Tag Archives: advertising

How To Launch A Platform In Five Minutes Or Less—Really.

Spotlight II

HOW TO LAUNCH A PLATFORM IN FIVE MINUTES OR LESS—REALLY.

   One day shortly before the 2016 election, I was listening to a radio talk show when a young woman called to comment on something the host was saying. I’d tell you who it was but it really doesn’t matter; pick a host with a live, syndicated, nationwide talk show with tens of millions of listeners and you get the idea. But here’s what happened: In the course of the discussion, the young woman mentioned that she had a blog, although she didn’t presume to plug it (it would’ve been deleted on the 7-second delay) and so the host sort of sighed and then asked whether she’d like to mention the name of her blog. Well, who wouldn’t? So she did. (Although it took four mentions before listeners could really catch the domain name because she had “blogspot” or some silly thing in the name. Don’t do that.) At any rate, she finally gets the site name out, makes her comment and hangs up. The host sighs again and says, “Of course, her site will crash because right now millions of people are trying to get on there, but give it a little time and she’ll be up and running again.”

   Platform launched!!

   The iconic “platform”—it goes by many names: your “soapbox,” your “arena,” your “spotlight.” Shakespeare said it best. “’All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…’” (As You Like It).  But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is it good or bad that, according to Will, we’re all on a “stage” trying to “make it”? What stage? And make what?

  No doubt Will was being sarcastic but maybe he was just a writer who saw the reality of the theatre market of his time: Write something the public will like—and pretend to like it. Maybe he was railing against the “platform” requirements of his day. Granted, he didn’t have much in the way of social media to work with but still, early on, even he was required to grow a following in order for his plays to be enacted on stage. He felt the burn. And it’s a Catch 22, is it not? Unless you have “name recognition” or a “social following” or a “platform,” you can’t get a record deal or get published or find a business investor. In other words, unless you’ve already achieved some sort of recognition, you can’t do the thing that would get you the recognition. And why?

   Money.

   Annoying? Maybe, but it’s not about the money; who doesn’t want some? I can’t blame the producers or the publishers or the investors. But I guess what started me thinking about this whole “platform” thing was a blog post I recently read (by a guy whose name I can’t remember) about the essential futility of even trying to build a platform. Evidently he’s a writer who’s achieved some sort of success, but he said that in spite of all the years he’s spent blogging and tweeting and making Youtube videos, it really doesn’t much work. And since that’s the case (he said), we should really only do those platform-building things we enjoy because in the end, it’s all just a waste of time anyway.

   Don’t get me wrong—I really don’t have any problem with the concept of building a platform so you can sell that CD or book or business. What I have a problem with is how you’re supposed to do it. Spending days and weeks and months tweeting and commenting and posting video bites is not my idea of tons of fun. Or any fun. Instead, being a former advertising/promotions’ person, I happen to believe there are easier and more effective ways to build name recognition and platform. Just plain advertising, for example, works. That’s why it’s been around since the dawn of time. (What do you think those cave drawings were for?)

Let’s be honest: The care and feeding of a platform is going to cost you either time or money. Which do you value more?

   Will advertising take some cash? Absolutely, but you know what they say: “You have to spend money to make money.” And that’s true. But face it—you’re spending it anyway, aren’t you? Buying your own books or CD’s to pass out, or giving away a free product or service so people know you exist? Of course, that’s how the game is played. But what if, instead of spending $ that way, you spent it on a publicist who would get you on radio or TV?

   I once heard a publisher talk about how a writer invested in a publicist who got a very famous TV commentator (think ten million viewers) to do a five-minute plug of the author’s book; the very next day, it sold 18,000 copies. And how much did it cost the writer? Only three thousand dollars! (If you’re not aware, that’s an incredible deal.) Throw in a couple more grand for the publicist and the writer essentially bought an instant platform and name recognition for under 5K. Think that’s too much? Every day in this country, thousands of people spend ten times that much starting up businesses. Promotion is simply part of the cost of doing business and your book or CD or work-from-home “cottage industry” is a business.

   Next question: “Just how am I supposed to get the money to do this, Missy? I ain’t rich, you know!” I know. Neither am I. But how many weeks or months would you have a work a part-time job to bank a few thousand dollars? Not too many. Not as many years as you’ll spend tweeting and commenting and posting quotes on Instagram. Or, just do what the girl did: Call a famous show and plug your site. Just make certain before you do it that you have a web or blog and a Twitter account and a FB page because those are the tools you’ll need to take that five minutes of instant stardom and turn it into a permanent platform. But however you get the world’s attention, just make darn sure that when folks come looking for you, they find something—content or product-wise—that makes them want to come back for more. Like the girl did.

   She’s my hero.

 

 

 

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“Promotional Anxiety Disorder”—It’s Really A Thing.

Promotional Woman II - FREE

“PROMOTIONAL ANXIETY DISORDER”—IT’S REALLY A THING.

   Have you ever heard of Eve’s Garden Café? No? No one else has, either. That’s because Eve never promoted it.

   Would you rather have your fingernails pulled out with pliers than have to promote your business or book or “brand”? You’re not alone; many people who love their businesses still hate promoting them. And it’s not unusual to feel uncomfortable doing that. However, as any successful businessperson, agent or publisher will tell you, promoting your biz is not just a “nice” idea, it’s the difference between success and failure.

   Now for the good news: promotions don’t have to be scary. Rather, it can be fun to promote your business or your brand (and even if you’re job seeking, you have a brand: you). Just recognize two things: the fears surrounding promotions and the ways to overcome those fears.

   Fear #1: “I don’t have what it takes.” Let’s face it, not everyone has a “salesman” personality, meaning not everyone naturally feels comfortable pitching their product or service to others. The fact is, when we think of a successful salesperson, we sometimes make two wrong assumptions. First, we assume a person has to be obnoxious in order to succeed in sales, and second, we think that a person is either born a salesman or not. But both are myths. Still, we think these things are true so we fear even trying. After all, we’ll fail. And then we’ll look stupid. Or we’ll tick people off because we’re too pushy. And we’ll look stupid some more. And then we’ll hurt our business because who wants to do business with stupid? Right?

   Wrong.

Being pushy is only one way of selling something; it’s not the only way, and it’s not the most effective way.

   Fear #2: Fear of failure. Let’s be clear: If you’re passionate about your business (and who’s not?), then you’re halfway to being a good promoter. The other half is simply telling people what’s great about your business (or book or brand). Tell lots of people—and then leave it alone. You don’t have to be aggressive or arm-wrestle them into buying your product/service or signing your book or hiring you; just hand them a business card, offer to answer any questions they may have, and smile. That’s all. They’re adults, if they want to do business with you, they will. But here’s the key: the more people you tell, the more customers you’ll get. It’s like planting seeds; who goes out to plant a garden and plants only one seed? (If you do, no offense, but that’s why you don’t have a garden.)

   Will you convert every conversation into a sale? No. But that doesn’t mean you’ve failed—no one turns 100% of their pitches into sales. If they tell you otherwise, they’re lying. Just begin your conversations with a simple, “May I tell you about my product or service?” If you’re required to present your pitch in writing, make certain it’s the best proposal, query, or resume you can. And if you don’t know how to write one, find someone who does and learn.

   Fear #3: Spending money. As the old saying goes, “It takes money to make money.” A portion of your budget should be allocated to advertising and promotions. However, if your budget doesn’t allow you to invest much, there are a few inexpensive things you can—and must—have. First, get a logo for your business. A logo is simply a uniform presentation of your business name and can be as simple as finding a computer font and color you like and typing your name. “Coke,” for example, is just one word, but it always  looks the same; that’s a logo.

   A logo can be more elaborate with pics, etc. but it doesn’t have to be, and you can DIY or hire someone. Regardless, your logo should be on all your promotional materials because it helps customers to visualize and remember your biz name.

   The same is true of a business card—you must have a nice business card. They’re not expensive; you can get 500 or so for $10-$30 on sites like GotPrint.com or VistaPrint.com. I designed and got my own four-color, glossy cards for around $35 (and having the company design your card doesn’t cost much more). These companies also offer brochures, signage, banners and any other print thing you might need. However, whatever you can design on a computer, like letterhead with your logo, do yourself.

   A website is also a must-have but here’s a tip: you don’t need an actual “website” for a stunning-looking site with multiple pages, pictures, social media links, etc. All you have to do is to choose a free (yes, free) “blog” site from somewhere like WordPress. You can pick from hundreds of styles and then choose options to make the site your own. Just pay for your domain name from somewhere like domain.com for $10 a year!! (If you don’t want to pay for a domain name, you can get a free one from WordPress but it’ll have “wordpress” in the name and I don’t recommend that.)  I pay $18 a year for my DestinyHighway.com domain name and not one penny for this WordPress blog site you’re reading.

   Now, for the disclaimer: If you want lots of other things on your site that involve code, you may have to go with a web designer to put it all together. That will cost up to quite a bit more so do your research first. The point is you may not need to do all that.

   NOTE: When choosing a business name, ALWAYS check domain.com to see if your business name domain has been taken!! DO NOT PRINT ANYTHING UNTIL YOU DO!! Just type in YourBizName.com to see if it’s available. (And try to get “.com” because that’s what people are used to typing in.)

   Social media is another must-have and accounts are free! While you may not be on all social media, begin with the major players: if nothing else, a Facebook business page should be a priority and then Twitter if you want to push special promotions on your FB page. If your biz includes products or services that will benefit from pictures, have an Instagram account.

   And did I mention that it’s all free?

   Industry trade shows are another great way to reach customers actually searching for the products and services you offer. Just buy space at these shows and you’ll meet these potential customers in person. Trade shows include bridal fairs, home and garden shows, health and wellness fairs, and car shows as well as lots of others. Granted, these can cost hundreds of dollars for exhibit space but, like any investment, while not guaranteed, there should be a return on your money. My rule for making any kind of investment, whether it’s promotions, products or anything else is this: “What can I afford to lose if this investment doesn’t work?” If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t spend it.

   Want low-cost ways to market your business? Mailing lists or databases of potential customers can start at relatively low prices and then, to save on postage for mailings, look into bulk rates. Also, check out radio and television sponsorships for news, weather, or special programming which tend to cost much less than actual 30 or 60-second ads.

   I could go on but you get the point: promoting your business is easy and fun! Plus there’s nothing like seeing a professional-looking postcard, website, sign or vehicle ad with your name and logo on it! In-person selling is just a small part of promotions and you don’t have to be a pro salesperson to talk up your business.

   So pick a promotion and get busy because one thing will always be true: You can have the best product or service on the planet but if no one knows about it, it won’t sell. Period. But once they know about it, there’ll only be one thing you’ll have to worry about…

   Can you keep up?

 

 

 

What’s Up with “Image” Ads? How NOT to Market Your Business.

baby-with-tatoos

          Having worked at an ad agency once upon a time, I can almost tell when a television or radio ad was conceived by a bunch of people sitting around a conference table and brainstorming the pitch. Take, for example, that Laughing Cow cheese. (You know – the little, individually wrapped one-bites that cost more per mouthful than a Mercedes?)  Did you ever wonder how in the world they came up with the name “Laughing Cow”?  I don’t know for certain because I wasn’t there, but I’m willing to bet it went something like this:

            “We need a unique name – something that stands out from all the rest.”

            “Okay, then that rules out any use of ‘diary,’ ‘farm,’ or ‘cheese’ – although it is cheese. How about we focus on it being healthy?”

            “Cheese? Healthy? Are you kidding? No one in Alabama, the ‘deep-fry’ capital of the world’ would even buy that! The only thing with a higher fat content is bacon.”

            “He’s right. Why do you think they only wrap one bite at a time?”

            “And with all that wrapping, we can’t even tag it as convenient.”

            “That’s for dang sure!”

            “So what image are they trying to sell?”

            “Well, it tastes good.”

            “What cheese doesn’t? What else you got?”

            “How about the whole comfort food thing? It makes you happy!”

            “That might work, but how are we going to sell ‘happy’?” (Smirk.) “It’s not like we can hire a laughing cow!”

            Silence.

            “Why not??”

            “That’s perfect!”

            “I know just where we can get one…!”

            And the rest is advertising history. But let me ask you this: If you’ve ever bought that cheese, was it because the cow was laughing?

            I thought not.

            The thing about “image” advertising is that the client and agency want you to focus more on how the product or service makes you feel than on the selling points of the products themselves. And one of the biggest markets for this? Women. See, according to image, women don’t make decisions with their heads; it’s all emotion. So if Madison Ave. can just make women “feel” good about a product, they’ll buy it. They don’t care how much it costs, how long it lasts, or whether it even works! And don’t worry about their husbands; they’ll buy anything their wives tell them to buy…

            Don’t believe me?

            It all started a couple of decades ago with “The Softer Side of Sears” campaign. That’s us women, by the way – apparently, we’re soft (in the head). That ad campaign began to sell “man” things for Sears like refrigerators, mowers, and Craftsman tools. How? Showing women cuddling with their families around the new fridge or tossing a ball with the fam on the freshly-cut lawn or – you get the pic. You’ve seen it enough.

            And then there are the kidlets. I see them in the dumbest ads. One of the early TV ads was the baby placed inside of a Michelin tire (picture an inner tube). “Because so much is riding on your tires.” Remember? The subliminal message: You don’t care about your kids if you don’t buy Michelin tires.

            Since that ad, it’s gotten even more ridiculous. Do you ever wonder how stupid they think we are? (Never doubt that Madison Avenue thinks we’re stupid.) Take a certain insurance company, for instance. Have you seen the ad where there are two moms, each needing an estimate for a damaged car? One mom is an idiot wreck, her three boys running madly around the inside the car mechanic’s dark garage while she pulls her hair out trying to keep them from running under the jacked car? One of them is even missing? Meantime, the other mom is standing serenely in the sunshine, clinging to her two well-behaved children, Statue of Liberty positioned conveniently in the background. The point is that this mom is soooo busy caring for her two well-behaved children that she can’t possibly make it to a garage to get an estimate, so she has to pick an insurance company that does it for her. News flash, mom: You probably don’t want the insurance company picking the garage and getting the estimate for you. Of course you don’t think of that – you’re too busy hugging the kids. Or chasing them around the garage. Here’s another news flash for both you moms: All five of those kids are school aged – which means they’re tied up for seven hours a day, five days a week, ten months of the year. And neither one of you can find time to get to a garage without them??

           Sigh.

          Frankly, the only time I want to see kids in an ad is if someone’s selling diapers, Cheerios or there’s a sale at Toys R Us.

          But the best of the worst are the Subaru ads. They show all kinds of gooey family scenes with lots of kids included and the tagline, “Love – it’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.” Can I just say – I don’t care. I want to know what really makes a Subaru: the brakes, the engine, the speakers – any details would be great. I’d also like to know the price range. I’m not particularly interested in some teenage actress playing somebody’s kid learning to drive. Sorry. To prove my point, I’ve taken my very own poll on that campaign:

Question: Has anyone ever bought a Subaru because love is what makes a Subaru? No? Me either.

           Last but not least – all of the places that “treat you like family”. Am I supposed to pick a car dealership or a dentist or a restaurant because they “treat me like family”? What’s that even mean?? Do I get a free root canal? Are they going to take me to dinner? Pay for the kids’ college? In addition, I don’t care whether it’s a family business or whether it’s been around since the Civil War; that doesn’t guarantee a good product, service or price.

          Maybe you could just focus on the product, service or price?           

          If you’re marketing your business – whatever it might be – may I simply suggest that you stay away from image campaigns that say nothing about your business? Here’s the image those project to any thinking person: Consumers are stupid and easily manipulated. We’re not. So just give us the facts. What do you do or sell? How good are you or your products? What’s the bottom line? That’s all we want to know – despite what the pricey experts are telling you. Want a really original concept? Forget the kids, forget the sappy emotions, forget the “we’re-all-family” routine.

          Just tell the truth.