Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do Marketing and Operations Mix?

Over the last 15 years I have been asked, taught, been paid to differentiate, asked in interviews, asked by prospective clients and debated with colleagues about the difference (or sameness) of Sales and Marketing and even Advertising. What do you think it is – or isn’t?

Here’s what I think… it doesn’t matter! However, as a graduate of an esteemed business school, I will state the elitist answer. “Marketing is at the top of the food chain”. How’s that for an academic answer?! Marketing drives the vision from which the advertising flows and the sales occur. There, I said it. Agree or disagree with me – I don’t care! The reason I don’t care is that they are all symbiotic to one another.

And, there is (finally) a discussion going on about whether or not Operations is part of the mix. Yes! Yes! Yes! I have been preaching this for years and I am happy to see others are seeing it as well. The differentiator I always had over others and the reason my campaigns were always successful and produced off the chart results was because I dove, head first, into Operations. I learned everything I could about how things worked, how things got communicated down and/or upstream, how things got executed, how operations people followed (or didn’t follow) directions and I learned and learned and learned well that Operations was the key to ANY of my Marketing being successful. I learned to then design Marketing initiatives that would work with the way Operations worked. And guess what, because I understood the pitfalls, the strengths and the undercurrents in Operations, I designed marketing that was executed as I designed it and it worked. And I monitored like crazy and if there was a blip on the radar, I was right back in Operations looking for the reason and either adjusting my approach or adjusting the process in Operations.

Now, traditionally, Operations folk roll their eyes at Marketing and in many cases, for good reason. Some Marketers sit in an isolation booth and design initiatives that are based on an idea, on data or on a wing and a prayer (c’mon – admit it, Marketers, — you’ve done a “Hail Mary” in your career!!). To the contrary, I broke bread with the Operations people. I did “ride alongs” with hands-on Operations Staff. I asked a lot of questions, learned the tools they had to work with, asked what tools they wished they had and I went to bat for them at Executive Meetings in support of the Operations Group when they asked for better tools to do their jobs. You see, the myth that Operations doesn’t care about the end result or the customer is false. They do care. They get frustrated when bad policy or procedure or bad or outdated tools don’t LET THEM help the customer. Tell me you haven’t been on a customer service call when the agent didn’t apologize for something taking so long, or apologized for having to ask you a bunch of stupid questions before they could help you because it was “policy” or an “outdated system” that they had to work with?

Believe it or not, knowing these things about operations is the key to your marketing success! I’ll give you an example: I am totally into data, data collection and Analytics driving Marketing, but if I design a list of questions to capture the data that I want (not need) at the POS (point of sale), I will catch hell from Operations and from Customers. If whatever I designed as a Call To Action worked and the Customer acted, then I won – end of story. Make the sale process so easy that the Customer gets his/her “good buy feeling” as soon as they can. If I make them wait for that feeling, well, I’m just a buzz kill! Who wants to do that to people? I want their purchase experience to be easy, friendly and FAST. I want the operations people to think my initiatives are EASY and WANT to work on my programs. I want them to feel like happiness heroes after every transaction because they gave that Customer the “good buy feeling”. That makes their job more fun – or at least not a pain in the neck. And, if they are having fun, then they will do a great job, show up to work and create loyal customers – Valhalla!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guest Post From A Dynamic Business Builder

Now that the summer is over and the kids are back in school it’s time to make the 4th quarter sales blitz to close as much business by year end and at the same time start thinking about the business growth plans for 2011. As a business coach those are two areas that I specialize in, Business Growth and Sales Force Development.

I take on a limited number of clients during this time of year to allow sufficient time to dive deep and develop the most effective growth plan you’ve ever experienced.

I have a small favor to ask. Who do you know that is serious about business growth and looking to achieve results in their business? If you were me, how would you suggest I make contact with them?

Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it!


Mike Brenhaug is a Business Growth & Sales Force Development Expert
You can join him for the Lake Forest Chamber Business Roundtable networking luncheon event 9/24 @ 11:30

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back to the Basics - More on Getting Through the Noise

I went to a marketing network lunch today. It was the first time I had met with this local group - and I liked it. I liked it a lot. The room was full of experience and victories and I'm sure lessons learned (which is true of any seasoned professional). The conversation was flowing, the format free-form and it was a true pleasurable way to spend the afternoon.

One question was posed to the group: " What are you hearing from your customers?" My response was a bit the opposite. I answered with what I feel customers NEED to hear these. It reminded me of the blog I wrote about getting through the noise. (see previous post).

So since this was a local marketing group, I started to research local services to support the idea of going back to the basics, but with a unique piece of collateral and with a smart, targeted list with a high likelihood of adoption (buying) of the offer presented.

Now, this approach requires GOOD information. If you aren't collecting your customer's contact information -- START! Think about it the way you would think -- um , more accurately FEEL -- about it for yourself. (Again - flash back to the golden rule blog posted earlier.) If you frequent an establishment and every time you go to them you are pleased when you leave, you won't mind getting information about specials or special info that you, SPECIFICALLY, would like. Your customers are the same. Let them know YOU will only contact them if it is about something THEY would care about. Then, start taking notes on them so you know (and remember) their likes and dislikes. If you are able, link their purchases to their contact info. Then, contact them with specials, new arrivals, special orders, etc that THEY would like. DO NOT bomard them with everything – with junk. (Read more about this on previous blog and look into CRM systems like to hold and query data.)

Then, when it comes time for the piece, do something unique. For one client, I was looking into a discount/rewards card. I found this interesting piece and like the "tear away" aspect as the rules of the program can go on the part they keep and the card can fit neatly into their wallet. The card is postcard sized making it inexpensive to mail and most of you know that postcards get ready MUCH MORE than envelope mail. It is unique, eye catching, has user interaction ( it is tearing—user interaction does not have to be on the internet;) – but a IU element increases loyalty. If they take the time to interact, they care about your business , products and/or services.

Check out this piece. I like it...

Happy Marketing!

Monday, September 13, 2010

How To Get Through The Noise and Reach Customers

Let’s face it. We are ALL bombarded with advertising, marketing, social media, etc. --- each one attempting to get our attention. Just taking time to “unsubscribe” to unwanted emails can take about 15 minutes a week, or more. So if you are getting smothered by marketing, guess what? Your clients and prospects are too.

So, how do you get through the noise and reach new customers and develop loyalty with existing customers? Fall back upon something you probably learned as a child, “Treat Others As You Would Like To Be Treated”. Only reach out to your customers if it is about something that is relevant to them.

If you are a photographer and have done wedding photos for a couple, don’t include them in email blasts or direct mail campaigns about weddings (except under one condition which I will explain later). Do some research. The internet is FULL of info and statistics from which you can pull data. There are also other public sources like newspapers, public services, and even some psychographic data services ( that have data that can be very helpful to you.

After your research, let’s say you find that on average, a couple starts thinking about having a baby about one year from their wedding date. Use this information and market to them for pregnancy photos and baby photos around 18 months after the wedding date. Only send the marketing to those who fall within this time frame. If you keep this up, you will probably have a marketing piece going out every month, but the quantity will not be huge, but the target and quality will be good. If you don’t get a response right away, don’t fret. Keep up the effort for 3-6 months and evaluate the results around 4-7 months after starting this effort. If you can afford the design fees, have two pieces designed and send one to half of your list and the other to the other half. See if there is a difference between the results of the pieces. If one pulls better than the other, then the answer is obvious – use that one going forward! (This is called A/B testing—but the name is not important – the results are!) If you do get a pregnancy photo shoot, make note of the baby’s due date and contact the mom close to the due date. If you are tapped into birth record information, send congratulations cards to the parents with a business card included. This is a simple way to solicit new customers and it is just a nice thing to do! Even if the parents don’t use you for a baby photo shoot, they may very well recommend you to a friend who is looking for a photographer.

Referral marketing is the number one highest form of inexpensive and highly effective marketing. This brings me to issue of sending a wedding piece to a couple that you just completed wedding photos for. Why on earth would you do this? Well, there is an unusual phenomenon that occurs with weddings and births. Brides often know other brides, pregnant women often know other pregnant women. How many couples do you know who state that they “met at a wedding” - or girlfriends or sisters who find themselves pregnant within months of each other? Take advantage of this info and act on it. After you have done the wedding photos, send a Thank You card to the couple with stamped/postage paid postcards and ask them to send them to anyone that they know who might be interested in photos. If you have the ability to do variable print, put the couple’s picture on the postcard with a header, “We used this photographer and you might want to use them too!” or, “We recommend this photographer for your wedding photos”. You may be pleasantly surprised what the cost of a few stamps can do for you!

There are several other approaches to break through and be heard, but if you want to really stand out, do your homework, get a highly targeted list of customers or prospects and send them an unusual direct mail piece. The old trick is to put a nickel or a rock in the envelope with the brochure to get people to open it, but be more creative than that. A very successful example of this is a B2B campaign I did for a large company (but the concept works for small businesses too!). Our campaign was about “being heard”, so we mailed a megaphone – yes a life sized, cheerleader certified megaphone – to each prospect. We followed up the campaign with outbound calls and the campaign was, “the best in the company’s history”, per the client. Now, this might be a bit pricey for some of you, but apply the concept in an affordable way. What is it that your clients care about? What problem are they trying to solve? What sets you apart from the rest of the herd?

Let’s use the photographer in this exercise too. The photographer could order a bulk lot of those wedding disposable cameras. You can get them at places like, .Then, he/she could mail them to prospective brides with an insert that states something like, “Some brides try to save money with DIY projects. You could use this to commemorate one of the most important days in your life, but our brides have found that they were happy that they decided to save money elsewhere. Log onto our site and check out our work, our economical packages and read what our brides say about why they are glad that they chose us.” I guarantee your packages will be opened. And, if you brand the cameras, you will be leaving a reminder around the house for the bride to contact you. In this time of money saving, everyone thinks that email marketing is the best way to save money. It isn’t in all cases. Many times, emails are blocked, not read and a waste of effort. Think outside the box and use a sure fire contact list and then really speak to your client’s concerns, problems and how you can solve them with a memorable approach.

Soon, I will talk about how to use email marketing successfully. In the meantime, if you need help with standing out in the crowd, comment or contact me.

Happy Marketing!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

CRM Systems - So Many On The Market - How To Choose One

I get a lot of questions on CRM Systems and I have sourced and implemented many different systems. Sometimes it is best to buy an "in-house" model and others it is better to use a web based program. Here was a recent question and my response. Hope it helps you wade through the plethera of options and focus on what is most important when selecting the right CRM system for you.  

Question: Can you provide recommendations/advice/tips on Cloud VS Software CRM programs?

Answer: In this case, my opinion would be whichever is most functional and cost effective and most importantly, flexible for your environment. The critical issue(s) are the policies and drivers of the CRM system itself. Things like how and when 'touches' are made, types of 'touches' and personalization of 'touches' are far more important than the cloud vs. SW approach. Implementing a CRM system is mostly about planning activities and actions that are relevant and address customer's needs, desires and habits.

The next phase involves intensive and diligent review of response, reaction, changes and new opportunities. This is where the need for flexibility in the system is of the utmost importance. You need the ability to add or unplug a trigger on a dime.

Hope this helps and good luck! Mary

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Follow Up to 'Finding Your Niche' - Great Example

After writing the article on finding your niche, I received a very good example of someone's site where they master the 'fine line' between niche marketing and pigeon holing yourself and excluding other types of business.

Check out this great site done by a photographer. She places a lot of visual imaging (perfect for her industry and for people's attention span) on weddings, engagement photos, etc. but tosses in a few variances. Brilliantly done! I’d choose her for my photos, wouldn’t you?

Here’s the site:

What’s your niche and who are your customers?


Friday, September 3, 2010

Find Your Niche!

One of my beautiful and courageous nieces contacted me today and was happy that I started the blog. This isn't about that, it is about her!

She is a stylist and has really found her talent in hair design. She's actually full service -- from avante guard to traditional - but a niche has emerged.

She told me today that she has been recently doing a lot of work for weddings.

This reminded me of the importance of finding and more importantly, recognizing, a niche market. Sometimes it happens naturally, as in my niece’s case, and other times, market research and talent will help you to determine your space in the market.

If you find yourself in my niece’s situation (a demand for you to do something over and over again), seize the moment. As soon as you can, develop collateral, websites, blogs and social media to support your niche. In this case, attend wedding events/shows with materials handy to show future brides how amazing you can make them look and feel on their special day. Testimonials on your site and collateral are key to speaking to new customers. Referrals are huge also.

Network! Develop relationships with everyone who has ANYTHING to do with your industry. In this case, you may think the baker who is designing the cake has NOTHING to do with your craft -- but you never know if during a conversation over a cake tasting, the bride mentions that she does not have a stylist for her special day --- <insert your network relationship's recommendation and passing of your business card here>!

Some very important people (especially in the wedding industry), literally fell into this niche and realized the moment and embraced it. (Think David Tutera)

Be open, conscious and ready to take advantage of your niche should it present itself to you.

Hey, when was the last time you evaluated your business and analyzed what "similarities" or "patterns" existed in your recent business trends? If you haven't done it lately, do it now!

Who knows what niche you will find? It could be the amazing beginning of an amazing career!

Find your niche!


Non Profit Holiday Boutiques - How to

I was recently asked to help a volunteer organization get started and to market their Holiday Boutique. The woman asking for help had never done it before and she was scared to death. So, I offerd pro bono advice. Here's what I have told her so far:

What I need to know to get started are the basic W’s: Who, What, Where, When and Why!

So, for starters, when is the event?

Where will it be held?

Who benefits from the sales?

What form of payment is accepted (cash, credit card, checks)?

How many different vendors/crafters will be at the event?

What types of items will be on sale at the event?

How many years has the event been taking place?

Are there any really unusual products offered at the event?

Are all items hand- made? Or are resale items allowed?

What is the price range of items for sale?

Why should people attend the event and spend money? List some things that the money earned can/will be used for:

Is there a marketing/advertising budget? If so, how much is allocated for literature, signage, promotion, etc.?

Have you gathered names, emails or addresses of past customers? If so, how many names do you have?

Who have been your best customers from the past? Hospital visitors? Volunteers? Staff? General Public?

What “free” publications can you advertise in? Are there newsletters? Volunteer Mailings? Etc. ?

Is there a theme or title for this year’s event? Some times a catchy name helps—like “White Christmas”, “Holiday Shopping Made Easy”, Etc?

Any other info that you feel would be helpful like what signage you are allowed to do at the hospital, what other forms of marketing/advertising has been done in the past, etc?

So, although this is obviously JUST THE BEGINNING, the overall advice for those of you doing something (this applies to a business problem as well as a marketing problem) is to start by identifying what you are doing, what's the goal, when are you doing it - this will drive deadlines for activites leading up to event, who cares about what you are doing - this will help you determine your stake holders or potential targeted customer list and advertising sources, what is unique about what you are doing (or trying to solve) and what obstacles are in your way to accomplishing your goal.

If you START here, you will see in very short order that a natural plan of what needs to be done, how many people you need to do it, who needs to be involved and what tools you will need. It really is a universal starting point for all projects...and you don't need complicated project plans to do it --- although-- if you are involved with a technology project-- it is almost a given that it will be expected -- so suck it up and get a good grasp of the most widely used project software;)

Happy Holidays and Holiday Boutiques;)

Why I Started This Blog

I get questions all the time .... at parties ...via emails ...via phone ...and even professionally as a consultant. One of the "answer seekers" recently said, You are like the Dear Abby of Business - especially Marketing. No matter what I ask you, or what the situation is, you have the right solution."

This got me to thinking... why don't I create a place where people can ask me random business and marketing questions and I'll try to help them out. Now, keep in mind, my suggestions and answers are just that...suggestions.But, I am happy to help someone out if I can and this is a more universal way to do just that. So those of you who hit me up at birthday parties, cocktail hour, etc., now have a "specific" place to ask your questions and let's just enjoy social time together, ok?! LOL

So, I'll either start a topic and you can comment and I'll respond, or, you can send me your question and I will answer. Keep in mind that your question and my answer may be posted on the blog to help others. But, if you ask me to keep your identity confidential, I will.