Back in 1980, this man urged me to apply for a college student honors competition working at his facility for the summer. I had good grades. Sure, why not? Bingo! I won one of the elite slots.
While deciding on my first day office outfit, he delivered my uniform: long-sleeved safety gear with cinder block-heavy steel-tipped boots. Surprise! I wasn't working in the "office." I was the fill-in summer janitor for the oil refinery warehouse production line, bathrooms, and get this - my favorite job - picking up the dead pigeons along the locomotive tracks around the plant!
After a grueling sizzling hot summer in long sleeves mopping up oil spills, bathroom overflows, bird feathers and carcasses, this same man asked me on my final ride home... "So, how were you treated all summer?"
I answered, "Fine. Everyone was very nice to me."
He said, "Good. Don't ever forget that you had the lowest job in the plant - cleaning up after everyone else - and people were kind to you. You're going to be a great leader someday. Just remember that everyone deserves kindness, to feel special. Learn their names. Get to know them. Treat them well, just like you were treated, always with a smile. You'll go far, sweetie," with that proud wink I always craved as the ultimate badge of honor.
That man was my father, Bob Pahlka... with a lesson that has stayed with me through the years, and I hope to pass to my own children. Thank you, Dad, for all your little lessons and stories I'd do anything to hear again. Happy Father's Day in heaven. (No pigeon-watching for you... flounder fishing, of course.) And to all you wonderful fathers.
While driving home this past weekend through a neighboring town, we passed this sign along the highway, "Free lunch buffet." I was even more intrigued when I saw the business offering it... an adult "dance" club, where - so I'm told - most patrons park in the back so you can't see their cars parked there.
Wow. A strip club having to offer a free LUNCH to drive traffic.
Now let me just say I have never been inside a strip club. Nor am I making any judgment nor comments about them either way. But as a marketer, this incentive was intriguing. They're offering free food to win customers during their lunch hours.
I don't think Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A or your favorite local deli can compete with that. (Unless you consider the Chick-fil-A live cow appearance as prime Grade-A entertainment.)
My point is... every business needs to provide incentives to entice business. I don't know a business out there that doesn't need lures to secure customers, develop a buzz. But it takes real creativity and know-how to tap into the minds of your key prospects to uncover what makes them tick. And then deliver an affordable and memorable incentive to welcome them in that ties into the benefit of their product or service.
I'm speaking next week in Atlantic City at a conference of thousands of Promotional Products professionals -- ExpoEast -- hosted by Promotional Products Association International, as well as all of its local affiliate associations in the Northeast US. Thousands of branding and motivation pros will be there to experience the latest and greatest products that entice, and more importantly WHY they work to change behavior.
I can't wait to see the tons of great promotional ideas that beat a free lunch... because they perform long after. (Fully clothed. <WINK>) Stay tuned for my next blog about what I find.
You want to REALLY get attention? Sell your used car for top dollar? That was the goal of a Latvian special effects artist... to lure a buyer for his 21 year old Suzuki Vitara.
Oh, and make a name for himself in his field. Virally.
And so Eugene Romanovsky thought "out of the box." Used his own medium - special effects in movies - to show what his car could, and could not do. Dodge dinosaurs. Survive sandstorms. Swim with sharks. Catapault through space.
Some of the visuals were dazzling. Some humorous. Some techy. Some just downright cool. He took a very un-sexy car, and made it purr like Jessica Rabbit. In under 2 minutes.
So, what can we learn from that? Two things...
1. "Info-tainment" WORKS. (That's the art of informing and entertaining at the same time.) It's what our new audiences want today from media, and now marketing.
2. A real creative branding professional can do amazing things to romance your product or service. Position them in ways that you've probably never thought of before. Because that's what they DO. (Just as a great nurse HEALS, a superb teacher INSPIRES, a skilled craftsperson BUILDS.) Provide the direction, then let them go.
And your 1996 Suzuki can get over 2 million hits, too. And counting.
Press the button below to view his video. Enjoy!
P.S. Stick around for the very end. You have to catch his tagline. Hilarious. http://bit.ly/2qOhnJJ
It came to my city this year. This thing called the NFL Draft.
Some would call it a football fan’s ultimate pre-game off-season rally to celebrate the country’s newest gladiators whom they will follow religiously. To others who live or work in Center City Philadelphia near the Franklin Institute, it’s a people-moving and parking nightmare. (Just ask my daughter whose college is less than a block away - who’s sleeping on her studio floor at school this week to avoid the mayhem.)
To NFL marketers, it’s truly a phenomenon. It’s an internationally televised event with sellout crowds of the sport’s most die-hard fans strutting their team regalia, cheering wildly at every 10 minute, then 5 minute pick, ushered in by chimes on elaborate sets, uber dramatic countdowns, electified by crowd-stirring jumbotrons. Yes, a phenomenon. With swirling stats of each player, debating commentators, and a social media frenzy of opinions and predictions.
For someone who is hardly a sports fan (except when her kids were playing on teams)… I have to question… why all the hoopla? Why all this pomp and circumstance? We’re kids on a bench. And the coach is picking his team. But this is on steroids. Fancy suits, backstage passes, face-painted fans, world-wide press, roving spotlights. And those jerseys – customized with the right player’s name, with the right team – how do they make them so quickly?
As a marketer, it all makes sense. They are simply promoting the promotion.
No matter how big an event you have – even as giant and as beloved as the NFL season and the Super Bowl – you have to continually promote the promotion. Build excitement, pump up the brand, gain momentum for the product. That’s why smart marketers – no matter how small their event or campaign – do things to drum up interest before and after a promotion.
It’s why a company sends an email inviting you to an open house or special sale... then remind you again the day before. It’s why a campaign worker calls you at dinnertime the week before a town election. Why the best salespeople follow up with an email or call before a visit… to better secure their appointment. Or branders tell the world “I’m here” on social media. Why thousands of advertisers give away promotional products to generate interest and recall about their products and services, on a product that usually sticks around long after the event.
They’re just some of the ways that smart marketers are promoting the promotion. Add to it. Push it. Pump it. Personalize it. (Just like those jerseys ironed on in under two minutes for the draft… more on that later.)
So when launching your next promotion – after you’ve nailed down your plan to market you, your brand, your products and services, your event -- ask yourself, “Now what can I do to promote the promotion?”
Sure, none of us have that NFL budget. But we do have guerrilla roll-up-your-sleeves ingenuity. We can do little extras to ensure our best prospects get the message multiple times. Because it’s important. Our time is valuable. Our resources are precious. And often it’s that extra promotion – that extra play - that scores the touchdown.
So what are you doing to promote your promotion?
The NFL worked out a way to have each new draft pick holding his own customized jersey just minutes after his name is called. Want to see how they do it? I'm proud to say I know the great people at Stahl's who handle the process. Here’s a video from the New York Times showing how. Just goes to show you… when there’s a will (or a great promotion to be had) there’s a way to get it done.
You've seen those viral Facebook and YouTube videos that are passed around more than Mom's mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. Chewbacca mask mom. Children interrupting the BBC interview. Guilty dog videos. Mostly for entertainment purposes only.
But then I saw this little clip from a BBC Earth Video about a Japanese Puffer Fish. I first viewed it to marvel about the beauty of nature. But then it got me thinking about what we marketers have to do to attract customers.
For many of the small to mid-size business owners that I have come to know, Marketing is a "when I can squeeze it in" enterprise. They have limited budgets. Limited time. And usually no staffers dedicated to "attracting the prospects."
In fact, many of them do not have a written plan at all of what they want and need to do to drum up attention and new business. (And if it's not written down, experts say it's a DREAM and not a PLAN. Most never come true. Life just gets in the way.)
Now enters the puffer fish in this video. He spends a full week working 24 hours a day crafting his marketing masterpiece... working out his plan to snag a mate. A tiny fish invests a week.
So what are you doing to snag your next customers? To keep the ones you have?
I'm not suggesting you work 24 hours a day for a week. But how much of your week are you dedicating to fill your pipeline? To write that plan. Launch it. Make new connections. Attract the kind of customers you'll have for life.
And if you can't finagle an hour a two per week to do it yourself, hire a pro to do it for you, just as you would hire a contractor or plumber if you needed something done right.
Isn't the growth of your business worth it?
Enjoy the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1PID91sEW8
Wishing you swimmingly fabulous marketing...
P.S. If you need help, drop me a line. That's what I do to help other suppliers and distributors attract new business... for less than you might think. <WINK>
You've just met a prospect. You asked great questions... learned some of her challenges. Now before you slip her your business card... here's how the networking elite suggest you end the conversation.
(And it's NOT with trying to sell your product or service. You're selling a next appointment.)
After you acknowledge her work challenges, you say, "Maybe I can help you with that.. and maybe I can't."
Whoa. Maybe you CAN'T??? What have you just said?
(You were being honest. You don't know enough about her challenges, her scenario, her budget, her timeline... much of ANYTHING, really, so you build trust by saying "Maybe you CAN'T help her." It goes a long way on building future credibility.)
You then say, "What I'd like to do is set up a time when we can sit down and discuss them in more detail. If I can help you, I'll tell you. If not, I'll tell you that, too. Or refer you to someone else who can. Or perhaps send you some referrals, once I understand your business better."
So what have you just said? And why does it work?
You've asked for time to help solve her problems... not to sell her.
You - again - showed honesty by admitting you may not be able to help. But then again, you may. But if you can't - hey - you may know someone who CAN. And best of all - you might be able to generate some business leads for HER. (The real beauty of networking.) She can't lose!
So now that the wall is down, trust is built, and you offer a chance to improve her sales... now ask, "What's a good day and time to get together?"
Now, your business card comes out. And hopefully hers does to. Or be prepared to enter her name, email and phone number into your phone or jot it down. NOW you've made a valuable connection. Your Elevator Speech developed a true lead, or a connection to someone who might be.
But you don't have the sale yet. You have some follow up to do. Secure the appointment. Do your research. Prepare your questions. And make that visit or phone call your next great learning experience toward the sale. (After all... that was your goal all along. Wasn't it?)
The Networking Ninja
You step into an elevator on the 82nd floor, and push the button for the lobby. Another person enters with you, so you decide to begin a dialogue. You introduce yourself, and then you naturally segue into the brief (and naturally-sounding) summary speech about what you do, laden with benefits for the prospect. You nail your delivery. You have good eye contact. You elicit a smile, a nod. The elevator reaches its destination. You initiate a handshake and get ready to hand your business card to the new prospect.
Sounds textbook correct, huh?
It’s actually TOTALLY WRONG.
If the elevator door opens, and the prospect exits and enters the great world beyond… what have you learned about THEM? You talked. They didn’t. You have nothing to follow-up! You don’t even know if they’re a real prospect!
Truth is… the natural presenter – the extrovert in me – did this exact scenario – wrong – for almost 20 years. And then I went to a Networking seminar which taught me the REAL purpose of the “Elevator Speech” was to develop your listening skills, and ask more than you talk. The true art is to naturally flow into a series of questions which makes your prospects feel at ease and start them earning trust with you – enough trust for them to open up and tell you enough about themselves to qualify them.
So, developing great opening questions became more important for me. “Tell me about what you do… or why you’re here” became a few of my ice breakers. I wasn’t focused on ME anymore. I was focused on THEM.
My other mistake all those years was… my opener was intent on SELLING them, not HELPING them. What I learned after working two decades with some salesperson greats (and tons of not-so-greats) is that the best sales pros HELP prospects, not SELL them. They listen. They process. They then offer solutions, not push products or services. And it all starts with that single opening exchange.
Then, and only then -- after the prospect tells you what they do, and what their challenges are -- do you explain how what you do aligns with them. Why talk industry jargon – spouting off YOUR benefits – when you have no idea if they need what you provide? In understanding what they do, you can tailor what you do to help their role – if they’re a true prospect.
For example, “Well, I help companies like yours get better results in doing ______ through creative branding…” It’s always all about them, not you.
Here’s to more productive elevator rides for all of us!
In my next blog… how to end your elevator-esque conversations -- whether they’re a prospect or not -- to set yourself up for winning trust and new business. Stay tuned, networkers!
Nobody likes a pusher. Especially in marketing. (AKA Mary Ellen's Top 5 "What Likers Really Want from your Social Media")
When I say the word, "Pusher," what image does it conjure in your mind? A drug dealer? An annoying salesperson who swoops on you the minute you walk into the store? A bully? One of those perfume squirters in a department store? Your kids when they've had too much sugar, too little sleep, and they're in the grocery checkout line nudging you for candy?
OK, you get the picture. It's usually not so nice. We want to avoid those people. At all cost.
Then why - with our social media - are we pushing people, and not ENGAGING them?
Why are we promoting "buy... buy... BUY!"? Why are we hawking product? Why are we shoving specials down their throats? If you look at some social media sites, the majority of their posts are PUSHING. Promoting. Selling. And very few ideas on how to use the products.
So why do people go to social media? To learn. Connect. Engage. NOT to be sold. Shouted at. Arm twisted. Wheeled and dealed. Yet most companies don't understand what good content really is... what their readers want from them. So here's what I have found that works best:
Mary Ellen's Social Media Top 5 What Likers Want
1. To feel special. They want to know you value your relationship with them... so much so that they receive special advantages from you. Advantages like advance notice of news, sales, exclusive sample offers, added savings, extra perks.... an edge for their allegiance in connecting to you... to know you value them but in a fun, friendly way. (Remember it's called "social" media for a reason.)
2. Tips, hints, trends, hacks and tricks. Basically, provide them with knowledge that you have - or your product or service can provide to them - without selling - that can improve their life, their productivity. The more you help sharing your expertise, the more they want to keep reading your posts. It doesn't have to be original content. It can be a great article you read, or a tip someone else shared... as long as it connects to your brand or product benefit.
3. Things they can share easily. People love helping others. And that means being able to share good postings. If you give them great content, they are more likely to share it on their social pages. Just word it so they can share it without making any edits. The easier you make it, the more shares you're likely to get.
4. To see the real YOU, behind the scenes. Who has the messiest desk at your office. Which charities you are passionate about. Your company anniversary. Funny things that happened with your product. People's birthdays. (With their permission, of course.) People buy from people they like. Show them the human side of who they're buying from, and you'll be surprised - sometimes these posts receive the most interaction... even more than important news!
5. To be engaged. To be listened to. To participate. To give their opinion. To share themselves. To be creative with you. To be funny back. So go ahead... start a poll. Ask for their opinions. Vote on their favorite. Fill in the blank. Give you a funny caption. Share their pics, their stories. You'll gain more loyal followers when you do. But don't forget to respond quickly - honestly - transparently - when you need to. It gains even more loyalty.
Bottom line... Push less and you'll pull more.
Call me if you need help with content. <WINK>
Last summer, I attended a really cool digital marketing conference with all kinds of topics from social media content to digital layout to media to future technologies. One of the best sessions was about website front page design. I thought I knew a lot before walking in. Boy, was I glad I went!
To summarize my big take-away... the seminar leader asked us to look at a photograph he was going to flash on the screen for 1/16 of a second. He asked us to see how much we could remember about that blink of a photo in that short of a moment. It was amazing what most of us recalled. It was a VW bus. Old. Dented. In an ancient garage. It was white and blue. Dirty. Facing to the right. All that in 1/16 of a second.
So let's take a look at your website. Specifically, your front page ABOVE the screen line. That front page IS your new calling card. What comes up on that screen is how people find you today. It's their decision point. Not your brick and mortar store front. Not your paper card in an old Rolodex. Not your Yellow Pages ad. Not your print catalog. Your FRONT PAGE leads them into your world... or it doesn't. (And people rarely scroll beyond the top images, unless they're really interested. So what's on top, front and center is CRUCIAL!)
So what is the snapshot of your business? What shows on either that tiny screen in your hand... or the laptop screen or a monitor or even a tablet... (which, by the way, are considered "accessory viewing screens"... not the primary ones anymore. SmartPhones are what's used to view websites 2/3 of the time nowadays!)... is what drives them to go ON or turn OFF.
If you have all the important stuff that drives them to action or a next step on the front page, you're IN. If you don't - and have to dig and hunt to find it - you might lose the prospect. They only have time for those businesses who make it EASY for them.
SO, what shows on that front page is VITAL. Here are 3 guidelines:
1. Are there more photos than copy? Too much copy is not read. Just like the VW bus in that 1/16th of a second, your website has to SHOW what you do, not TELL what you do. We are in VISUAL world. Reading takes too much time. (It is important when we are trying to make a purchasing decision, like find your phone number, or see product specs, or the price, or an address... but overall - remember this ... "PICTURES ATTRACT. Copy sells." Your front page should SCREAM what you sell pictorially.
2. Easy peazy. Is it easy to navigate? Is there a short menu of website sections? YES! That's what we're trained to look for. Are there buttons that make sense... to get them to one area of the website to the other? Can they find your phone number, your address right on the front page? Or is it buried?
3. Words are for the birds. Are there lots of words on your front page? Paragraphs of copy? Get rid of 'em! If you must, they go on your inside pages, when people have arrived at the section they want. NOT on your front page. What works? Short captions get people to feature pages.
OK, now go look at your web page. What would you change, now that you've read this blog?
We’re all looking for that sweet nectar, right? Exposure, good press, qualified sales leads. Ultimately, steady repeat customers.
Bees are, too. For them, it’s honey. So they flit from flower to flower to find it. To gather enough, they make multiple stops, and something amazing happens. The flowers they touch along the way are activated. They respond. They benefit from the interaction. In fact, so much so that plants that are touched more often develop better fruit., like the photo shown here of a not-so-often pollinated pear and a happily pollinated one.
It is the same with marketing your business. In order to grow, others need to know about what you offer, what you stand for -- continuously -- or you’re the lone weed, easily trampled.
And I don’t mean spending a lot of money or time doing that, especially if you’re a small business. I believe in planning it, maximizing it, and yes – doing it as an active part of your sales job -- not a “when I have time” line item on your to-do-list. It should be as high priority as returning phone calls or keeping your pipeline full… not an afterthought.
A client of mine recently had the wonderful opportunity to appear on a radio show on a major market radio station talking about the success of her business, and the future of healthy business in the area. She immediately asked me to feature it in her social media feed.
But that’s just one flower. And one social medium is only seen by a very limited number of her followers and very few prospects. (Let’s face it…. FREE only goes so far!) In order to maximize the exposure of this publicity event, I suggested a press release to local publications, trade media, other social media, including an update on her LinkedIn page and the pages of all staffers, and of course including it on the company home page of her website, or their email signatures, etc., etc.
Basically, to cross-pollinate the event. To let her target audience know she is an authority – THE authority - in her marketplace.
Sound like a lot? It can be. But consider this… there are a lot of flowers – your prospects - out there. They can only be touched by so many bees (their choice of media.) We can no longer just “have an event” or “promote a product or service” and hope our audience hears about it from a one-shot notice. It takes a village of communications to get the desired branding effect today.
Don’t have that marketing resource on your team or the time yourself to do that? No sweat. There are plenty of queen bee marketers who know how to do that routinely, efficiently, skillfully, and economically FOR YOU. (Wink, wink.)
You've got 3 seconds. Now what?
The experts have measured it. A prospect decides in just 3 seconds whether to visit your trade show booth or not. It’s not much time, but we humans can do an awfully lot in just 3 seconds.
1. We look for “connections.” Does the product or service show something I want or need? Is the booth an environment that makes me feel comfortable? Is this a brand I like or would like to know more about? Bottom line… if a prospect connects to the look, the brand, the photos, graphics or actual products in your booth, you have a better shot of luring them in.
2. We look for something COOL. An interactive demo. A challenge. A contest. A “feel this” experience. A unique new product. A celebrity. A dynamic graphic background. Food or drink. Giveaways that tie-in with the product. The more engaging, relevant and fun you make your booth, the better shot at attracting and keeping the right prospects in your exhibit space.
3. We look for smiling, welcoming, approachable people. Checking your email messages? Reading the paper? Eating in your booth? Chatting with co-workers? Not smiling? Not acknowledging me as special, as valuable? As the great Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s the same in the booth space.
So, how can you put your best foot forward so their 3-second decision to step in your booth is their best move of the day? Email me if you'd like help with your next 3-second-crusade trade show marketing strategy: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Imagine attending a girls' weekend. But for BUSINESS. At a beautiful resort. With some hot business topics like Mobile Marketing, with a dynamo speaker to kick off the conference. Then two chefs who demo easy-to-do holiday entertaining ideas -- demos you can TASTE -- with recipes to repeat yourself, sizzling up the classroom. Then a networking class, one on how to have a happy life, a fashion and image consultant, a best practices share-a-thon, and a wine painting party to let your inner child free.
Bottom line: two days of chatting about "what-works-for-you" business topics, intertwined with deep discussions on balancing your life. It was learning nirvana for women... because with us, both topics -- our work lives and our spirits -- are interconnected.
That's what I experienced this past weekend at the Women's Retreat, appropriately entitled "RENEW" hosted by the Carolina Association of Advertising and Marketing Professionals with a small network of under 50 bubbly attendees. Networking excellence, from start to finish.
Was any business written at this conference? Immediate ROI? Don't think so. But then again, what we learned at the conference was that good networking takes time. Nurturing. Developing, And these women -- lifelong learners all -- are so worth getting to know.
So thank you, fellow attendees. I learned more from you than you know. Congratulations to LIsa Bibb and her committee for a model event of interactive learning innovation... including an entirely new way to use a corkscrew.
Be well and happy.
The Scarlet Marketeer
Welcome to the Scarlet Letter!
I have officially jumped off the diving board, and into a wonderful new pool of entrepreneurship.
The water is fine.
I'm not just doggy paddling, but sometimes even doing the backstroke. All the while, grinning. (And then I caught my husband watching me, smiling, and winking at me after a meaty consultation session when I was pitching a creative idea. He said I was "sparkling!")
Gosh, it felt GOOD. Doing what you love. For yourself. And clients you care about.
So here is my new blog. It will be a place where I share what's working, words of wisdom, marketing marvels I uncover, reviews, mistakes I've made, and hopefully some intriguing points of view. I hope you'll follow, comment, challenge me and occasionally even like my writing. Just keep reading and building your personal brand.
After 33 years experience in the marketing pool, and 55 years of living, my goal is to continue to help marketeers like you do some sparkling of your own.
Hugs and sparkles,
Mary Ellen (Pahlka Hudicka Nichols) Sokalski
The Scarlet Marketeer
Mary Ellen Sokalski
Diva of Direct Marketing.