The Marketing Essentials Toolkit

by: William Gennuine on

If you build or repair anything, you know the value of having just the right tool. And while having a fancy specialty tool is cool, there is simply no replacement for the requisite hammer, saw and wrench. It's the same with marketing. We love the cool tools but there are some things that no company can do without.

Have a look ...

1. A logo. Whether it is basic text such as in Sears, Home Depot or Microsoft, or designed symbol such as in Nike, Starbucks or Volkswagen, you simply must have a logo. In creating the logo, please - for our sake and the sake of the world at large - make it high contrast, easy-to-read in two seconds or less and reasonably uncomplicated. Once you've created it, leave it alone for a very long time so the market can actually begin to associate the logo with you and what you do. Finally, use it consistently and persistently in everything you do.

2. A website. Whether it's a single page or whether it allows the world to know everything there is to know about you, you simply must have a website. And while we understand that a website is a very techie-feeling thing, please do not seek out an IT person or company to build or maintain it. With apologies to our technical friends, a website should be open and easy for you to manage. After all, the user could care less about Java script or CSS. They really just want to hear from and about you. Content is what they care about, not technology.

3. Email. You simply have to have one. And please use your web address (called a domain) rather than [email protected] or [email protected]. Sure they work, but they just aren't as professional as using your own name. By not communicating using your own domain, you give up the opportunity to keep your name in front of people. Keep in mind, however, that a domain and a website, while related, are two separate processes.

4. Business cards.  Once you have your logo, your website and your email using your own domain, get some business cards. And avoid cheesy at all cost. As with any design, less is more. Don't cram the card with every possible bit of information. Make your logo dominant, add your name, possibly your title, definitely your office phone number and even your cell phone number, your email address and your website address. Unless it's critical information, you can often leave off the address and the fax number. Get at least 100 cards and give them away at every opportunity.

5. A basic brochure. Avoid writing a book. Give enough information for the reader to understand what you do but set it up so they call you or go to your website to get the details. Make it visually strong with great images and minimal text. Please stay away from tri-folds. They are so ordinary and boring and are easily hidden in the average stack of mail. We love oversize pieces, custom cuts or custom folds.  Even a double-sided, non-folding brochure can be effective. Give it a try.

You have to respect the ad agency that recommended the AFLAC duck.

by: William Gennuine on

This week we had sales reps from AFLAC stop in to share the benefits of their insurance plans for our growing company. They were professional and very helpful, and we may take a look at their products. Please don't tell them this, but what really stood out to me during their presentation was that big, white duck.

As they flipped through their presentation binder I just couldn't help but focus on the duck — that silly bird that has become the iconic symbol of AFLAC. While the duck is now well established as the symbol of the company, as a marketing guy who regularly makes recommendations on company branding, it made me reflect on the courage and vision of the agency that stood up before the executive management of AFLAC to make a recommendation of a duck  as the brand in an industry known for its conservatism and status-quo mentality.

Here's the picture in my mind...

Ad agency: "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time today as we set the course for what will be the public identity for your company."

(stone face stares)

Ad agency continues: "In developing your new brand, we have carefully considered the leadership position that AFLAC has earned in the market and the vision of its executives who have brought us to this moment."

(nods of self-approval).

Ad agency readies for the big moment: "And now, your new brand!"

(pulls the drape off the easel to reveal - a duck)

(stunned silence)

Did it go down like this?  Who knows?  But the point is that suggesting a duck as the leading image of an insurance company had to take guts.

This leads me to the observation that in branding and communications the message is ultimately not about you but rather what the market remembers about you. For AFLAC, we are pretty sure that a duck has little to do with the insurance industry. Had the ad agency followed the safe route, AFLAC would likely be an also-ran insurance company doing business as American Family Life Insurance of Columbus (pardon the yawn). Instead, they are busy touting their climb to the 125th spot on the Fortune 500. Maybe the duck was a good idea after all.

So when it comes to branding, have a little backbone. You just never know where it might lead you.

When the box is as exciting as its contents

by: William Gennuine on

Look, we know it's spring but for a moment, let's pretend it's Christmas time. Let's pretend that we are standing in front of a beautiful Christmas tree surrounded by beautifully wrapped presents. While all of the presents are wonderful, one really stands out. It's larger than the rest. The paper is embossed and catches the lights from the tree. There is a large, hand-tied bow on top and a big gift tag dangling from the ribbon. How exciting!

Can't you just see this gift in your mind's eye? It's impressive isn't it? You can't stop thinking about it, right? You can hardly wait to open it to see what's inside.

Now, back to reality. Wouldn't it be cool if your customers and prospects felt that way when they saw your advertisements, your store displays, your social media and your website? It can happen, but as with our Christmas present, generating that kind of excitement lies in the details.

Here's a real-live example of a case where generating excitement about opening the package was crucial ...

Our firm is interested in supporting the promotion of our wonderful Louisiana seafood, especially as it relates to changing misunderstandings about how last year's oil spill affected - or didn't affect - the quality, safety and availability of our seafood. There are organizations right now are seeking help from companies like ours to change perceptions and restore demand for Louisiana seafood. We just recently submitted a proposal to one such organization.

We knew going in that there would be others who were very qualified to help in this project, so we knew that what we did had to be special. We knew the organization reviewing the proposals would have dozens of responses and lots to consider. They would, in effect, be standing in front of our figurative Christmas tree looking at dozens of packages to be opened. Our goal was to make sure that our package stood out from the rest and that from across the room, they could see it and wonder what lay inside.

Here's what we did ...

The Box
- No ordinary box would do for this proposal! Since the organization was all about seafood, the box we used to pack and ship our proposal was an actual seafood packing box. It was white, wax coated and stamped with the message "Fresh Seafood" right on the box. Anyone in the seafood industry would recognize it immediately as being the real deal.

The Label
- As if the box were not enough, we created our own label to look like something that would come with fresh seafood. But rather than the expected "Perishable, fresh seafood inside," ours read: "Perishable, fresh ideas inside." We also added our own Certified Cajun label to let them know that we were the real deal in matters of all things Louisiana.

Inside the Box
- Our proposals were the main content of the box. But these were no ordinary proposals. No, these were vacuum sealed in plastic just as you would find fresh packed shrimp or crawfish. Not only was this a visual tie-in to seafood, it also protected our proposals from the real ice packs we used to pack the box - a not-so-subtle differentiation from hopefully anything else that the organization received.

Other Stuff
- Just to make the point, the box also was filled with a good supply of plastic seafood just in case our messaging was somehow overlooked.

The Proposal
- All of the clever packaging in the world is pointless if there is no substance to the product. Our proposal was deeply designed, an easy read but chock full of the information the organization asked  for.

Did we succeed? We think we did, at least in getting our package noticed. We know this because when it was delivered, the recipient did what we hoped he would: he opened it immediately and touched the ice packs, and he commented - albeit generically - on the presentation. 

Not a bad start, and it all began with the package.


by: William Gennuine on


How do you like our use of different colors in the title of this week's Marketing Minute? Annoying, isn't it? Possibly even bordering on obnoxious. But in true Marketing Minute style we are using eleven different colors to draw your attention to the absolutely essential requirement of consistency in your branding, marketing and advertising.

Here's why...

In marketing, you are constantly competing for space in the minds and hearts of your market. This is true whether you are Coca-Cola or Slop-E-Joe's Barbecue Shack. (we just made that name up so apologies is there really is a Slop-E-Joe's out there somewhere) Success in gaining ground in that mind and heart space starts by making it ridiculously simple for someone to recognize you immediately whenever and wherever they encounter your brand.

Here are three rules to guide you.

Rule 1 - create a brand that is clear, simple and recognizable.
Rule 2 - don't allow your latest flight of creative fancy to mess up a perfectly good brand.
Rule 3 - use the un-messed-up brand with perfect consistency as to colors, font styles, images and tag phrases every time, all the time.

By following these three important rules, you are avoiding creating confusion about your brand in a marketplace where confusion is already the norm.

So whatever you do, when it comes to your marketing, advertising and branding,

Stay Consistent! :)

Get Out of the Board Room and Into the Chat Room

by: William Gennuine on

This week's marketing minute goes out to all of the big shots - you know who you are - who have pretty much written off this social media thing as a passing fad, not worthy of their attention, the realm of their teenage daughter whose main focus is growing virtual crops and creating polls about which "Twilight" vampire she's most like. But alas, oh Great Ones, be cautious in your judgments since the truth is that social media, in the right hands, is a very powerful and relevant business tool that even grownups like yourself can learn to use.

We made the statement in last week’s Marketing Minute that success in social media is all about quality content. So the question becomes then, from whence doth quality content come? To answer that question, let’s visualize a scenario that we think will make the point.

Let’s all go to an imaginary meeting of some board of directors. In your mind’s eye, scan the boardroom table and who do you see? Is it the administrative assistants? No. (Even though we all know that without the AAs no one at the table could have found anything they needed to get ready for the meeting.) Is it the delivery drivers? No. (They’re out making money for the company right now.) It’s the big cheeses, the CEO, top managers, key investors, owners and founders of the company, and so on. And why, we playfully ask, are these particular people at the table? It’s because it is these people who have the insights and knowledge that is most relevant to the company, and, by extension, to the market in which they operate. Stated differently, it is these people who are the owners of QUALITY CONTENT.

These people are also often the public face of your company, and are the persons customers most want a relationship with. Why not consider giving them a voice through a company blog? A blog that is written with true personality makes readers feel like they know and trust you. It is, after all, these people who are assumed to have the greatest knowledge and the credibility. For example, when you get sick, whose advice do you seek, the doctor or the receptionist?

But don't just assign the blog to the secretary or the student intern. In many cases it should be the CEO writing the blog. Yes, we know the CEO's time is valuable, but so is that of your readers so don't waste it with insights that are just veneer. An enthusiastic and personable CEO bursting with insights into your industry is better advertising than you can buy.

When the CEO Shouldn't Blog
Not every CEO should have a blog. A good blog is based on candor, urgency, timeliness, pithiness and controversy. If your CEO can't commit to regular blogs that include at least four of those items, try another medium or choose another employee, or, better yet, hire an insightful and innovative PR firm. (We just happen to know of a great one right here in town.) The point is casual interaction with customers/readers, so your blog must be written in your voice and not in that of a press release or annual report!

Make sure your competition never finds out about this

by: William Gennuine on

All effective marketing is based on research. Anything else is just a guess. Sorry, but that's just the way it works.

So you say that you don't know how to do research on things like the size of the market, what people are spending money on, the average education level, what most people do for a living and other key facts that help you determine what to market, when and to whom.

Well, fear not! Research help is on the way.

We'd love to take credit for bringing you some secret source of market research, but kudos really have to go to the South Louisiana Economic Council and their partner in economic development, Entergy Louisiana. Together these folks make it a snap to get some really great information about the market your company serves.

It's all part of the Bayou Region Site Selection website, a site designed primarily to attract new business into the region but absolutely packed with great information under the Parish and Community Profiles section. 

Here's a list of the cool things that await your mouseclick.

A great map view of the region that is clickable to go to any of the four parishes of Assumption, Lafourche, St. Mary or Terrebonne.
  • Profiles of each of the parishes or individual communities with each parish
  • Population details
  • Workplace data, and
  • Spending patterns.
If that's not enough, the site even gives you the option to create a custom report and view it as a graph or export it in Excel.

Very cool stuff and absolutely free. Check it out now!

The Power of Friendship

by: William Gennuine on

Does this sound familiar?

Hey. Have you tried that new restaurant in town?

Yeah. A friend from work ate there Saturday and they said it’s really good. The place was packed but the service was good and they had some really interesting things on the menu.

Cool. I think we’re going to try it tonight. Thanks.

Based on this conversation, would you be willing to give this new restaurant a try? We guess that you would, and, frankly, so would we.

But did you notice that something was conspicuously absent? Did you notice that marketing, in the traditional sense of the word is nowhere to be seen in this exchange? No $3 million-a-minute Super Bowl ad, no Hollywood spokesperson, nothing really but a casual – yet powerful – affirmation that is almost certain to result in a new customer for the restaurant.

Could there be something here? You bet there is. It’s the power of a legitimate referral, not made by you, but done on behalf of you from a trusted source. It’s called referral marketing and it is powerful stuff when done right.

So how does it work?

To begin with, you really do have to have something of value. No marketing can make up for a poor experience and, in fact, if you really don’t have something that can legitimately be referred, stay away from encouraging referrals until you do since failing to live up to an expectation is worse than having never created the expectation in the first place.

But when you do have something great, make it easy for others to share it. While there are many ways to do this, some methods clearly stand out. Email marketing, for example, is a great way to allow persons to refer to a friend. Sure, they can just hit the forward button on their email, but it’s far better to embed within the email an opportunity to forward to a friend. With Constant Contact, for example, forwarding to a friend is not only easy, but doing so allows you to collect new contacts to allow your distribution list to grow over time.

Another method is to get social. Social media by definition is a perfect medium to get others to share information about you. What you are looking for here is a Facebook fan page that is about your company. Be careful not to try to use a personal Facebook page to promote your business since Facebook frowns on the practice and may cut you off for doing so.

What the two methods have in common is the ease of making the referral and the potentially unlimited number of times a referral can be made with absolutely zero time and expense on your part. You also gain the ability to track referrals depending on the method you choose. In any case, referrals done electronically are huge and provide an effective and affordable way for you to get your message out.

So what more can we say other than, if you enjoy reading our Marketing Minute, we would be most grateful if you would, Tell a Friend.

When you’re ready to have a one-on-one conversation with a few thousand people, give us a call at 985.446.6088 or complete our request form.

Until next week. 


A Mass Market of One

by: William Gennuine on

It is sometimes said that the sweetest sound is that of our own voice. What this means is that if you want someone to really pay attention, talk to them, about them. But in marketing, where the mediums of communication often include billboards, television commercials, newspaper advertisements and radio ads, there is a fundamental conflict in doing this – by design, these mediums are designed to reach the broadest possible audience with the broadest possible appeal. But in successful marketing, saying the wrong thing to the wrong audience is worse than saying nothing at all. So what’s a company to do?

Here are some suggestions.

Start by recognizing that your total market is actually made up of a bunch of smaller markets, each with its own set of characteristics and preferences. It’s called segmentation and it’s key to identifying who your market is and what they are interested in. It’s the foundation of approximating the experience of talking just to them about what interests them the most.

Take me as an example. I am an avid guitar player. Not a great guitar player, but an avid guitar player just the same and I love to get advertisements about guitars. So you would think then that guitar stores should be loading me up with whatever guitar-related message they can, right? Well, not quite right. To begin with, I am not just a guitar player, I am an acoustic guitar player and I have very specific preferences as to the brand and type of guitar I like. So any guitar store that sends me catalogs about their latest ax-shaped shredder guitar is just going to annoy me and cement in my mind a commitment to stay as far away from their products as possible. However, send me something about the anniversary line of solid wood, spruce-top Martins, Guilds and Gibson flattops and you have my undivided attention for hours! Get the point?

If all of this sounds hard, don’t worry. It’s not as hard as you might think, but it does require that you have the right tools at your disposal to identify and get in front of the right audience with your message. Advertisers are getting really good at this with cable, website and newspaper advertising, bringing on some very sophisticated techniques to help you get the right message to the right person at the right time.

Take our friends over at Charter Cable, for example. Got a new Cajun Seasoning Blend? They can drop your message right in the middle of the Paula Deen Show on the Food Network right alongside the Kraft Mac and Cheese spot. And it won’t be people in Minnesota seeing it, either, it will be the people in our community who can then get right up and walk into Rouses to get a can of the stuff.

Our buds at the Courier/Comet can do something similar as well based on key words you use to look up a story. Type in “sports scores” for example and, in addition to the latest scores, you’ll see information about the latest and greatest in sports and exercise equipment available locally. Many other great examples exist.

So when you’re ready to have a one-on-one conversation with a few thousand people, give us a call at 985.446.6088 or complete our request form now.

Until next week.

Getting recognition for getting it right

by: William Gennuine on

In this week's Marketing Minute, we are going to break from our normal focus on you to a momentary focus on us. We almost never talk about ourselves but we just have to share with you some very exciting news! 

As you may know, our firm is a certified partner with Constant Contact, one of the original email marketing companies in the world and an undisputed leader in that industry. We use Constant Contact to create the Marketing Minute you are now reading.

Well, apparently someone up there noticed what we have been doing on behalf of our clients with Constant Contact and awarded us their prestigious All Star Award. It’s not like we won the Oscars of email marketing or anything like that but in the field of consistently adhering to best practices in email marketing to get tangible results for clients, we stand pretty tall.

Here's what they said about us...

Kudos to you! As a Constant Contact Business Partner, you helped your clients do email marketing the way it's supposed to be done in 2009. You helped them stay in touch with their customers or members with regular email communications. You made sure their contact list was up to date and that everyone on it gave permission to receive emails. Finally, you helped them deliver engaging information that their audience was eager to receive, open, and read.

It goes without saying that we are both proud and excited to have been recognized with this award. What's really important, however, is not that we received the award but rather that we received a solid affirmation that what we are doing with email marketing is effective for our clients.

So, congratulations to us, but more importantly, congratulations to the 50-plus companies that we’ve helped tie into the affordable and effective world of email marketing with Constant Contact.


Does your billboard pass the 70 mph test?

by: William Gennuine on

Billboards are a wonderful thing. First of all, they are big which means that they are pretty hard to ignore. Second, they provide you with something to do in an otherwise uncommitted moment of driving or while you are waiting for the light to change, when your mind is generally free to read and hopefully absorb the message.

Billboards are, however, a fairly high-dollar item in your marketing budget, with costs running from several hundred dollars to over $1,000 per month with most board companies requiring contracts that last several months or longer. As with any form of marketing, the consideration of whether to do a board or not isn’t really a matter of “what does it cost” but rather “what does it return?” For a billboard, the return typically is measured in the number of “views” or the number of times someone drives by and sees your message. In a high-traffic area, the number of views can be quite substantial, numbering into the thousands per day.

Knowing that boards can be expensive and needing to provide a strong return on your investment, it is critical that the board have very strong graphics and provide a very clear message. The measure of whether you’ve succeeded in developing strong design and messaging for your board is judged by what we call the 70 mile per hour test. Here’s how it works…

Hop into our virtual car and let’s take a road trip to, let’s say, Baton Rouge. (seatbelts on please) So there we are, cruising down I-10 at the posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour, and our eyes are momentarily drawn to the right as we pass a billboard at, you guessed it, 70 miles per hour. Basically that’s about all the time we had to read that board as we whizzed by. It’s roughly equivalent to the time it takes to snap your fingers once. Not a lot of time, is it? But that’s the point.

For a billboard to be effective, our car riders must be able to completely absorb the message, in its entirety, within a very, very compressed time frame. This condition has everything to do with how the message of a billboard is designed. So here are the rules that will help your board pass the test.

1. Less is more. Because boards are fairly expensive, the temptation to “get your money’s worth” by loading the board with twenty bullet points of information is strong. Don’t do it. Keep the message very simple and very easy to understand.
2. Understand that the primary thing a billboard can do for you is create a general awareness that you exist, not necessarily to advertise a specific thing. Sure you can do a board to support your March Madness Sale, but what do you do with the board on April 1st? The point is that boards have a long shelf life and, accordingly, are best used to simply say, “We are here! We are here! We are here!” versus trying to advertise something that has a definite expiration date.
3. Identify yourself immediately. It amazes us how times we see boards that do a beautiful job of conveying a message but relegate the basic brand identity to some small corner of the board. Big mistake. Doing so simply tells the market to do, well, nothing. If you want a good example of strong branding on boards, look for the beer boards. There is absolutely no doubt when you approach these boards that the sponsor is Miller or Bud or whatever because the branding is so dominant. Whether you like beer or not, these boards are a good example of strong branding using billboards.
4. And finally, ask for something. It’s called a “call to action” and you cannot assume that the reader will get it. But don’t forget the 70 mile per hour test. What you ask them to do needs to be very clear and very direct. Good asks include, “Call 800-888-8888 today!” or “” or something that the reader can grasp quickly.

Ready to get on board? Give us a call at 985.446.6088 or complete our request form now.