly planning for the digital future with a room full of painfully young artists creating digital and video content, live bands rolling through regularly (and a performance room for them to play in), a real-life air studio and another production studio, two station vans in the lot, and a programmer at the wheel who has helmed major radio stations before and knows full well that he is finally constrained not by what he must do, but what he could and should do.

Say "hello" to your new competition, where "radio" is only a tiny slice of the opportunity.

Don't you wish you worked there?

Shouldn't this be where you work now?

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Yet another advertising medium to spend your money with

Is it harder to pick and choose which advertising medium to use for your business? After all, as the following story from Mediapost states, there are more, and more, and morem and more, and more ways to advertise.

I'll let you in on a secret that will help you decided how to advertise. It's called Matching. Click here for how it works.

Here's the latest from Mediapost:

Convenience Stores Gets Digital Network
by Erik Sass, Thursday, Feb 28, 2008 8:00 AM ET
THE BURGEONING DIGITAL OUT-OF-HOME MARKET is getting yet another new player with the creation by Transworld Media of a new digital network serving over 1,200 independent convenience stores. The network includes convenience stores in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

Some 100 stores in the Dallas area have already had the equipment installed by Real Digital Media, which created the technology. The rest slated to receive the digital displays on an aggressive schedule over 2008.

Advertisers can buy 15-second, 30-second and one-minute slots through media agencies and third parties, including SeeSaw Networks, which operates its own national network of digital signage and has entered into a strategic partnership with Transworld.

The new Transworld network straddles several high-growth categories, including digital out-of-home and in-store media, both which have proliferated in recent years, including networks targeting convenience store-type retail.

Also on Wednesday, CBS said it is expanding its "Outernet" of place-based video to a number of pharmacies. The expansion brings CBS into partnership with Lifeclinic International, which operates kiosks that monitor vital signs in more than 25,000 pharmacies around the country.

In June 2006 Duane Reade, a New York City pharmacy chain, got a place-based video network courtesy of the In-Store Broadcasting Network. And in 2007, Gas Station TV announced it would expand its network to include video displays in convenience stores attached to gas stations. The in-store video complements digital displays already installed by the company at eye level in gas pumps, created to reach consumers while they fill their tanks.

The move to in-store broadcasting comes as Nielsen In-Store, in partnership with the In-Store Marketing Institute, refines a new metric for measuring in-store media exposure. Nielsen's coverage includes retail TV, plus radio networks, point-of-purchase displays and other signage.

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Starbucks History Lesson

Updated 4/10/08:

The last few weeks, this blog entry has been seen by lots of people who typed in Starbucks History in Google. It is usually one of the top 10 results.

Since you are interested in Starbucks, I want to point you to some additional posts that you may be interested it Just click on the underlined headlines:

Is Starbucks out of touch?

Starbucks and Blogs


Starbucks Updates and a video you have to see!

Starbucks Closing Video

Another Starbucks Commentary

Starbucks Marketing Mishap

Starbucks and Free Wi-Fi

Now, here's the original story that you googled:

Because so much has been written about Starbucks marketing model and how it has changed over the years, I will continue to post items regarding the company and what they are doing and have done.

This is neither an endorsement nor a slam against them or any of their competitors. I was first introduced to the coffee shop experience 8 years ago, before Starbucks opened in my town. But because there is so much discussion about them, and the way they have grown and stumbled and are trying to recover, they are a good case study.

When we look at all the factors however, we must keep in mind economic changes that are beyond a companies control. Currently the word is recession, and the changes in consumer behavior that have nothing to do with the taste of a shot of espresso. These are continually changing factors no matter what your business.

The folks at Maple Creative found a story about Starbucks from 4 years ago that we can look at with hindsight and perhaps get a perspective on the future.

Starbucks: Did They Jump the Shark?

Note: we are jumping on board with Jay Ehret and company over at "The Marketing Spot" to provide commentary (and advice) on Starbucks and its ongoing efforts to remake, fix and improve its business.
The image at left is the July 2004 issue of Fast Company. As you will note, the lead cover story is about Starbucks. "Thinking Outside the Cup. Surprise! Starbucks is making a bold push into music."
The question, as we sit here today in 2008, is: was it a bold push, or an ill-advised push?
The Fast Company article postulates that Starbucks foray into music, providing downloadable music for purchase in its retails outlets, would in disruptive fashion render traditional music vendors such as Tower Records, HMV and Virgin Megastore obsolete.

"What Schultz had come across was a group of music stores with something of a cult following in the Bay Area. Hear Music was one of the first stores in the country to introduce the now-universal concept of the 'listening station.'
In its intimacy, quality and customer focus, Hear Music must have reminded Schultz very much of his own company. And the rest of the music industry must have looked a lot like Maxwell House."
"We never dreamed we'd be sitting on the unique opportunity we're sitting on now," he said. "We just saw that they were doing for music what we had done for coffee."

Unique? That would appear to have been a stretch. What each player had done was innovate. But then Starbucks attempted to replicate, instead of innovate.

"What you're left with is this very broad audience, made up of the core Starbucks customer, who loves music and can't find it, Schultz said. "We have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this."

No doubt, the psychographic potential of the brand extension was alluring. But what about iTunes and other online music vendors? Did Starbucks underestimate their potential and power ... their competitive threat? Were they, perhaps, caught off-guard?

There's a phrase in the movie and TV business--"jumping the shark." It's that fateful, irreversible moment when the program, or series, goes too far. It strays too far from its core concept or storyline ... and loses credibility. Typically, such shows do not recover.
In my estimation, this article from July 2004 captures for posterity that moment when Starbucks jumped the shark.

Cut to February 26, 2008. Starbucks closed every single one of its stores for three hours. They spent that time getting back to their essence, their core. They took 3 hours (times 7,100 stores) to train their baristas (employees) on how to make and serve great espresso. Here's the corporate news release on this event. This equates to 500,000 hours of training time.
I applaud Starbucks for this tough, but necessary, refocusing intiative. Time will tell its impact. Still, I remain a devoted Starbucks fan and customer, and I wish them well.

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