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Where’s Your YouTube Channel? September 19, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in Becoming A Thought Leader, Digital Media Strategy, YouTube Channel Strategy.
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Do you have your own YouTube Channel for your business?  If yes, congrats to you as you are taking advantage of yet another great opportunity to expand you market presence and brand.  Oh, and you’ll be able to sell more products or services over time too.  If you answered that question with a no, then I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that your business doesn’t have its own YouTube Channel.

YouTube used to be the place were you could see cuddly little animals performing stupid tricks (or sometimes funny ones).  Or it was the place you’d find dumb pranks or really dumb tricks.  It still is but to a much lesser extent than before…especially when Google decided to purchase YouTube and make it part of its product family a few short years ago.  Since them, Google has really revved up the YouTube business engines.  The YouTube of today is moving in the direction of providing original programming, providing an expanded array of advertising options and now a vastly improved (and valuable) analytics package like its great Google Analytics does for websites today.

So, why consider building a YouTube Channel?  For one, YouTube represents a huge organic search engine with literally millions and millions of people scouring for information on just about any topic you can think of (that is legal and not pornagraphic of course).  Think of YouTube as you do with Google’s organic search engine.  Every day people are looking for information products, services, ideas on a wide variety of topics…including whatever it is your business does and how it does it.

I don’t care what business you are in, people are looking for real and valuable information that will in some way help them.  I can also tell you what they aren’t looking for: being sold a product or service…at least not directly like some carnival barker.

Want to see the emerging direction of YouTube?  Check out this channel:

http://www.youtube.com/howcast

Notice that Howcast has over 389,000 subscribers and over 650,000,000 views…something we marketers dream about.  Now, you might not have that many subscribers or views but you certainly can develop a large following in the context of your business model.

Here’s an example of a law firm that has developed a YouTube channel that drives between 30-40% of their new client flow.

http://www.youtube.com/sparandbernstein

Spar and Bernstein has 529 subscribers which is excellent but the telling number is the 742,000+ views the channel has had since it started in 2007.  The video on most of its 546 clips is not the best quality but that doesn’t stop people searching for information on immigration law from finding and watching it.  Brad Bernstein, who in my opinion is not only a top notch immigration attorney but also a marketing visionary.  In 2007, he decided to tape his daily radio show and then post the video clips of the show onto his YouTube channel.  The results over time have been spectacular in the context of driving real business to the firm.  And, if you watch the videos, they are educational as Bernstein is answer live questions from his radio show listener audience.

YouTube.  It’s not the old YouTube you used to know.
Watch for more upcoming posts on establishing a YouTube channel for your business.  You can do it!

The Experience is the Marketing April 12, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Marketing Buzz.
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You want a great marketing strategy?  Create an incredible customer experience and you’ll have the greatest contributor to new and recurring business you could have.  Think about it.  Most business owners and managers think of marketing and promoting their business in the context of spending money on advertising.  While certainly advertising and other forms of marketing your business are key, creating a superior customer experience is the first worthy marketing investment you can make.

This is often a mistake made by new business start-ups who in the heat of battle forget that the experience they create for their customers is the most impressionable and lasting investments they can make.

And it doesn’t much matter that whether you provide a product or service either.  We all know how much Apple pays attention to the user or customer experience.  Every detail of the path their customer takes has been designed and engineered to provide a great and positive experience for the Apple customer.  And yes, Apple spends plenty on traditional advertising and marketing. But I’m willing to bet that the experience of buying from Apple and then working with their products sells more product than the advertising does.

Do you know of a local business where they have created a customer experience that has the impact to keep you going back time and again?

So, for those businesses that compete on price as their primary “marketing” strategy, take note: price is your race to the bottom.

Here are a few things to consider in developing a “marketing experience” for your business:

  • The customer experience begins at the point your prospect or returning customer enters your business – whether through your store or via your website.
  • The first few moments of contact and connection to your business are the most critical.  First impressions are important and immediate impressions are critical.  If the initial impression is negative, you probably have less than a 50% chance of redeeming yourself in front of your customer or prospect.
  • Customer experience has to be designed from end-to-end in order to ensure that the experience is engineered from the time they enter your online or offline store/office to the time they leave.  End-to-end.
  • Layout your customer experience on paper.  You need to be able to describe what positive emotions & attributes you want the customer to get impacted by.  You have to design a flow of experience that incorporates an impression that can be implanted into the customers brain.
  • People within your business provide the most critical impact on a customer.  Make sure that everyone is trained to provide the kind of customer experience that will delight.  If you’ve been to a place like Disney World, you know what I mean.
  • Be flexible and able to adjust your customer experience as you see/hear the reactions from customers. Be willing to test new ways to improve the customer experience.  Look for examples of excellent customer experiences outside of your industry.

Creating an exceptional customer experience is not easy.  If it was, everyone would be doing it and it’s pretty clear most businesses don’t.  A positive customer experience can create customers that stick with you and competitors who can’t follow you.

What Did You Do Today? April 14, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy.
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On my way into lower Manhattan each day, it seems that the Girl Scouts are everywhere.  Not that Girl Scouts are hanging around the Path train station.  Rather, the signage of their current branding and recruitment campaign is everywhere.

You just have to love this campaign.  It positions the Girls Scouts as a modern looking, leadership bound, outside experience, and girl power organization while at the same time it works as a recruitment tool for both potential scouts and leaders.

What did you do today? Just the line itself pulls you inward and makes your think…just what did I do today that helped me and my community?  It’s a powerful use of both imagery and words that strikes a deep cord…at least to me and perhaps many others who trudge everyday into the bowels of Manhattan…spending hours each week just moving in and out of the Big Apple.

I particularly like the global image being projected here.  That the Girl Scouts are not just a USA thing.  The Girl Scouts embrace world cultures and religions.  It’s a statement of both openness and a welcoming nature.  It’s a celebration of women, both older and younger, sharing in the spirit of learning, community, leadership, ambition, and experience.

From a branding point of view, this campaign is a textbook example the simplicity and power of imagery married with meaningful, powerful statement.  Clean and simple.

What did you do today?

PS:  They cleverly launched this campaign during the annual Girl Scout cookies sale.  Very clever indeed.

Premiums as a Branding Strategy? January 17, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Local Brand Development.
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I have the same dream often.  I’m at a tradeshow and as I go to each booth, I find that there are no premiums for me to scarf up.  Nobody has any of those glo pens or squeezable stress balls that come in every shape imagined by mankind.  Nobody trying to shove another bag at me so I can carry all the plastic promotional items I suck up at each booth.  I wonder.  Is this a nightmare or is this a dream come true?  It depends on which side of the premium business your on.

Let me be the first here to say that I’m not against the use of premium items for tradeshows.  If you can afford it, go for it.  If you expect that a premium is going to help you get more business or, as the premium sellers will tell you, it can extend your brand, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  You’ll be staring at the phone, hoping one of your thousands of premiums you’ve distributed makes the phone ring.  It could happen but the odds are against you.

When was the last time you heard anyone say, “Oh my God.  Those premiums are making the phone ring off the hook!” or “Thanks to my premiums, my small business is now a huge brand in my market!”.  The answer is, you haven’t.  And there’s good reason for that.

In the context of small business enterprises, premiums are a luxury item.  And it doesn’t matter how inexpensive they are either.  It isn’t inexpensive if it doesn’t directly drive business.  When was the last time you called a business using the phone number on their premium pencil.

The problem is, we’ve been so brainwashed that premiums are a ‘must have’ item when you’re looking to promote your business.  If your booth doesn’t offer a premium, you look, well, lame.  How could we have a tradeshow booth without some kind of premium with our name slapped on it?

Large companies, which drive the entire premium market with their huge, annual premium purchases, have the ‘fat’ available to burn.  Small business are generally not in that category.

The other challenge is that the premium industry as created a who army of people who are nothing less than premium freaks.  They come to tradeshows with the goal of getting every free premium they can fit into their premium bags.  I call them ‘tradeshow groupies’. They visit your booth, not even remotely interested in your product or service, only to open their bag wide enough so they can fit your premiums in it.

Do you know where most of those premiums end up after a time?  Shoved in some drawer or thrown out with the trash.

I received a note from a premium vendor the other day who called the use of premiums as a strategy for extending a brand.  Are you serious?  Sure, if you sell premiums, you have to say that.

Here’s another strategy:  Invest your time and money instead on improving your website/blog SEO…that will do much more to further you business than buying inexpensive premiums.

So, the premiums industry goes on its merry way.  Tradeshows will continue to shovel out tons of premiums.  Booth vendors will be pleased, if only because they got rid of the final box of premiums, avoiding having to schlep them back to the office.

Of course, the happiest people are the tradeshow groupies.  They continue to collect their share of the loot.  They’ll get their fix every time.  It’s guaranteed.

In the meantime, the real winners are the vendors who sell premium items.

Do what you will.  Bow to the pressure, either self-inflicted or peer-driven, and buy them if it makes you feel better.  Premiums are in most cases, a ‘nice-to-do’ but when it comes down to it, rarely drive business or branding.

Promotion 101: Educate Your Customers March 18, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies.
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David DirksI always like to review my local paper to see how businesses are handling their display advertising.  I almost all cases, most ads are of the plain vanilla type that your eyes just gloss over.  However, there was one ad that caught my attention.  It caught my attention because it was offering to do something more than sell me something.

What was this ad?  It was from a local paint store called Gervic Paints (www.gervicpaints.com).  They were promoting a seminar called “2009 Colors for Your Home”.   They were promoting something other than the ‘sale of the week’.  They offered door prizes and refreshments.  I later found out that my wife and one of her friends had already signed up for this event.

I’m willing to bet that there will be many interested customers (and potential customers) there and many will walk away with some great insights and ideas for painting their homes.  That’s the idea.  We’ve been telling this story in this blog for a while now.  Sell your expertise in a way that is meaningful and valuable and people will buy your product.

It’s refreshing to see a local business actually promoting itself by promoting it’s expertise.

Retailing Winners: Deep Discounters and Used Re-Sellers January 23, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, business strategy, Increasing Your Profitability, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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David DirksWe should have seen this one coming.  While most of retailing struggles, there are those who are doing just fine, thank you.  I noted a recent cnbc.com report that told the story of Family Dollar Stores with quarterly profits jumping 14% in the 4th quarter of 2008.  Deep discount stores have for a long time been the butt end of business jokes but no more.  If every dog has its day, then this dog is having a good one.  Mind you, stores like Family Dollar and 99cent Power have always done well and only just increase their sales and profit tempo by several fold in tough times like this.

Gamestop is another interesting retailing story.  They sell both gaming hardware and software but with  a twist:  they also re-sell used gaming equipment and gaming software.  Just think of it.  When some people move up to the next system or change systems, they are often stuck with  a substantial inventory of gaming hardware and game cartridges.  However, they realized that there is a very vibrant and growing secondary market for this stuff.  So they buy it outright and re-sell it at good profit.  So far, the kids can’t get enough of this stuff and keep buying and selling.  Gamestop also offers a discount off of new games if you bring one in for trade.  Either way, they make a good profit.

You might be familiar with a franchise called “Play It Again Sports” that buys and then re-sells used sporting good equipment of all kinds.  What an idea!  Take the stuff that we who have kids seem to accumulate in droves, buy it on cheap (we just want to get rid of it not realize an ROI!), and re-sell it to folks who are smarter than we are (because they can buy sports equipment in excellent condition for a fraction of the cost we paid for it).  It’s a great play but especially in times like these where every dollar spent is measured carefully.

What can we learn from these retailers?  Here are a few questions I’d be asking myself:

  • What part of my business could take advantage of this concept of offering deeply discounted or re-selling high quality, slightly used products?  For example, if I owned a retail shop that sold hi-tech equipment (think like a Best Buy but on a smaller scale), I might seriously consider buying slightly used, ‘late-model’, high-quality equipment from folks who are looking to unload it for cash.

I’m not suggesting here that you sell junk.  Leave that to the yard sales to move.  Instead, you are creating another source of incremental sales revenue and profits by way of offering a less expensive alternative to ‘new’.  Don’t worry about selling the new product as there will always be those who will only buy new…however, in these times there are a lot less of them.

  • Don’t get hung up on the concept of selling slightly used products.  Don’t let your pride get in the way of your ability to DRIVE TRAFFIC TO YOUR STORE.  This is about creating another level of differentiation that customers will value.
  • Set up a distinct area of your store or website that offers the re-sale product and promote the heck out of it.  Nine times out of ten if it doesn’t work, it’s because it wasn’t promoted  every way possible.  You can build it but if they don’t know about it, they won’t come.
  • You have to let folks know you are a buyer of product.  You have to market to the people who own the product you want to resell.  If you promote to sell product, you also have to do the same to buy it.
  • Buy low, sell high.  Establish an idea of what the used product goes for on the market given different levels or grades of quality.  Ebay is a great place to start.  Look there to see what used items in that category are going for.
  • Set high quality standards for the used products you buy.  The good news is that you don’t have to buy anything that you deem junk.  Set standards for quality (and safety) that anyone could use to measure whether a used product is worthy of you buying.

This concept of re-selling slightly used product or deeply discounted new product doesn’t fit every business model.  Remember, this is about giving customers and potential customers a reason to come to your store (or retail website).

Small Business Misses New Media Opportunities February 6, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Blogging for Business, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff.
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dirksphoto.jpgStaples (www.investor.staples.com), the office supply people, conduct their annual Staples National Small-Business Survey. Of the many interesting results, one stuck out like a sore thumb to me. In their research, they found that “more than 84 percent said they have not yet incorporated ‘new media’ (blogs, podcasts, virtual meeting software or services) into their business activities.”

What? You mean they’re not taking advantage of creating marketing buzz with a business blog? They haven’t figured out just how valuable a podcast series that is down loaded from their website (if they have one) is to gaining a new customer? What?

I was a bit stunned but I shouldn’t have. Less than two years ago, no one knew what a blog or, even better, a podcast was. Even now, with all the buzz on blogs and podcasts, many people I talk to are in the dark. No lights on at all.

Let’s go small business! The Big Dogz have figured this thing called ‘new media’ out already and are running with it. You need to do the same. Don’t know where to begin? For starters, Google something like “creating a business blog” and “creating a business podcast”. You can do this. New media means that you get a chance to interact and/or give valuable, usable information to your current and future clients.

You need to get it in gear and find out what this ‘new media’ can do for you. There’s more there than you think. Like I said, the Big Dogz are already there.

Delivering Superior Customer Service: The Grand Hyatt of Tampa December 14, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Increasing Your Profitability, Keeping Your Customers, Uncategorized.
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dirksphoto.jpgI’ve just witnessed/experienced a text book example of delivering on superior customer service. At the moment, I’m in Tampa awaiting a flight back home, wrapping up a three day business trip. I’ve been staying at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa during this time. The hotel is a living & working model of creating and delivering consistent superior customer service. By the way, ‘superior’ customer service is defined in my book as that level of customer service that is so obvious that you’d have to be dead to miss it. It’s a level of customer service that you recognize the moment you’re picked up at the airport to the hotel until the time you check out.

Any business, large or small, intent on delivering superior customer service quickly recognizes that it’s your ability to pay attention to the ‘small things’ that makes the difference. It’s the ability to continuously aggregate small but significant ‘moments of truth’ that build on one another during a customers experience with you.

Here are a few examples of the Grand Hyatt in Tampa delivering on superior customer service:

1. Every, repeat, every interaction with any level of Hyatt employees in this hotel was delivered in a consistent fashion. The always friendly smiles, personal & friendly banter, and the constant scanning for opportunities to serve are just a few examples of superior customer service. On the last point of scanning for opportunities to serve, everyone on the staff is trained to find ways to help hotel guests enjoy their moments there. Hotel employee’s are not hiding from guests. Some are even strategically posted around the common areas of the hotel and are constantly scanning the area for opportunities to help customers.

2. The Grand Hyatt has figured out how to insure that all employees are trained effectively to deliver customers service when they are in the line of duty. That’s not an easy thing to do but the Big Dogz do it all the time and invest in it deeply. You can’t create a superior customer service experience by skimping on constant training.

3. It’s clear to me, as a guest of the Grand Hyatt, that they have figured out how to monitor customer service levels constantly. They have to be great at spotting team members who could become the weak link in the customer service chain. Their response to less than superior customer service performance is probably two things: a) retraining the team member and/or b) showing them the door.

4. There were no lulls in the delivery of superior customer service. I noted that no matter what the time of day, early morning or late at night. They, like many of the Big Dogz who are best at this game, have built into their people, culture and business processes, the ability to deliver superior customer service CONSTANTLY, 24/7.

We have choices in our business models:

– deliver awful customer service all the time

– deliver mediocre customer service all the time

– deliver inconsistent customer service all the time

– deliver superior customer service inconsistently

– deliver superior customer service all the time

I could go on and on but you get the idea. There are no ‘secrets’ to consistently superior customer service. It takes a coordinated, dedicated, and well invested focus on the part of everyone in your business, no matter how big or small. By the way, superior customer service has many advantages. Here are a few:

– Creates a ‘buzz’ around your business. The Big Dogz who execute on this are able to create such a high level of service that their customers are a key part of their marketing and sales process. Built in. No extra cost other than your investment of time, money, and intellectual capital on keeping your customer service ‘superior’.

– Allows you to keep your pricing at higher levels. Your customers will come back again and again for the experience. They won’t generally take the next lowest cost provider. They value the customer service experience they get. It’s a loss to them when they can’t get it, for any price.

– Attracts the best and the brightest. No one wants to work with a second rate provider of customer service. Who wants to work for a business who doesn’t care about providing superior customers service? Answer: People who don’t get hired by places like the Grand Hyatt in Tampa.

Is it easy to create superior customer service? No. However, if you want to build a business that will stand the test of time and profitability, you have no choice. Do it.