Data Disaster: 24% Never Back Up!

Someone arbitrarily decided that June is Backup Awareness month. Let’s celebrate with this pie chart from Backblaze:

Backup Frequency Chart

It’s hard to believe that almost half of computer owners never back up or only back up once a year. These users are headed for a data disaster because storage media always fail. On average, here’s the lifespan of common storage media:

  • 5-10 years: flash drives
  • 3-5 years: hard drives
  • 2-5 years: CDs and DVDs

I’m in the 8% that backup my files daily, and just last year I added secondary remote backups to my routine. I simply can’t afford to lose my clients’ valuable files and data.

As a small business, it’s critical you develop a backup routine. Losing even a month’s worth of files can significantly harm your productivity and success. Consider losing the last month’s billing cycle, the new spreadsheets you spent hours on, the countless emails exchanged and all the minute changes made to your documents.

Backup utilities automate the process of backing up. Once you configure the system, you’ll hardly have to think about it again– until you need the backup!

Is an Editorial Calendar Part of Your Small Business Marketing Plan?

Is an Editorial Calendar Part of Your Small Business Marketing Plan?An editorial calendar helps answer the question, “What am I supposed to do next?” It’s a tactical element of your small business marketing plan that lays out the month, quarter or year. With only a few hours of work, you’ll boost marketing productivity and effectiveness.

Start with Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies

As a small business, it’s incredibly important you spend your marketing budget efficiently and effectively. You can’t afford to keep doing the same marketing tactics year after year unless you know they really work. Before implementing any marketing campaigns, make sure your strategy is solid and will help you meet your business goals.

Ensure Marketing Implementation with an Editorial Calendar

One of the toughest challenges for any small business is consistently deploying marketing campaigns on time. When you often spend your day “putting out fires,” it can be hard to remember to grow your audience on Facebook, communicate with customers via your email newsletter or schedule in-person meetings with prospects.

That’s where an editorial calendar comes in. This tool helps build discipline into the timing of your marketing and ensures no channel is neglected.

For each of my small business clients, I typically outline an entire year’s calendar, with goals set for each month. This document becomes our to-do list. It’s fairly simple– take a look at the sample below for 2016 Q1.

Sample Marketing Editorial Calendar

January 2016

  • Film two videos surrounding “Winter” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Winter” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Winter” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Winter” campaign January Email Newsletter
  • Manage “Winter” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Refresh website design template for 2016

February 2016

  • Stop “Winter” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Film two videos surrounding “Love” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Love” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Love” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Love” campaign February Email Newsletter
  • Start and manage “Love” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Design and print “Spring” Every Door Direct Mail USPS mailer

March 2016

  • Stop “Love” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Film two videos surrounding “Spring” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Spring” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Spring” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Spring” campaign March Email Newsletter
  • Start and manage “Spring” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Send “Spring” Every Door Direct Mail USPS to target ZIP code

Green Marketing Gimmicks

Marketing gimmicks give marketing a bad name. The worst form of marketing gimmick is falsely promoting a cause to profit from it. These days, this tactic usually takes the form of “green marketing.” Take, for instance, this “Save the Earth Gum:”

Green marketing gimmick - Save the Earth Gum

“Buy this gum and save trees.” Yeah, right. Chewing gum and trees have so little to do with one another that this marketing gimmick is obviously ridiculous. (Also, the brand neglects to mention that trees are required to make their cardboard display box, along with the resources required to produce the plastic tubes and labels.)

Even supposed environmental organizations aren’t free from this marketing hypocrisy. At a local event, the Hamilton County Recycling representatives were trying to promote recycling at restaurants and bars… by handing out copious amounts of full-color, double-sided, aqueous-coated business cards. Not only did they avoid printing on recycled paper, but these waterproof cards would take years to decompose in a landfill.

In an attempt to maintain an appealing landscape, the maintenance crew for the EPA office down the street sprayed noxious chemicals through my open car windows. Along with the lungful of chemicals, they were spreading the message that green grass is more important than their mission.

If your business has a core philosophy and set of values, your marketing plan should highlight them and educate your customers. But companies using a thin veneer of popular “values” to hock products won’t succeed at it for very long. Fads are fickle, and customers are growing more skeptical every day.

Stop Griping. Start Being Awesome.

Just as the phone camera became good enough to replace small point-and-shoot models, and that industry appeared close to being obsolete, Nikon fought back with two new models that showed consumers needs they didn’t know they had.

The Nikon 1 is a simple-to-use, compact camera with expandable options like lenses or a flash. Nikon’s goal is to help people take pictures and videos that look good without the added weight and bulk of an SLR camera.

Nikon Coolpix CameraThe Coolpix AW100 is geared for action photography where one wouldn’t want to risk damaging his phone or SLR, promoted as being “waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof.” As my wedding photographer friend explained, “Nikon has shown me a need for a third kind of camera!” And, indeed, who wouldn’t want a camera to bring when they go kayaking/biking/snowboarding?

Compare Nikon’s attitude with the music industry ten years ago (or even today…)– embroiled in legal battles and legislative efforts trying to preserve an old-fashioned business model that anyone outside the business could see was going to die anyway.

Instead of trying to stop phone companies from including cameras, Nikon simply became even more awesome.

So when you’re faced with competition that seemed to come out of nowhere, take Nikon’s path. Stop griping, and start being awesome. It’s the only way to survive.

Consensus is Like a Game of Telephone

You played the game of telephone as a kid, right? From the Wikipedia article:

Game of Telephone“One person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first.”

It’s a fun game, where phrases like, “Run to the store,” turn into, “Fun to be a bore.” The game also illustrates the danger of placing too much importance on consensus in your business.

Relying on consensus for marketing strategy direction and project decisions is like whispering the key to your company’s success in someone’s ear, then implementing a mangled and confused version of that plan once it makes its way through committees and competing interests.

Marketing projects are commonly subject to planning by consensus because many areas of the business might be affected by a given marketing project. If a business undergoes a website redesign, it will affect call centers, sales, accounting and other departments. But if every department or person shares in the design decisions, the website team focuses on “making everyone happy” instead of making your customers happy.

The best approach for any project, whether it be in marketing, HR or elsewhere in the business, is to designate a project manager who is responsible for making the project a success. This person gathers input from all relevant team members and makes final decisions.

While decisions need to be made by one person (or a small group of focused people), brainstorming can be the responsibility of the entire company. Gathering ideas and perspectives is imperative for a project to be successful– how can you know what will create a great customer experience unless you talk to people who interact with the customers? The project manager serves to direct and organize this brainstorming process.

With a project manager, marketing projects are cohesive and well-planned– not a game of telephone.

Be Good, Businesses

The plumber ruined my plaster ceiling.

A year later, the roofer broke my deck.

Does this look right to you?

Does this look "right" to you?

They both told me, “I want to make this right.” Then, they did everything in their power to avoid paying. (With limited success. I’m pretty tenacious.)

In the age of word-of-mouth marketing, with Angie’s List, Yelp and girlfriends getting together for coffee, how could any business person be so short-sighted to think shirking a responsibility today would result in profit tomorrow?

Honesty and virtue are key ingredients to long-term success. It sounds old-fashioned, because there’s nothing new about being a good business with good people.

Dishonesty can lead to short-term gains–remember Enron?–but ultimately ends in business disaster. For the plumber, I wrote a reasonable yet scathing review of his business and chose one of his dozen competitors to be my go-to plumber. As for the roofer, I related my story to friends and neighbors, so they can make informed decisions in the future. I’m just one home-owner, but my influence extends beyond my own purchasing needs.

And the same is true of your customers. Each day, your customers are evaluating your dependability and trustworthiness. They are sharing their opinions with friends and family. Their opinions carry more weight than the most perfectly-designed marketing campaign.

So, be good. Do the right thing.

Your business will profit from it, and so will your conscience.

P.S. Bonus: The effects of unethical business decisions extend further than word-of-mouth. If you have customers who won’t pay anything until the last jot and tittle of the contract are fulfilled, they’ve likely been treated badly in the past. They feel the need to protect themselves. And who can blame them? We’ve all heard the lie at sometime or other, “I want to make this right.”

Marketing Management: Keep Marketing!

Marketing management is an ongoing activity, and it’s key to your business’s success. Marketing is something you do everyday, whether you are conscious of it or not. From your customers’ perspective, every experience they have or belief they hold about your business has been crafted by your products and employes. Are you managing these experiences or leaving them to chance?

It’s fun and exciting to engage in a large marketing project like branding a new product or revitalizing your marketing with a social media blitz. But these large projects receive undue credit for a business’s success- it’s the day-to-day actions that cumulatively build success. Your customers need to be able to rely on you, not just when they first buy or when you launch a new campaign.

Here are some tips for managing your marketing:

  1. Set goals. Set daily, weekly or monthly goals for how the frequency of your marketing activities. For instance, your goals could be one local event per month, one email newsletter per month and one Facebook post per week.
  2. Make a schedule. Looming due dates have quite an effect on the human psyche. Set a firm schedule for your goals, like publishing a blog post every Wednesday morning.
  3. Monitor and make changes. Some marketing activities keep themselves going. For best results, you should monitor these activities and make changes based on your observations. For example, look at your Google AdWords each month to see what you can learn.
  4. Measure results. Managing your marketing can be hard work. Measure your results, so you can see which efforts are paying off and which aren’t. Stop the least effective ones, and put more energy into the producers.
  5. Show discipline. All of these tips are rooted in having the discipline to keep marketing. Discipline is the number one ingredient for marketing management success. It’s not sexy, but it’s true.

By managing your marketing, you will create a compelling story for customers to buy into. You just have to keep at it, everyday.

If you don’t have the time or energy to manage your marketing, you could look into hiring a professional to manage it for you. Conveniently, Zoo in a Jungle Marketing excels at marketing management. Contact me to talk about your business: Amanda Cullen, 513.833.4203,

Advertising, Courtesy of the Legal Beagles

Sometimes, advertising legalese really goes over the top. While a case can be made for clauses like, “Not valid with any other offer,” each additional restriction discourages customers from trying out your product or service. Advertising, coupons and special offers are supposed to encourage customers, not put up obstacles for them.

As an example, Steve Yastrow wrote a great article on Tom Peters’ blog about the error of forcing pharmaceutical companies to tell us a drug’s side effects in a soothing, sing-songy voice. His point is that no one should trust an advertisement to tell them everything they need to know about a drug. Consumers need to ask their doctors.

This week, in a Val-Pak mailing, I found another great example of advertising legalese run amok. As a marketing professional and graphic designer, I get a kick out of Val-Pak mailings. There are always a handful of instructive coupons that show precisely the wrong way to design an advertisement. Check out this outlandish instance of legalese:

“First time clients only. Valid ID requiredCoupon may not be bartered, copied, traded or sold.”

Can you imagine showing identification just to qualify for a $5 haircut? Checking IDs may be a foolproof way to ensure no existing clients use this coupon, but it is an unreasonable invasion of customers’ privacy.

Not only does this legalese clutter the advertisement and send an unfriendly vibe, it’s completely unenforceable. How will this company know if someone sold their $5 coupon for $3 or traded it for a baseball card? And why would they care? (I’m not a legal expert, but aren’t barter and trade synonyms?)

When writing your advertising copy, don’t get carried away by the legal beagles. If customers feel like you are trying to outsmart them, they will respond in one of two ways. 1. They will ignore your offer as not worth their time. 2. They will take it as a challenge to outsmart you, and they will probably win.

The most effective advertising, special offers and coupons will bring you smiling, happy customers. Aim for that goal, and skip the legalese.

Public Relations has come a long way.

Public relations is a great marketing tool for small businesses and is much more effective at reaching consumers than advertising. People remember stories better than taglines and trust articles more than direct mail.

Local media- newspaper, TV and radio- love covering interest stories that involve local small businesses. Small businesses online can earn similar coverage from special interest blogs, Twitter users and other Internet media outlets. Basically, if a small business can craft a meaningful, intriguing story, they can get really useful PR.

Consumers can learn more about a small business through in-depth coverage than they would from a 30-second spot. Good PR helps consumers make more informed decisions by illuminating what makes businesses interesting, such as involvement in charities or social activism.

As great as PR is for businesses, media and consumers today, the discipline has come a long way since its founding in the early years of the 20th century. Then, it was seen as a way to manipulate consumers into consuming more. The father of public relations, Edward Bernays, said of PR:

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?

Bernays also asserted,

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.”

Certainly, Bernays’ tactics were successful in his day. He was instrumental in popularizing cigarette use among women, and he was horrified to learn that a dog-eared copy of his book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, resided on Joseph Goebbels’ shelf.

But his approach to PR no longer works. After years of being manipulated, consumers grew skeptical of marketing claims. Now consumers do their research and often know more about your products and services than your salespeople do. Effective PR in 2010 means being truthful and crafting stories that are of genuine interest to consumers. Businesses must ensure they are ethical and  respectful of consumers’ rights. Because if they aren’t, consumers will find out, and they will learn that there is such a thing as bad press.

Implementation means, “Keep at It”

So, you’ve developed a strategy that informs where you want your company to go. You’ve involved your team in developing and planning for this strategy. Together, you’ve made sure this strategy communicates with customers in ways that are meaningful to them and ensures your company is easy to do business with. You’re probably feeling pretty satisfied with your progress. But your work has only just begun.

The most difficult part of any plan is implementation. It’s not because the tasks of implementation are hard. Usually accomplishing these tasks don’t require great skill or superhuman brainpower. The difficulty arises because implementation requires dedication and tenacity. You have to keep at it. Every day.

For many small business entrepreneurs, this process is boring, and implementation is often cut short, displaced by more exciting strategizing and perceived opportunities. But a small business can never reach its potential without completing the initiatives it starts.

Here are some tips for implementation success:

  • Pay attention to details. Read my recent blog post about a business had a failed advertising strategyby ignoring the details on the printed piece.
  • Develop easy-to-understand success metrics. Know you’re succeeding (or failing) by establishing milestones along the way to your goal. These milestones should have due dates to create a sense of urgency.
  • Hold quarterly or monthly check-up meetings. Grade your company’s success on a regular basis with progress reports on your milestones. Make these meetings short and to the point, or everyone will dread them (don’t you hate meetings that drag on and keep you from work?).
  • Don’t be a roadblock. Often small business owners are the bottleneck in the company’s decision-making process. Decide which decisions you don’t need to make. It will free up your time and speed up your strategy’s success.
  • Use your team’s strengths. If you find it difficult to stay on track, someone on your team likely has strong implementation skills. Give them authority to check in, set meetings and make sure progress is made.

Now use these tips to go forth and implement!