Saturday, June 20, 2009

10 Saturday Night Marketing Nuggets

The Concept behind Collective Wisdom is that there is a lot of wisdom out there that we could all benefit from. But the Internet is filled with junk and if there was a way to pick out a few bits and pieces of it and share it with others who are interested in Advertising, Marketing and the Sales Process... well here you are.

Here's a piece I found this week with 10 nuggets for you to contemplate:

Your Message: From a Whisper to a Scream

Check out these low-cost marketing ideas for your new business.

You’ve got a great idea and a plan to turn it into a business. Now all you need are customers--and to get them, you need to spread the word about what you’re doing. One problem: Your marketing budget makes your grade school allowance look like a princely sum.

Not to worry. There are plenty of ways to promote your business without spending a lot. The key to effective penny-pinching promotion, say marketers Travis Miller, 32, and Jimmy Vee, 33, founders of Orlando, Florida-based Gravitational Marketing, is to apply creativity to established techniques and emerging opportunities to reach a specific audience. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Get Profiled
In 2007, when Seth Mendelsohn founded Simply Boulder Foods LLC, a Boulder, Colorado, company that makes gourmet sauces, he started posting profile pages on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. Mendelsohn, 31, estimates he has “a few hundred followers, and they all want to hear about our company,” which has projected 2009 sales of more than $100,000.

Some of these sites allow users to start special interest groups or fan pages, which Miller says you can use to talk about your products and build bigger audiences.

Make Yourself a Star
Perhaps you’ve never thought of yourself as the next Larry King, but today’s media vehicles make it possible for you to host your own show--for nothing. PR expert Karen Taylor Bass, 42, author of You Want Caviar, But You Have Money for Chitlins, hosts her own show on the free network BlogTalk Radio, a social radio network where hosts can create free, live, call-in talk shows using an ordinary phone. The shows are archived and available for download as podcasts. You can also post podcasts to your website or shoot your own videos and place them on YouTube or in your blog. “Don’t forget public access television, where you may be able to create your own show and reach local audiences for free,” Bass says. Business owners should check with their local cable companies for terms and restrictions.

Pluck from the headlines
Publicity 101 tells you to build a media list and send relevant news releases to the contacts on it. That works, but Stacey Dolezal Susini, 35, a former TV news reporter and the founder of Zontis Public Relations in Dallas, says you can get even more mileage by watching what’s in the news. First, understanding the beats--or specific topics and regions--each reporter covers can help you better target your list. In addition, by piggybacking on existing headlines, you can put yourself in the spotlight. “Is there a charitable organization in trouble? If so, host a food, coat or clothing drive for them at your place of business,” she suggests. Then call your local media and tell them what you’re doing.

No time to compile a media list on your own? Try services like Contacts on Tap, (which costs as little as $395 for a year-long subscription (and offers a 15-day free trial), or use a service like Bulldog Reporter (, which lets you build a list, then pay $2 per name.

Go for the Demo
By demonstrating your product or service, you get to show prospects firsthand why they should buy from you, Mendelsohn says. While he now has a hectic grocery-store-demo schedule, he got his start at local farmers markets that only charged him a percentage of the day’s sales.

“Look for local events where you can connect with a lot of people, then let them know where they can buy your product in the future,” he says. Get more mileage by filming your demo or presentation and posting it online.

Find businesses in your backyard
Got local businesses that would be good customers? Susini suggests offering employee incentives to various businesses. Call their headquarters and ask how you can offer discounts or other special offers to their employees. If it’s a good fit, the HR department will promote your business to staffers without you having to do more than ring up sales. Similarly, she says, you can cross-promote your business with other businesses, offering discounts to their customers--and vice versa.

Be a Winner
Jenny Hwa, 31, founder and creative director of Loyale, a New York City sustainable clothing company that saw first-quarter sales growth of 70 percent, scours magazines and trade media on the lookout for awards competitions. In 2008, she was honored in awards co-sponsored by Glamour and O magazines, as well as one from iconic fashion designer Eileen Fisher. Another award she won was judged by editors from Glamour, Lucky and InStyle magazines, as well as popular website “It was a big year for us,” she says, “and we got a ton of great publicity and met some important contacts because of the awards we won.”

Give it Away
Free stuff is always a hit. Miller suggests offering free reports or special offers on your website in exchange for the prospect’s e-mail address. Retail businesses might consider a small gift with purchase or other loyalty program for customers who make repeat purchases.

Speak Up
From local chamber of commerce meetings to national trade events, booking yourself as an expert speaker can be a great way to get attention--and new business. While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Bass says, many events and meetings are hungry for good speakers who can share valuable information, rather than an overt sales pitch. Best of all, she says, you can recycle your speech by turning it into a podcast for your website, a blog post, an article for a trade publication or even a series of Twitter posts. While you’re at the event, be sure to collect contact information from the people there and follow up. Says Bass, more than 70 percent of prospective leads are never pursued.

Get Sourced
When reporters need sources, they may turn to a handful of services. Help a Reporter Out, also known as HARO, started as a Facebook group and is now a service with more than 50,000 subscribers, connecting reporters and sources. Sign up for free at Similar services charge fees such as PR Leads--which helped Hwa get interviewed by national magazines--and Publicity Hound.

Don’t do it
There are some things that aren’t worth the money, no matter what your budget. Here are a few:

Going after Oprah: Yes, The Oprah Winfrey Show is the gold standard of publicity; but it’s a long shot. If you spend all your time and money going after this, you could miss valuable, revenue-generating publicity in smaller vehicles that are easier to crack, says Jimmy Vee of marketing agency Gravitational Marketing.

Printing costly press kits: PR expert Karen Taylor Bass cringes when she sees glossy printed media materials. She says, “It’s far more effective to use e-mail.”

Hiring a big agency: If you need to hire help, find a good service provider who works with startups and understands budget constraints, Vee says.

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Customer Communication

In October, I am going to be presenting a seminar on Social Marketing & Social Media to a group of area marketing directors and business owners.

As I prepare for this presentation, I know that there are going to be new tools developed in the next few months and so what I might have said today, might be different from what I say this fall.

However, there is one common theme about what we call social media, and that it allows for two way communication.
When social media is used properly, it can improve customer communication and perhaps fix problems like Pat Mcgraw talks about:

How do you talk with your customers?

I just got off the phone with a telemarketer trying to get me to upgrade my service with my cable and internet service provider to their telephone service.

And like I have done for the past 6 or 7 times I have been presented with this “special offer for valued customers”, I turned him down. Actually, I was a bit of a jerk – misplaced aggression, I know, but after the 3rd rejection I started asking to be removed from the call list. Obviously they don’t care about me.

Yesterday, I got yet another letter from my credit card company. I have one credit card from them – had it for at least 5 years. The only time I ever hear from them is when they send me my bill or an offer for another one of their credit cards.

Nothing in the package clearly explained if this card was better than my current card and to be honest there wasn’t anything in the package that clearly indicated that they knew I was one of their customers. And as I quickly skimmed through the package, I wondered how they would make money if I had an outstanding balance on my current card and decided to transfer it over to the new card so I could get 0% for the next couple of months.

How can companies, in this age of conversation, devise a contact strategy that seems to ignore the relationship that already exists between them and the recipient of the offer?

Does your company have a well thought out process for developing more profitable relationships with your customers? Have you thought about how you will upsell them to new products and services?

Or do you focus on new customer acquisition and forget about me? Do you forget to scrub your direct mail and email lists for current customers? Or worse yet, do you let your product managers focus on the product more than the customer so they compete with each other?

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Phone Prospecting 1

This weekend I have 2 sales tips on using the phone. Here's the first one from Art Sobczak:

This Week's Tip:
Sales reps share how they get by the
No Sales Calls policy


Last week we printed a request from a fellow reader
about what to do when a prospect company has a
"no sales calls" policy, and asked for your input.

We received a number of great responses and
tips there at the Blog. I encourage you to go there,
read all of them, and perhaps leave some comments
of your own.

Here are just a few of the responses, and some of
my comments at the end.

Jeff Kirchman said,
When I have a prospect that won't take a call, I've often
had success contacting someone else in the organization.

Typically I'll call and ask for the Sales Department. It's
exceedingly rare that a company is going to heavily screen
people calling it to potentially do business with them. Once
I get a person on the line - someone who's not paid to
block me and may be unaware of the target's 'no-call' policy -
I play the old "I'm sorry, I was trying to reach Bill Prospect;
can you transfer me?"

I may also use the opportunity to ask a few questions about
the company and its marketing approaches/objectives. The
sales squad may not have decision-making authority, but they
know what's working and what's not.

Finally, an internal transfer is much more likely to be picked
up by the target than one that's coming through reception.

This end-run approach does run the risk of alienating some
prospects, certainly. But the way I see it, if they get irritated
enough to avoid doing business with you as the result of
something like this, your chances of selling them anything was
infinitely small anyways.


Bob Tait said,
I go to the local Goodwill and purchase a bunch of
children's shoes then when I come across this situation
I put one shoe in a small box and along with a personally
written note say "It's me just trying to get my foot in the door."
It works wonders and makes people laugh. I am affectionately
referred to as the "The shoe guy."


Michael Musolf said,
This requires some work and isn't cheap, but effective. We
purchased a couple ipods to send to decision makers on our
A list. We had them inscribed with our company name and
tag line then recorded a brief, personalized message on
them. We included instructions on how to play the message.
We were able to set appointments with almost everyone we
sent the ipods to.


Julie Cook shared an idea that was used with her when
she was a buyer:

I worked at a piano festival as the marketing director, and wouldn't
return the calls of a radio sales rep because we were swamped
with just weeks to go before this huge 3-week event unfolded.

I thought his station didn't fit my mktg. mix and had a hard
time saying no, which is what a lot of my customers now do to me.

So I just didn't call him back. He got through when he sent me a
beautiful wind-up piano music box. He got my attention, and I
called him back, and ended up spending thousands of dollars
with him. So if your client has great potential, send him something
cool that will get his attention.


Ian Powell said,
A good question - in most cases I might say move
on to the next prospect if there is too much alchemy
required and just keep them aware of your company,
if and when they come back to review the market.

However I would like to understand better their
definition of sales call. If it is a targeted call that is
information rich with a proposition that is of value to
that organization then that can only be of benefit to
them. Why wouldn't you take it?

I might be inclined to find out if that is a policy of
the organization or the one individual? Would they
want their sales representatives to be blanket
blocked in this fashion? I would then briefly and politely
attempt to persuade them - 3 bullet points as to why
they should take the call.

If this did not work I would then write a letter to the
owner advising them (politely) of the situation and
whether they approved of it and the potential missed
opportunity etc. etc.

Obviously chasing both letters thoroughly afterwards.

You may gain some personal satisfaction from
getting round your blocker and indeed get them to
see you - but you also have a 50/50 chance of
alienating them completely as well.

Having said that I probably would go down the letter
route anyway on the basis that you currently have
nothing to lose.

There is no silver bullet as far as I can see.


Art's Comments

First, I agree with the very last sentence from Ian: There
is no silver bullet that will work all of the time.

I agree with many of the comments and suggestions
that the readers made.

My general feelings are:

-this should not come as a shock, but you need to
be sure that you have a message that hints at the
value you might be able to offer.

-be prepared to explain to whomever you speak with,
why you are different and have something of value for
the company/prospect. Policies are meant to keep out
MOST people, and are enforced by humans. Some
people are put through.

-ask what the typical process is for contacting decision
makers to introduce new opportunities. With your
biggest prospects, you might want to play by their
rules first. And accept the fact that with some, you
just might not get through.

-as a few readers mentioned, go to different departments,
especially sales, to gather information, and then ask if
you could be introduced or transferred to your target

-use a multi-media approach with emails, faxes, letters,
overnight packages, books, premium items, or whatever
creative toy you can come up with. Of course this may not
be feasible with someone who is doing a high volume of
simple transactional prospecting, but if you are hunting
whales, it's worth your while and money to make the

-persistence pays. I've finally been worn down by sales
reps pursuing me simply because they were so persistent
in repeatedly trying to get to me that I felt I owed them
some time.

-above all, do not be deceptive, or misrepresent yourself.
There are enough of those dirtbags out there now that
taint buyers' perceptions of salespeople.

My list is not all-inclusive, and there are other ideas that
work. If you have one, I encourage you to share it at

Go and Have Your Best Week Ever!


Quote of the Week

Some of the most inspired, exciting baseball you will ever
see is now being played at the College World Series in
Omaha. Many of these kids will never play again after
their team is eliminated, and you see emotions, hustle,
and a love for the game that you often do not see with
professional players. In honor of all these college athletes
that have earned their way to Omaha, here's this week's quote:

"Never let the fear of striking out get in your way."
George Herman "Babe" Ruth

Business By Phone Inc.
13254 Stevens St
Omaha, NE 68137
United States
(402) 895-9399

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Night Marketing News

From Mediapost:

Financial Services
by Karl Greenberg
With the tag line "Accidents are Bad, but GEICO's Good," the ads talk about claim service with scenarios that mimic the insurer's four most frequently reported claims, the more common accidents. Kevin Thoem, senior art director at The Martin Agency, says the work is meant to complement, not replace, GEICO's several other campaigns. ... Read the whole story > >
Financial Services
by Tanya Irwin
The campaign is intended to establish BBVA Compass as the bank that helps customers through every stage of their life, listening and partnering with them to develop the best possible solution for their unique needs and particular situation. It will include TV, radio, online, out of home and print, in addition to a Hispanic marketing component. ... Read the whole story > >
by Karlene Lukovitz
PepsiCo Beverages Canada is using the social network site, which has a high concentration of Millennials, as the central platform for its current marketing campaign, and combining that with on-site engagement, reports Rob MacOdrum, marketing manager for the division. It will be the first product brand to have an event streamed live on Facebook. ... Read the whole story > >
by Sarah Mahoney
"The Facebook application is our way to get the word out to teens, so they can tag friends and get them involved, too," says a Staples spokesperson. The campaign also includes a sweepstakes, which will launch in early July, with winners traveling to New York to join Ciara at the backpack-stuffing event. ... Read the whole story > >
Packaged Goods
by Karl Greenberg
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has said it will sue if the company continues touting selenium as potential prostate-cancer preventatives, arguing that Bayer claims in ads and product labels that "emerging research" suggests selenium has salubrious properties when it comes to prostate health are false. ... Read the whole story > >
by Aaron Baar
According to research, broadband Internet adoption rates are up 15% in 2009, even as Americans cut back on other entertainment and communication services. Moreover, those who don't have it say that relevance to their daily lives is a bigger sticking point than cost. ... Read the whole story > >

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Consumer Spending Trends

Are looking UP:
Consumers Cautiously Ready to Spend Again Restraint will be the new mantra among consumers, according to the latest Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Survey. But that doesn't mean they won't start spending again in the near future.

Respondents to the poll conducted in April, across 50 countries making up 86 percent of the GDP, said they would continue to focus on fiscal responsibility. Yet, "they will allow themselves some of those little indulgences," said James Russo, vice president, Global Consumer Insights. "Perhaps pent up demand will play itself out and they'll take that vacation they put off, go back to casual dining and increase out of home entertainment activities such as movie going."

In April, 56 percent of consumers said they were spending less on new clothes. However, only 22 percent said they would continue to do so with an economic recovery predicted by year's end.

More than half (53 percent) also cut down on out-of-home entertainment. However, only 20 percent said they planned to maintain this behavior. And, while 45 percent of respondents shied away from take-away meals, only 24 percent plan on avoiding these more expensive meals moving forward.

Still, consumers clearly indicated that they would remain focused on savings past the recovery. "A whole new value system has emerged," said Russo. "One of casual restraint. There is a focus on fiscal responsibility and budgeting, but that doesn't mean there isn't a market for indulgences. I don't mean diamond jewelry, but moderation will be key and you may see consumers begin to trade up and move back to mainstream retailers."

One behavior that will not change as drastically is trying to save on gas and electricity. Slightly more than half of respondents (51 percent) said they did so in April. Forty percent of consumers said they would continue to keep an eye on such services. The same holds true with the telephone company, with 34 percent currently acting with restraint and 21 percent looking to do so moving forward.

Nielsen conducted a similar study in October and it proved telling. From October 2008 to April 2009, consumers across 15 behavioral segments followed through on plans to cut back on discretionary purchases while increasing levels of savings. For example, in April, most of the 40 percent of consumers who said they would delay upgrading technology followed through with their promise. More than a third (34 percent) said they'd use their car less -- 29 percent ended up doing so. And 33 percent said they'd cut down on vacations and delay replacement of major household items. In both instances, 34 percent of consumers actually did.

(Source: Nielsen Business Media, 06/08/09)

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Stupid Buyers

What's worse? A Stupid Buyer or Stupid Seller?

I think using the word Stupid is probably setting yourself up for failure. Look at this from Tom Searcy:

From the Mail Bag: “Stupid Buyers”

June 16, 2009 By: Tom Searcy

What is a sales team’s likely response when their buyer involves a bunch of people in a sale who don’t know much about what they’re buying?

“These people are IDIOTS!”
[Paraphrased from frustrated sales people the world over, dealing with “new” buyers at their big targets…]

When big companies lay people off, the functions of those people get stacked on top of the already-full desks of other people. These new responsibilities most often don’t come with training, a manual, or any relevant experience on the part of the recipient. And these new job requirements just show up. Often times, one of these responsibilities is to be the buyer of products and services with which the “new” buyer is very unfamiliar.

So, what do these people do with their new responsibility? Most of the time they choose one of the following:

1. Do nothing. They don’t buy anything- they just put it off
2. Stick with the incumbent.
3. Buy from the lowest-priced vendor.

In the rapidly-shifting organizational charts of companies dealing with downsizing, ignorant buyers can be dangerous to your sales process for new accounts. Face it—there are a lot of options that are easier and safer than going with a new provider like you.

Getting these new buyers to sway away from the three easy options listed above will require you to adjust your approach. Here are some recommendations…

  • Focus on the big issue buying rather than feature and benefit. I’ve written before that the language of big buyers is the language of Time, Money and Risk (see our webinar and related blog post about “The Triples”). These buyers will have a better chance of understanding the business issue benefit than the departmental or functional level benefit. Stay in the world of Time, Money and Risk, and stay out of the end-point utility of what you sell.
  • Translation and simplicity always win. There is no sense railing against the ignorance of the buyer in this conversation. It’s not his or her fault that they’re in this discussion. So, the onus is on you to provide the translation of value and to simplify the benefits of the program. Strip out the jargon, peel back the acronyms. Use the analogies and stories to lay out a very simple and practical explanation of not only what you are selling, but what they are buying. Most of these folks do not understand the problem that they are solving in making this purchase, so you need to explain to them what they’re buying.
  • Greater need for salespeople to be experts in the customer’s business. The balance of proof is clearly in your hands. You need to be the person who can provide expertise in the customer’s business without making them feel stupid. Explain how the two industries (theirs and yours) have changed over time. Walk through the evolution of what buyers have looked for and why you are now, at this time, the best choice.
  • Doubts in your products/services are often doubts in themselves and their ability to buy intelligently. You need to address both. Expert buyers may doubt your claims and therefore choose not to buy from you. Inexperienced buyers doubt their own abilities to discern, so they stay with “business as usual”, and, in effect, rely on the expertise of the previous buyer. These “new” buyers need to have confidence that they are making the best choice and the safest choice. Your sales pitch has to focus on increasing their confidence that they know what the best choice looks like BEFORE you convince them that yours is the best choice.

We are going to be dealing with inexperienced buyers with a greater frequency in the future, not less. Market trends and drivers like SARBOX, board governance requirements, and the power of procurement departments will be forcing decisions into RFP/RFQ and RFI processes that are strong on process and weak on relevance.

Downsizing and streamlining will be piling more work onto managers and executives who have less time and functional knowledge in their areas of responsibility. In order to break through the easy choices of price, incumbent, or do nothing, we have to change our approach.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday Night Marketing News

Yep, all the latest in one place from Mediapost:

by Tanya Irwin
The campaign includes print, radio and online advertising. Dedicated in-store materials as well as footwear hangtags and box stickers highlight the 993, 1063 and 769 models as either Made or Assembled in America. Online ads will run on, and Google. ... Read the whole story > >
by Aaron Baar
"We wanted to keep the spots as relatable as possible," says the agency that created them. "Whenever you come through in an emergency situation, the product always looks more heroic." In the first spot, as a man walks through the door of his house, the picture freezes and onscreen text (encased by yellow brackets) declares: "A Yellowbook moment is about to happen." ... Read the whole story > >
by Karl Greenberg
Hershey's Reese's brand is launching a summer promotion, "Reese's Loves you Back" that offers coupons for gas fill-ups and groceries. The on-pack instant-win sweepstakes dangles $2.5 million in cash prizes toward gasoline and groceries. ... Read the whole story > >
by Sarah Mahoney
The Contact Center Satisfaction Index finds that domestic reps were rated 84 out of 100, while offshore reps were rated just 62. And respondents say that call centers in the U.S. resolved their problems on the first call 68% of the time, versus 42% for offshore. ... Read the whole story > >
by Karlene Lukovitz
The coupon program is part of an ongoing commitment by Kellogg, which has been a donor since the organization was founded. In April, the company said it will donate an entire day's worth of cereal production (more than 55 million cereal servings) to Feeding America. ... Read the whole story > >
by Karl Greenberg
NPD says the top five parts growth categories in the first quarter were wiper components; auto batteries; suspension; driveline; and electrical parts. The markets that saw the biggest growth for replacement parts were Boston, Hartford, Conn.; and Detroit; while Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville, Fla. experienced strong windshield wiper component sales growth during the first quarter. ... Read the whole story > >

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The Housing Market

We are in the middle of the House buying/selling season. Here's what's going on:

Buying and Selling Real Estate in 2009: What It's Really Like For buyers and sellers, the past few months have been schizophrenic.

In 2009, sellers are battling shrinking home values and a constricting pool of available buyers. Buyers are sensing opportunities on home prices and home mortgages -- if they have the credit, job security and ready cash to qualify.

Those in the best shape are homeowners who don't have to sell and homebuyers with good credit, a stash of cash and working knowledge of their mortgage options.

"There are going to be great opportunities out there," says William Poorvu, author of "Creating and Growing Real Estate Wealth" and professor emeritus at Harvard Business School in Boston. The question is: Is it right for you?

"Whether it's Bernie Madoff or your own mortgage broker, at a certain point you have to rely on your own judgment," he says.

Nationwide, home prices fell in the first quarter of 2009, but the exact amount is debatable. The National Association of Realtors puts the figure at 13.8 percent year-over-year. Another yardstick, S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, logs the decline at 19.1 percent year-over-year.

The number of new homes being built is also down. Housing starts, which averaged 1.3 million annually from 2000 to 2003, dropped to a seasonally adjusted 458,000 in April, according to the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C.

You don't have to be a buyer or seller to realize that homes are sitting on the market. In April, the inventory of unsold homes would have taken 10.2 months to clear at the current sales rate, according to the NAR. That's down from almost 12 months in 2008, but higher than the industry's historical norms of six to seven months, says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

Some homes are selling
It's not all doom and gloom. Fred Soule sold his home in Fort Wayne, Ind., after just two weeks. While he got $5,000 less than he'd hoped from the sale of his 4-year-old, three-bedroom house, he broke even when he bought another home across town. Soule negotiated the price on his new home based on what he was getting from his own sale, and the deal made it worth it, he says.

Soule also had a secret weapon -- staging. His sister and brother-in-law, big fans of TV home fix-up shows, coached him on decluttering his house and getting it sale-ready. Soule moved out a lot of his nonessentials, cleaned out the garage and even rented a storage unit.

On the buy side, his new purchase -- a never-been-lived-in, bank-owned home -- was originally marketed at $174,000. He paid $150,000.

Jeanette Prose wasn't so lucky. Her 3-year-old, three-bedroom home in Hollister, Mo., was on the market for 16 months, and she finally accepted $15,000 less than her original asking price. It took another three months to close.

But she was also buying, and her seller was willing to negotiate. "We got a good deal, so everybody was happy," she says.

Prose and Soule both want to stay in their new homes for more than a few years. And that, according to many real estate experts, is the hallmark of a smart buyer, especially for those who are buying in areas where home values may not have hit bottom.

"My advice to consumers: 'Your home is not an ATM, and your home is not an investment,' " says Barry Zigas, director of housing policy for the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C. "Your home is a place to live."

If you're planning to move in the next year or two, "it's probably not the time to buy a house," he says.

In some areas, home values are still sliding. Worst hit in the past year was Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Fla., where homeowners saw values sink 59.1 percent since the first quarter of 2008, according to NAR statistics. Other heartbreakers were in California -- the Riverside/San Bernardino area, down 39.9 percent, and Sacramento and surrounding areas, down 34.5 percent.

When Richard B. King recently sold his home in Long Beach, Calif., it sat longer than he anticipated and he accepted $263,000 less than his original asking price.

"The market went down," he recalls. Neighbors kept lowering the prices, so "we kept lowering our price to be competitive. It's a matter of, do you want to sell the place or not?"

Some towns are seeing home values increase. Best off was Cumberland, Md., where median home prices went up 21.1 percent since the first quarter of 2008, along with the tri-city area of Davenport, Iowa; Moline, Iowa; and Rock Island, Ill., which jumped 13.8 percent. Columbia, Mo., also rose 6 percent, NAR says.

One big factor affecting home values stems from the large number of distressed sales. Roughly 40 percent to 45 percent of today's sales are foreclosures or short sales, Yun says. Historically, that figure usually hovers around 5 percent, he says.

Mary Rubin recently helped a family member buy a $255,000 mortgage foreclosure in Ft. Myers for $116,000. While it was in excellent condition, the house was never worth the original $255,000, she says.

Opportunities for first-time buyers
While the total number of buyers is down, there is a larger slice of buyers who are shopping for homes for the first time.

"We estimate that half of the homebuyers (today) are first-time buyers," Yun says.

Credit the triumvirate of low interest rates, lowered home prices and an $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers who become homeowners before the end of this year.

"It's a great time to be a first-time buyer," says Eric Tyson, co-author of "Home Buying for Dummies." "In many parts of the country, this may be the best buying opportunity in a generation.

"It's a good time to trade up because the higher-end market in many areas is weaker than the entry-level market," he says.

Still, buyers are facing intense scrutiny when it comes to their ability to afford a home. Lenders are examining not just credit, but job stability, down-payment amounts and how much cash buyers will have available after buying a home.

In the past, lenders would offer the same rates to anyone with credit scores in the upper ranges, but that's changing, says Jack Guttentag, professor emeritus of finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Lenders are differentiating between buyers who have a 760 FICO score and those who have a 780 -- all the way up to 800, he says. "That's a big shift."

Buyers aren't the only ones under the microscope. The home must pass muster, too. Dick Gaylord, immediate past president of the NAR, remembers one home where the buyer had to wait "a little longer to get the loan" after the lender ordered a fresh home appraisal.

These days, lenders are "taking their time," Gaylord says.

Buyers can be choosy
Buyers have a lot of selection. Consequently, they can be choosier. Homes with eye and price appeal will draw activity, says Dorcas Helfant-Browning, chief executive of Virginia Beach-based Coldwell Banker Professional, Realtors.

Conversely, "fixer-uppers are a tough sell," says Ron Phipps, broker/Realtor with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. "The issue is you can buy a really fine home in great condition for the same price."

And the transition from homeowner to home seller is a mental adjustment. "Sellers, in a lot of cases, have not come to grips with the fact that their houses have dropped in value," says Glen Lazovick, chief sales and business officer for Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union. "If you don't have to sell, now is not the time to sell. If you want to sell your house, it has to be priced well and look great."

Buyers also are looking beyond the closing table, Phipps says. "People want to know what the utility cost is, what the insurance is, what the flood insurance is. People want to know what the real cost of ownership of the home is."

Trying to time the market
These are unusal times for buyers and sellers.

Today, you find extremely motivated sellers facing foreclosures and short sales. At the same time, "a number of markets are heating up," becoming attractive to investors and first-time buyers, says Nic Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

But the traditional market of willing buyers and sellers is still stalled, "and I suspect it will be stalled until we get some sense that the real economy is starting" to recover, Retsinas says.

For those who want to buy, most housing experts are singing the same song: Clean up your credit, save your money, shop for a mortgage and get preapproved. And while trying to time the market's rock bottom is impossible, trying to lock in a low interest rate is smart, says Gaylord.

Gaylord advises clients to shop around and put in multiple mortgage applications. "If one lender can't help you, there are 50 others to look at and talk with," he says. Shopping for foreclosures can offer some good deals, but they also carry risks. "I've heard plenty of stories about people....showing up and finding the homes have been stripped of anything of value," says Zigas.

Another strategy also is pushing down prices, if you can complete a deal. Short sales are where the homeowner gets permission from the lender to sell for less than the mortgage but closer to the current value. But some in the industry say it is taking months to close on them.

On top of these market conditions is the potential for them to worsen. "The danger of being underwater arises today from price declines," Guttentag says. "That's where the risk is. I think the concern about price declines is a major deterrent."

Instead of worrying about market timing, look at your own time line. "Accept the fact that there may be some price depreciation short-term," says Guttentag. And plan to be in the home at least two to three years to give it time to bounce back.

Shopping for a refi
Lower interest rates have had another side effect. It has boosted refinancing traffic. Homeowners with decent credit are divesting themselves of higher or adjustable rate loans for fixed lower rates.

Lower interest rates "are helping middle-class homeowners who want to save a couple of hundred a month on the mortgage," Poorvu says.

These days, when it comes to financing, most buyers also are opting for the tried and true 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages. "It's 98 percent of the market now," says John Mechem, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Mortgage Bankers Association.

(Source:, 06/01/09)

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New Ad Campaigns

From Amy:

Have a love affair with your car. Monte Carlo spells big words like they sound. Visa pays tribute to Canadian hockey fan -- or the country's entire population. Let's launch!

Baby talk used by adults is just plain creepy. Fairy laundry detergent is running three TV ads in the U.K. that brings this creepiness to life. A grown man watching TV with his mother is asked if he "needs to go pee-pee," and if so, to "let Mommy know." He's not the least bit thrown off by her baby talk or by sitting on a plastic-covered sofa. "You can only baby them when they're babies," ends the ad for the detergent that softens "their world while you still can." Watch the ad here. In the next ad, our Peter Pan chews on a pen cap and is forced to spit it out in his mother's hand. See it here. I saved the best ad for last. Our scene is an all-pink bathroom and our adult male is taking a bath. Mom pops in unannounced to proclaim that she's found his rubber ducky. She puts it in the tub, then asks him to find it. When he does, he gets a pat on the head and called a good boy. Watch it here. Leo Burnett Toronto created the ads, produced by Partners Film Toronto.

Ray-Ban launched another video in its "Never Hide" campaign called "Paint Balloons." The video watches a man get pelted with colorful balloons full of paint that leave him looking patriotic from a combination of red paint, blue paint and his pearly whites. Ray-Ban's tagline of "Never Hide" is etched into the man's chair. See it here. I like the video; it reminds me of something Sony Bravia created in 2006. Cutwater created this video.

Monte Carlo resort and casino in Las Vegas launched a print campaign that combines highbrow photography with lowbrow copy that spells a handful of words as they sound. Tag-lined "Unpretentiously Luxurious," the campaign had one hit: I did enjoy the ad for "Bon Appetit." Shown here, the ad spells it a different way --"bone app a teat" -- and features a trio of guys who let nothing prevent them from eating wings. Nothing. Click here, here and here to see how rendezvous, debauchery and tres chic are spelled. David&Goliath created the ads and MGM MIRAGE Media handled the media buy.

No matter how amusing these TV ads may be, I'm not eating SPAM. The company launched three animated TV spots that use stop-motion technology to "Break the Monotony." The first spot, seen here, shows a bread meeting in a bored room. The carbs are bored and restless, until a can of SPAM busts into the conference room like a stripper. There's fire, ample lighting and an employee not afraid to let her hair down. In another spot, a classroom full of eggs sleep through attendance until SPAM turns the classroom into a dance club. See it here. Macaroni and cheese are on a dinner date in the final ad, seen here. Their tired routine comes to an end when SPAM enters the fray. BBDO Minneapolis created the ads and PHD handled the media buy.

Microsoft launched two PSA videos promoting Internet Explorer 8. The "Special Internet Service Announcements" star Dean Cain as a spokesman describing Internet afflictions and their cures. The first problem, F.O.M.S. (Fear of Missing Something), shows a woman frantically checking multiple Web sites for status updates, auction results and emails until she loses it. She starts hearing voices and seeing things, namely a bearded man clad in a silver unitard. She becomes unwound when informed of losing a bidding war for a decorative bowl. Watch it here. S.H.Y.N.E.S.S. (Sharing Heavily Yet Not Enough Sharing Still) describes people who share too much, yet not enough. A woman sends lolcats to her friend thinking she will enjoy them... but she doesn't. See it here. Videos highlight IE8 features like InPrivate mode and WebSlices and drive traffic to the newly launched Bradley and Montgomery created the ads.

AAMCO launched a $30 million multimedia campaign called "The Romance of the Road." The TV spots, which look like they were made on the cheap, present older cars as family members and friends -- so treat them well and take them to AAMCO. One family has had their minivan almost as long as their children. They're want her around for years to come. Watch the ad here. The next ad follows a woman who recalls the milestones shared with her car such as paint jobs, accidents and boyfriends. But the only man allowed under the hood works at AAMCO. See it here. The final ad promotes the different services AAMCO offers customers. Watch it here. The brand's recognizable tag line, "Double A - Beep Beep - M-C-O," remains. Qorvis Communications created the campaign.

Creative Recreation shoes launched a viral video that begins with a close-up of a graffiti artist's shoes. The artist tags a wall, and is about to show his friends his handiwork when the tag comes to life, chasing him down the street. The Graffiti Monster knocks the artist to the ground, lets out a primordial scream and the artist opens his eyes to see that something's missing -- his shoes. Watch the ad here. Alan Whitcher directed the viral.

"There are fans. And then there are hockey fans," voiceover Morgan Freeman states in an ad for Visa that launched on Canadian TV networks May 19, featuring the Visa tagline "Go Fans." One fan superstitiously steps over his Vancouver Canucks-branded front door mat while hockey pucks are used as coasters, a Calgary Flames flag flies at half-mast and a jersey waits to be ironed. See the ad here. TBWA/Toronto created the ad and OMD handled the media buy.

Amy Corr is managing editor, online newsletters for MediaPost. She can be reached at

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The real You

Are you the company you represent? or are you YOU?

This is from Jeff Garrison:

An Inspiring Personal Brand

Posted: 14 Jun 2009 02:45 PM PDT

One of the biggest challenges in personal branding for sales professionals is that they focus on what appeals to "customers" rather than "prospects."

For example, customers want ...

  • Phone calls returned in a timely manner
  • Quick answers to their questions
  • The job done right
  • The job done on time and on budget

These things and many others will become important to prospects at some point as they are converted to customers. How well these things are done contributes to the companies reputation which is obviously a critical component to the overall brand.

However, these are things that are expected and will not necessarily get people to seek you out. They will just keep you from being deselected.

Your Personal Brand Must First Inspire People!

Your brand must be that you can provide extraordinary value. In business that means you can make a client money or save them money one way or another. You are the "go to" guy! You are the fixer! You want people to say, "You know who you should call? You should call ..."

Vernon Jordan Call my banker. He helped my company get financing.

Call my accountant. He saved us a ton with his tax strategy.

Call my real estate agent. He sold our house quickly and for a good price.

Call my web designer. Everybody talks about our web site.

Call this phone consultant. They improved our service and have saved us a lot of money.

What belief must you inspire first and foremost to get people seeking you out? Does everything about you promote that belief in your prospects, customers, and your network?

Here is a test. Ask five people in your professional network to describe your brand to you. Don't be bothered if you don't hear what you thought you might. Just create a brand strategy and execute it day in and day out. Ask them again and others after about three months and see what happens.

Photo on flickr by cliff1066

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday Night Marketing News

From Mediapost:

Financial Services
by Tanya Irwin
The six-week campaign is "definitely more aggressive" and includes more of an urgent call-to-action than Schwab normally engages in, says Nicole Portet, director of brand advertising. It includes national print, which breaks today in publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and national TV, which breaks Friday. ... Read the whole story > >
by Aaron Baar
LG has created a limited edition of its Versa phone, which includes Transformers-themed features like voice-tones, ringtones and wallpapers. The limited-edition phone is being promoted through online and in-store tactics, including a dedicated microsite, which includes an online video game and sweepstakes. ... Read the whole story > >
by Karl Greenberg
Doug Frisbie, Toyota national media manager, says gas-pump television is an ideal platform to talk about Prius. "Certainly, the time at pump is ... a good time to provide people with ad content but also with unique content about their communities. And all our research about the Prius consumer shows they are active in their communities; they want to connect with other people." ... Read the whole story > >
by Sarah Mahoney
The company has said that "connected digital solutions" are a key part of its growth strategy, and says that it continued "to see strong revenue and growth in mobile phones as a result of the expansion of Best Buy Mobile," increasing its domestic market share in mobile phones by approximately 100 basis points. ... Read the whole story > >
by Karlene Lukovitz
The "Get Your Fruit On!" campaign, launching this month to tie in with National Fruit and Vegetable Month, looks to get the word out that 7 in 10 adults, as well as most children, aren't consuming the USDA-recommended four fruit servings - and that an eight-ounce glass of OJ delivers two of those servings. ... Read the whole story > >
by Karl Greenberg
A new study finds that once these women, ages 25 to 32, become engaged, they enter a three- to four-year period of planning their wedding, setting up their household, and having a baby, all of which motivates them to spend on brands, goods, and services to which they are apt to become loyal. ... Read the whole story > >

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The Do It Yourself Market

From my email:

America Revs Up Its Do-It-Yourself Passion While some marketers may be sick of hearing how the recession has changed the way consumers spend money, those selling do-it-yourself products have cause to rejoice: America's passion for DIY is fierce, with no sign of slowed growth.

Some 67 million Americans now change their own motor oil, 58 million are growing at least some of their food, and 36 million women are coloring their own hair, according to a new report from Packaged Facts, based on Experian Simmons National Consumer Study data. Overall, a whopping 56 percent of American shoppers are dabbling now in some level of DIY.

It's not all about the recession, and Packaged Facts predicts the trend will continue, even once the economy rediscovers its mojo. "The DIY movement is related to aspects of consumer psychology that extend beyond pure economics," it says -- adding that in some segments, demographic factors also play a major role.

For example, while 70 million people prepared their own tax refunds using software this year, it forecasts that through 2013, that number will grow 13 percent, fueled by the eldest Gen Y workers just entering the workforce. And it anticipates that the number of women using at-home hair coloring will increase 10 percent to total 40 million between 2008 and 2013, fueled by increases in multicultural women, who are more likely to experiment with home hair colors.

The number of automotive DIYers is expected to grow even faster, adding 16 percent by 2013. Drivers, eager to keep old cars on the road longer, say they are doing more and more repairs themselves, explaining sales increases at chains like AutoZone. "DIYers in the automotive sector make up 30 percent of the adult population but 40 percent of all adults planning to buy a car in the next six months and 37 percent of those planning to buy a domestic make," the report says.

Predicting growth in home DIY projects is still tricky, based on the weak real-estate market. But the vast majority of homeowners do at least some chores themselves -- only 18 percent rely exclusively on outside professionals to get the work done: The report finds that 101 million adults in 46 million households have been involved in some home improvement project during the past 12 months.

Some, however, are much more hands-on. Extreme DIYers are the single largest segment of the home-improver population-- 64 million people, or 52 percent of home improvers and 29 percent of the adult population; they also tend to be less affluent. Moderate DIYers, however, are more likely to make more than $100,000, and spend more time shopping for their DIY purchases.

(Source: Marketing Daily, 06/01/09)

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It's not the Price

Despite the name, it's the Value that "Dollar" stores offer. Why should I buy soap for 6 bucks, when I can buy it for 4 at the Dollar Store? Is the 6 dollar soap a better value? Nope. Read this from Slate:

It's shaping up to be a dreadful year for the retail industry. American shoppers generally soldier on through thick and thin, but sales were down more than 2 percent in the first four months of the year, and the fancier the store, the uglier the results. Sales at Tiffany's Fifth Avenue flagship were off 42 percent in the most recent quarter.

It's also been an ugly period for the private-equity honchos who work just a gemstone's throw from Tiffany's. Executives at the Blackstone Group and Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts, it turned out, were no smarter than the rest of us. In 2006 and 2007, they used loads of debt to purchase huge, cyclical companies at absurd valuations. Many of those firms are now struggling. Things are getting so bad that some private-equity barons may be forced to sell their seventh homes.

In late May, KKR reported that it lost $1.2 billion in 2008. And as of March 31, 2009, the value of the five large companies it bought in 2007 was off 20 percent to 50 percent. In fact, only one of KKR's 2007 mega-deals was in the black, and it couldn't be farther away—geographically, socioeconomically, culturally—from KKR's Manhattan headquarters. It's Dollar General, America's largest chain of 99-cent stores. Not surprisingly, all the various chains of superdiscount stores are thriving in the recession. At Dollar Tree Inc. (3,667 stores), earnings were up nearly 38 percent in the most recent quarter. In its most recent quarter, Family Dollar Stores (6,654 locations) said same-store sales were up 6.2 percent. Both companies' stocks are higher than they were when the market peaked in October 2007. And Dollar General (8,400 stores, $10.5 billion in 2008 sales) is performing even better. KKR says the value of its stake in the company is up 30.8 percent since July 2007, when KKR and several other partners completed the $7.3 billion acquisition.

Back then, Dollar General, which traces its origins to a Kentucky wholesaler, seemed an unlikely target for the affections of an urbane billionaire like Henry Kravis, who founded KKR along with Jerome Kohlberg and George Roberts. Based in Goodlettsville, Tenn., and concentrated in the South and Appalachia (976 stores in Texas, 472 in Alabama), Dollar General catered to shoppers who found Wal-Mart too inconvenient and too pricey. And in the summer of 2007, downscale retailers were even more déclassé than usual. After all, Americans, primed by the rising asset values and cheap credit of the boom, were relentlessly trading up. But once the credit crunch took a bite out of consumers' wallets and egos, the pendulum began to swing.

KKR had the luck to acquire Dollar General just as thriftiness was returning to the culture. It brought in a new CEO, Rick Dreiling, who had previously run the Duane Reade drugstore chain. Along with several new executives and KKR's in-house retailing experts, Dreiling focused on the basics of retailing. Rather than simply pile up cheap bottles of detergents and ultracheap clothes—truth be told, only about 30 percent of the items it stocks retail for less than a buck—Dollar General began to think about how the firm could be more relevant to its customers. For example, even though most of Dollar General's stores are in the South, which is hard-core Coca-Cola country, the stores had carried only Pepsi. Dreiling stocked Coke and upgraded the quality of private-label products. The new team systematically examined the items offered—about 7,500 per store—and eliminated less profitable ones. Essentially, the team tried to remodel the bargain basement into a condensed version of Wal-Mart—tightly run, more convenient, less overwhelming.

It's working. More customers are coming to Dollar General, and they're visiting more frequently and spending more money. After rising 9 percent in fiscal 2008, same-store sales grew by 13.3 percent in the first quarter, better than smaller rivals or Wal-Mart. Most significantly, profits aren't being driven by heavy discounts. In the most recent quarter, gross profits were 30.8 percent of sales, compared with 25.8 percent in fiscal 2006. And the chain is expanding rapidly. This year, it plans to open 450 new stores, creating 4,000 jobs.

Of course, there are limits to the growth. Connecticut remains a Dollar General-free zone. Management knows that some shoppers won't step foot in them. And when (if?) the economy turns around, there's no guarantee many of its customers won't start trading up.

Until that day, however, Dollar General remains a rare green shoot for KKR and for the retail industry. Dollar General and KKR's executives are hesitant to crow on the record about the chain's success. But don't chalk it up to modesty. The run of good results may have set the stage for an event that has become as rare as a Wall Street banker picking up detergent at a Dollar General: an initial public offering.

A version of this article also appears in this week's issue of Newsweek.

Daniel Gross is the Moneybox columnist for Slate and the business columnist for Newsweek. You can e-mail him at His latest book, Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation, has just been published in paperback.

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The First Words

... that come out of your mouth can make a huge difference in what happens next. This is from

Ask the Sales Expert Q&A

Q: What are some key opening statements on a sales call instead of "How are you today?"

MikeB @ aramark

A: On the initial meeting, you want to get the client, prospect or customer's attention as quickly as possible. "How are you today?" is nice and generic.

It's about as generic as "Fine" or "OK." People mumble "How are you today?" and "Fine" all of the time without even thinking about it.

It's programmed in our society, and we can say it without even waking up from a walking slumber.
But an initial greeting is expected. In fact, it's become so ingrained in our behavioral infrastructure that many people feel uncomfortable if they don't say, "How are you today."

Now, think about what would happen if people really took the time to answer that question (and sometimes they do mentally).

You: "Bob. How are you today?"

Bob: "Well I'm not doing good right now. I had a fender-bender on the way in today. My daughter got a tattoo on the back or her neck last night, and I'm still fuming over it. I'm behind in my sales quota. My sales team is not motivated to make things happen. The baby's got some kind of rash and she has to go to the doctor…"

Do you really want your clients going there mentally on your initial meeting?
Instead, I'd encourage you to get creative. Give them a compliment:

You: "Hi Bob. Hey, while reviewing your website, I noticed that one member of your team was promoted to lead the Australian office. Congratulations. Any ideas on who's going to fill in for her?
State a little known or newsworthy fact:

You: "Hi Bob. You know, I heard on the morning news that venture capital money is getting easier to come by. Are you thinking about expanding your operation and is this something that you can take advantage of?"

Try this: For every contact that is scheduled in your next set of sales calls, find three things to compliment each of your contacts on and leverage those complements in your opening greeting with them. The point here is to be able to leverage your knowledge of their company, their industry, or current events, to open the call. Do this and you'll stand out from all of the other sales people who are using "How are you today."

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