[By Jeff Androsko]
We've all done it... stood outside for that one Chistmas gift (whether it's for someone else or yourself... you sneaky greed-monger, you). In general... this tends to be an American pastime... a disgusting one. But not all who take advantage of pre-sales are pretentious troglodytes... just the violent and greedy on Black Friday.
For some, the day after Thanksgiving is the chance to drink 20 cups of coffee, limber up, strap on the football gear, bum-rush their sale-crazed superstore and pummel away. Sadly, in some cases, people get killed just trying to be the one to grab the last PS3 off of the shelf. Imagine that... deceased... over 20% of $300???
What is wrong with these people? (I can see you blushing) Seriously though... some people need shots. It's bad enough that H1N1 is lingering around highly-populated segments of the country... but let's face it... on Black Friday, the swine flu isn't the REAL virus. The "holidays" have been manufactured, subjugated and sold. To some, the meanings, morals and values that this special time of year is supposed to be portraying have morphed into an ugly cage match.; gritty and truly barbaric. Over-eager soccer-moms and dads with distended, eggnog-filled belly's are trundling into your favorite shopping stores... and guess what... THEY WANT SSSAAAAAAAAAAAALLLESSS!!!!!!!
Do us all a favor...
(1) Stay home, buy yourself some internets and celebrate Red Monday. Order your stuff online... there are plenty of sales still going on during Monday (and even longer than that!).
(2) Teach your friends, kids and other loved ones the real meaning of the holiday(s) you celebrate and stop perpetuating the vicious cycle of purchasing frenzies.
I mean, I'm a cynical marketing professional and this even makes me SICK. Happy Turkey Day... and may god have mercy on your souls.
We know that in most cases, the first budget to get cut
when the Hoover flags show up is marketing. Contrary to most beliefs, this is a faux pa. If anything, business owners should be looking for cheaper ways to reach their target audiences so that they don't become Crystal Pepsi
Enter email marketing; the affordable and sometimes underestimated way to reach a ton of prospects. But hold on there... don't dive into Constant Contact just yet... there are some things you should know before blasting away.
Sitting around, fly swatting away at my SPAM folder is not my idea of a good time. Unfortunately, 90% of the emails I get make me want to spoon out my eyeballs. Think about how many times you give your email address away to companies whose products you purchase... YEAH... exactly. This is what we in the industry like to call an "opt-in"; you are willingly giving your information away because there is a chance they will come out with a leopard Snuggie and you do NOT want to miss the first sale. All those opt-in email addresses are going to go to their ongoing newsletter database.
This is how most people who use email marketing get their email addresses (or direct sales leads). But... come on in close for this one... (::whispers::) some people buy their email addresses from 3rd party vendors. Legal? Kinda. Best practice? Hell no. The ugly truth is that it does happen and it manages to piss off a LOT of people (me being one of them). Needless to say... don't do it.
Once your database is respectable (at least 250 addresses, depending on the size of your company and pre-existing clout, if any), you need a killer design with one hell of an email subject line (i.e. "Hungry Hungry Hippos for Christmas", "Fwd: Twinkies"). You want your design to look like your brand threw up on it; your logo (if anything else), visible links to your website and/or contact information and your company's colors to name a few. Your message(s) should be clear, concise and call the recipient to an obvious action ("Come to our website", "Buy our widget", "Do the stanky leg").
Now that you're finished with your template and you've generously tipped your graphic artist (that is, if you're not a Photoshop DaVinci and couldn't do it yourself), there is one more element of your email... perhaps the most important button that you will ever see... the "Unsubscribe" button. If you fail to put this in your email, shame... shame... shame on you. This crucial (and sadly enough, overlooked) feature of your email allows your recipient to say, "God... that was awful. No more please."
Say you invited me over for fish tacos. I came to your house, greeted all of your guests, politely asked for you to pass me condiments, complimented you on how your fry-batter was delectable and even excused myself from the table... and then... in front of everyone, put on my footed pajamas and went to sleep on your La-Z-Boy... forever. How would you feel? This is comparable to not adding an "Unsubscribe" button at the bottom of your company's email.
Well... you've sent your email. Now follow up and you'll be rich! Great job!
[By Jeff Androsko]
I drove home for lunch the other day. While idling at the corner of Sunset and 35, I glanced to my left to see this giant charter bus plastered with an advertisement for some Liberal Arts college in New Jersey. I saw the big white letters overlaying a garnet background and there, adjacent to the typography, was a stock image of students "living it up without alcohol". I've seen that blond chick on 50 websites, print ads and blogs... she must be RICH!!! But seriously... a stock image for a college??? You'd figure they would give that task to a Photography major... no? I know it's a recession and everything... but geez. This made me think, "Should I use stock images for the marketing materials I create?" . Surely the expense of a photographer is going to be costly... so how do I do this tastefully?
This may not be an issue for everyone (it's mostly just cynical, pessimistic designers/advertisers). Most of us probably see these stock images about 30 times a day and never even think twice about from where they came. But what is this saying about your business?
I think Sprite once said, "Image is nothing... thirst is everything...", or something like that. In the world of beverages, this may be true... but what about your company that doesn't sling delicious liquids? The rules are simple...
1) If you do decide to put stock images on your materials, know where to put them.
If you have a staff photos section on your website, don't insert a picture of 5 random business professionals that you found on Big Stock. Be true to your customer (trust me... they will appreciate it). Give your Business Development Manager a little air-time. She may have freckles in all the wrong places... but after all, she's going to be the one selling your product/service. It's always nice to put a face to a name.
2) Pay attention to licensing and royalties.
Look... know this... someone else took the picture you are about to use. Show them and their work some respect and don't dump the image into Photoshop and start clone-stamping away to get rid of that watermark. Purchase the image properly, read the disclaimers about image royalties and distribution. That way, when you get that subpoena accusing you of copyright infringement, you'll have that iStock receipt in your crusty old financials binder. TAKE THAT SHAPIRO!
3) Find a balance.
At the end of the day, your website and marketing materials have to be a true reflection of your business' brand image and message. I'm not saying using a stock image here and there is going to condemn you to branding hell, just be smart about it. Don't JUST use the attractive people, pay attention to what the image is REALLY saying and make sure there is a nice flow. After a while of seeing the same brunette on EVERYTHING... people WILL start to notice.
Be smart. Don't be dumb.
Your hot dog stand... is it... shabby? Is it parked next to a Stewart's? (MmMmM... Stewart's
) Is your logo screaming at your passerby's... calling them, "You need this hot dog in your belly...now
". Are you hooking your regulars up with a free dog or a bag of chips now and again? If you're taking this hot dog stand thing literally, consult your doctor. I'm actually talking about your brand image. People take the value of marketing for granted, especially during tight-belted economic strife. What these short-sighted crews are missing is the fact that these are the most important times to be plastering your brand all over the Earth.
Think about your brand (that is, if you even have one or know what that is). Do you have a logo? A signifying image that encompasses what you do or what you stand for? Does your tag line ooze cleverness and memorability? Or... are you "Joe's Hot Dogs" on the corner of Indifference and FAIL. A super-important thing to realize about your company is that you're just a piece of celery swimming with the rest of the chicken soup. Don't freak out though... there's still hope for even the tiniest, most simple of hot dog stands. First, let's talk about your logo (since I'm a design freak). A good logo captures its viewer for at least 15 seconds. "WHOA! Check out the negative space on that hot dog bun! It's in the shape of a 'J' ". Give a little time and consideration about what that image is and what it's saying. Besides your mission statement and a program/service that people want, a really good logo is the basis for any serious branding effort.
Next, your visibility. I could preach about this until I pass out, but really... the best advice... pay attention to where you're at; your geographic location, the functionality of your website, how your employees & co-workers portray your brand-message, local and national trends. All of these things should be top of mind when building your true brand image. Read some magazine articles, subscribe to RSS feeds, get on social networking sites and talk to people who share the same interests. A little bit of effort on a consistent basis can go a long way when portraying the usefulness of your company.
Finally... and probably most important... customer service. If you've got a good base of clients, make sure they don't even CONSIDER using any other product or service. They should be so happy and pleased with your work that not only do they perpetuate your existing business, they preach your name to even strip club bathroom attendants. Keeping your customers happy with that free hot dog or that can of Mr. Pibb is going to separate you from the heartless conglomerates that send the membership to "Jelly of the Month Club" as an appreciation of your patronage. We're all in the struggle together... but everyone likes to get presents.
Oh crap... the boss is coming... gotta get back to work.