Low Cost Marketing

The Power and Popularity of Being Small

I love small, locally-owned businesses. I like their uniqueness and their personalities. Plus, I like discovering products from small companies that are hard-to-find and locally-made.

These are the original reasons that I first loved Colorado Native Beer, a beer that is exclusively made here in Colorado, one that can only be purchased right here in Colorado, and one that only uses Colorado ingredients. When I read the description of the beer for the first time on the ColoradoNativeLager.com website, I knew this beer was for me:

“Colorado Native is the only beer in the world brewed with Rocky Mountain water, Colorado-grown barley from the San Luis valley, the oldest strain of brewer’s yeast in Colorado and finished with hand-picked Colorado-grown hops.”

So imagine my surprise when I wanted to take a brewery tour of the AC Golden Brewery in nearby Golden, Colorado, only to learn that there were no tours. This seemed strange, since most of the other small craft breweries I knew welcomed the public to tour their facilities.

After I did a little more searching on the company website, here’s what I learned:

The AC Golden Brewery doesn’t have its own facility and is instead located in a corner of the Coors Brewery, likewise located in Golden.  Hmmm, I wondered: “Why didn’t they just say that this beer was brewed at Coors? Why all the mystery of where it’s brewed and the different brewery name?”

Well, here are some other facts I learned that weren’t shared, nor even printed on the label or the carton of the beer:

  • The AC Golden Brewing Company is a subsidiary of the MillerCoors company, created according to President Glenn Knippenberg, to “serve as a specialty brewing arm of MillerCoors.”

As I did a little more digging, I learned:

  • The MillerCoors Company (the parent company that owns the brewery that makes the Colorado Native beer), is itself a joint venture between the SABMiller Company and the Molson Coors Brewing Company, created in 2007.
  • That the MillerCoors Company joint venture has the responsibility of selling brands such as Miller Lite, Miller High Life, Miller Genuine Draft, Coors, Coors Light, Molson Canadian, and Blue Moon beer in the United States.  The company also coordinates all the brewing for the brands of beer owned by the Pabst Brewing Company.

OK, wait, I thought. Now you’re telling me that the guys who brew Colorado Native also brew all these other beers?  But wait, there’s more:

  • The SABMiller Company (the one that owns MillerCoors, which owns AC Golden, that makes Colorado Native beer) is a British multinational brewing and beverage company headquartered in London, and is the second-largest brewing company in the world. It also sells and brews brands that include Grolsch, Peroni, Urquell, and a bunch of others.
  • Finally, I learned the SABMiller Company operates in 75 countries, sells around 21 billion liters of beer per year (which is the equivalent of 59,174,539,550 cans of beer – I had to use a calculator for that), and had sales of over $31 billion dollars (that’s billion with a B), last year.

So why wasn’t this information shared on the Colorado Native beer website, on the can, or on its packaging?

I can guess that it is not as good of a story to say that a multi-billion dollar conglomerate that owns another multi-million dollar conglomerate that makes a “small craft brew” is in fact, a well-funded, minimally-at-risk venture of securely-employed brew makers, hanging out in a corner of the mother company, trying to act little.

The truth is that being an offshoot of a huge firm has none of the romance, charm, or entrepreneurial start-up feeling of an independent brewery. Consequently, without actually lying about it, large companies work very hard to keep their trendy brands separate from their mass brands. They work hard to build up the unique personalities of the brands and create original folksy stories and show non-slick videos that make them look considerably smaller than they are.

Which brings me back to the independent businesses that I love to support:  Why is it that so many Mom and Pop independent businesses don’t capitalize on their own uniqueness, their one-of-a-kind history, their distinctive personalities, and their own special quirkiness, and milk it for all it’s worth, when big companies are working extremely hard to create this mystique every day?

First, many owners don’t know it’s OK to do it. I think many believe that any eccentric uniqueness that pops up looks unprofessional, and I think that many independents believe that uniqueness doesn’t really matter.

Well, as you’ve seen with Colorado Native Beer, being small does matter. It caused me to originally bond to a beer that felt small and unique, only to later realize I was deceived by a multi-billion dollar conglomerate.

The lesson here: Uniqueness works. Branding yourself as small works. There is a power in being small, and showing it in everything you do.

But most of all, it’s important for independent business owners to tell their own stories, and it’s best you do it right now, before some big company decides to take your story for themselves.

Jon Schallert

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Pinterest: Changing How Customers Shop and How Small Businesses Compete for Customers

I conducted a webinar in Destination University (www.DestinationUniversity.com) last month on how to use Pinterest. I decided I better learn what Pinterest was after I was asked multiple times in January what I thought of it, and I had no clue. Back then, I was totally ignorant of Pinterest. Not anymore.

If you’re still not getting what Pinterest is, think of this: In front of me as I type this article on my office wall is a huge bulletin board, filled with magazine articles, photos, 3” x 5” cards with words on them, all pinned to that board. Pinterest is just like that bulletin board, except you are collecting images from the Internet, and grouping them into collections of your choosing. These collections are called “Boards” and when you decide you like a particular image, you “pin” it (again, just like a bulletin board).

If you haven’t played around with Pinterest, my advice is to try it tonight. Right now, you’ll need an invitation to join Pinterest to start dabbling around in it. If you’re in Facebook, just post that you’d like an invitation to Pinterest, and your friends will invite you. You can also sign in using Twitter.

Once you start trying Pinterest, you’ll probably be hooked. You’ll see why consumers are jumping on its bandwagon, and why a whopping 84% are female users. Here’s even more key information about it:

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing websites in history, and it is the fifth largest social network and the third most popular. It is also the 16th most visited website, ahead of big names like CNN and the Huffington Post. Started in 2009 by Ben Silvermann of Des Moines, Iowa, the earliest people to start using it were females from the Midwest. The explosion of popularity has happened recently: only tens of thousands knew what Pinterest was in 2011, but 4.9 million site visitors used it in November; 11.7 million in January, 2012; and 17.8 million in February, 2012. According to some analysts, it is the fastest independent website to reach 10 million visitors. Best of all, the average Pinterest user spends 98 minutes a month on the site, which is right behind Tumblr and Facebook’s usage numbers, with an average visit lasting 16 minutes.

Pinterest itself is not a large company. They are based in Palo Alto, California (where Facebook is located), with about 20 employees (they hired half their staff in the last 4 months). Obviously, the growth of their company is causing them to scramble, but like most Internet companies, they aren’t worried about generating a profit, given that they are funded by the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (founded by Marc Andreessen, who co-created Netscape) and Jeremy Stoppelman, the CEO of Yelp. With the $37 million they raised last year and their estimated current valuation of $200 million, they aren’t going anywhere.

Why is this Pinterest phenomenon important to a small business like yours? Here are my big 6 reasons:

1. Pinterest is all about visuals and scanning the Internet for images that a person likes. Once they find a photo, a cartoon, or an image they like, they can “pin” it and it starts a process where other people who view the image, start spreading it. In the world of the Internet, this spreading is called viral marketing, just like a cold that self-replicates itself in multiple places. Since it’s really a form of online word-of-mouth marketing, it is less time-consuming than friending people on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, and posting your thoughts on a blog. The ease at which someone can engage with Pinterest makes it a social network that is easy to like, with minimal time commitment involved. It also allows people to connect with others that they might not know as friends, but with whom they have similar interests and style preferences.

2. Large companies don’t know exactly what to do with Pinterest. There are no ads on Pinterest, either, so advertising agencies don’t know how to recommend their clients to use it. Consequently, this is a marketing tool that can have a huge competitive advantage for small businesses that get in and play around with this, while big companies stumble trying to figure it out.

3. Now that Facebook is going to a new timeline configuration (I am doing a webinar on this in Destination University in May also), and Facebook has created a new Pinterest app, there are over 870+ million people who will have access to Pinterest through this linking with Facebook.

4. Pinterest, according to National Public Radio, is one of the top five referrers of web traffic to retailers’ websites. Many of you are retailers, and all of you should have websites. Wouldn’t you like more people to come to your websites? Once there, they can learn about your company, call and find out about certain products, or if you have an e-commerce site, buy directly off of it. Put another way, Pinterest is a powerful mechanism to bring more faces to your business.

5. When you start posting product photos in Pinterest, you’ll notice that you can add a price to the product description, simply by typing the price, preceded by the dollar sign ($). I think (and others concur), that this pricing feature in Pinterest might eventually lead to Pinterest being its own e-commerce site, where people will be able to make purchases directly through Pinterest as an online “shopping cart”. If this happens, those of you who sell products will find this could be a huge boom to your business.

6. Every time an image is uploaded to Pinterest, it can lead directly back to your website. This is critically important because if you have an e-commerce site, or if you’d like to sell more online to people you’ve never met, this linking feature of Pinterest’s could yield huge online traffic referrals to your business.

Hopefully, these 6 reasons are enough to convince you to take this social network seriously.

If this post was interesting to you, think about becoming a member of our Destination University business network. For less than a buck a day, you can stay abreast of the newest, most impactful marketing tools, simply by watching the nearly 100 webinars that are in DU (and more are posted monthly). To learn more about joining Destination University, click here.

Handling Your Great, Good, and Bad Ideas: A 3-Step Process, Part 1

Here’s something that’s critical if you are going to build a better business: learn to act on your great ideas, nurture your good ones, and discard your bad ones.

But this is easier said than done, especially for most owners of businesses.  You see, most owners are extremely creative people with ideas constantly popping up in their heads every day.

Do you recognize yourself?  If so, this blog post is for you.

I see it all the time.  Most owners keep lists and pages of their ideas.  Owners are great note-takers and list-makers. The problem comes finding time to act on those ideas.  Rather than devoting time to work on them (what companies call innovation time, or research and development), most owners work in their businesses and will do anything to NOT work on their ideas.  For example, some owners read trade publications, talk to business owners in their same field, and attend industry conferences, and when they return, they are thoroughly overloaded with more ideas, piles of notes and scribbles of thoughts, and magazines where they’ve highlighted every word in yellow.

Face it. You have more ideas than you need!  And I’m including the bad ideas you get from people who come up to you, knowing very little about your business, who say: “You should do this, if you want to make more money.”

Do the math, and collectively, you have some great ideas mixed in with a bunch of good ideas, about half-a-ton of not so good ideas, and a couple of hundred ideas that you don’t know if they’re good or not, and a few that you wrote down or heard that you don’t understand.

Then, I come around and tell you to reinvent your business as a Destination which really puts you in overload (it shouldn’t; my stuff’s the easiest).

Here is the first step in the process to help you handle your great, good, and bad ideas.

Today I will share the First Idea.  #2 and #3 will appear in this blog in the next two days.

#1 Step: Remember that there is only one you.

“There is only one you”.  What does that mean?  It means that you are limited in what you alone can accomplish as one person.  Your parents used to say “There is only one you” but they meant that you were like a shining star or unique like a snowflake.  And though you might have been and maybe are now, I don’t mean it that way.

Put another way: You are just one person trying to handle too much.

But, you might say, “Wait, it’s not just me!”  You might say this because you have a supportive partner or spouse or good employees who are likewise focused on your business.  Yes, this support is wonderful, but that makes a few more “kind-of-like yous”, and even though your spouse might be infinitely more talented than you and right on the same page, that only means there is at most, just one more than you.

And yes, some of you have brilliant people working for you.  They can take some responsibility for handling different ideas.  But deep down, you know that there is a reason your employees work for you and don’t have their own businesses.  They are not you, and some aren’t even like you. They don’t wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, thinking how to make payroll the next day. They sleep at night while you are up thinking of the hundreds of ideas that caused you to sit up in bed.  They don’t agonize over that customer your business just lost, and that sale that just walked out the door.  Deep down, they are less committed.

Granted, there are other possibilities to have more people help you with your ideas.  You can delegate responsibilities to others (though most owners don’t do this real well because you have a tendency to be a little controlling, oh, snowflake that you are).  Yes, delegation is a possibility.

But let me come back to what I said: There is only one you.  And you know it, and for the most part, the really great ideas that are percolating around up there will have to be put into practice by you.

Tomorrow, we’ll cover the reality of having too many ideas, and what to do about it.

Creating an End-of-the-Year Sales Increase

Want to create a sales increase in your business before the end of the year?  Here are four simple keys that every business owner should be doing right now, but most aren’t.

First, identify the sales increase you would like to have.  This seems obvious, but many owners can’t tell me what percentage increase they would like to achieve by this year’s end.  It’s also important to be specific about the amount of dollars you’d like to generate.  Why?  It’s impossible to achieve the sales increase you desire, if you aren’t certain what you desire. That’s not my rule; that one of those Universal laws that regularly returns to bite the unfocused, short-attention spanned among us.

Without a specific number, you won’t know if you’re on track to hit your goal, nor will you know if you have to change what you are doing to reach it.  You’re flying blind.  You’re driving without a map.  You’re considering asking someone out on Match.com who doesn’t have a photo.  Whatever the metaphor, you’re probably going to end up with a lesser result than you intended.

Second, it’s important to know how many dollars that percentage increase requires from each person entering your business.  This means that you must know your business’s Individual Average Transaction of each customer.  We call that IAT.  How much is each person spending in your business?  Again, this is simple, but ask a business owner this question and watch how many stammer and can’t tell you the amount.

Third, it’s important to quantify the additional items or services that would need to be purchased to make this happen.  For example, when I worked with gift shops and greeting card stores, the customer IAT was about $7.25 per person.  So, if the store wanted to increase sales by 25% for the month, it seemed challenging, until one realized that 25% of $7.25 was only $1.81.  The stores I worked with looked around for items that were high demand items that customers often forgot, that at least retailed for $1.81.  At Christmas, you could sell a customer a roll of Scotch tape, red ribbon, red bows, and white tissue paper, all within reach of the register.  Then, the cashier could say, “Do you have enough of these?”  And most of the time, you could create an add-on sale that way.  Your particular situation will probably not be as simple, but the implementation is the same.  Break the increase down to an attainable purchase, and plan what needs to be sold to make that increase.

Fourth, one of the most successful tactics to raise the overall sales of a business is to get a customer to come back for an additional unplanned visit.  This works especially well in December and January.  This technique is called a Bounce-Back Promotion, and you have had it practiced on you.  You were in a store, and you bought something.  Right before you walked away, you were invited to return for some special event.

Here’s how you plan a Bounce-Back Promotion:  Look at your upcoming monthly calendar and determine a day where customer traffic is traditionally low.  Plan some type of event, open house, special offer, or special occasion for that day.  Then, create a simple invitation that you can hand to customers who are in your business that invites them back to that event.  The key in making this successful is creating a compelling reason to return, and having enough time to hand the invitations to your customers who have already come one time to your business.  Best of all, a Bounce-Back Promotion works because statistically, it is easier to lure a customer to your business for a second, unplanned visit than to keep them in the business longer, spending more.

If these ideas seem simple, it’s because they are.  Unfortunately, the reason I’m writing this is because so few business owners use these simple ideas to plan for an increase.

Put these steps to work tomorrow in your business.  Curb your attention-deficit, spontaneous-owner behavior for a minute and focus!  Tell your staff what you’ve decided.  Get everyone to realize how simple it could be to reach a tangible sales increase.  Then, report your positive results to me at [email protected].

I love hearing your successes.

PS:  A Bounceback Promotion is just one of 23 Last Minute Marketing Ideas that I shared in my webinar last week that is now available in our Destination University Student Center.  For $29.95 per month (less than a buck a day), you could be learning these ideas and generating more sales.  To apply for membership, just go to www.DestinationUniversity.com.

You’re Invited to a Free Webinar: Your Organization Could Win a $1000 Scholarship to our Destination BootCamp By Watching

Your organization could win a a $1000 Scholarship to our Destination BootCamp, just for watching our free webinar!

This invitation is for you if you are a President, Director, Board Member, or leader of any of these organizations:

  • Business Association
  • Downtown or Main Street organization
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Economic Development organization
  • Private company

You are invited to join me for a free webinar on Tuesday, November 30 at 8:00 a.m. Mountain Time when we introduce our new Destination University Partner Program.  Just by watching, you might also win a $1,000 scholarship to one of our 2011 Destination BootCamps.

If you know business owners who are struggling in this economy, you owe it to them to attend this webinar. It’s taken us 5 years to get Destination University to this point.  Destination University is a one-of-a-kind, online learning, social network of progressive business owners who are growing their sales, their customer traffic, and their profits.  Owners can access the network on their own, 24-7, from any computer or their mobile smart phones, making DU the first totally mobile, online learning program exclusively for small business owners.  (My consulting competitors hate to admit it and they’ll say I’m hyping it up, but no other company can offer your organization a business improvement program that is this comprehensive.)

It doesn’t matter how large or small your company, organization, or community is.  During this webinar, you will learn how you can become part of this world-wide business-support network, add huge value to your organization, while offering your members this cutting edge technology, all for a minimal investment of less than $1 per day.

I know you are busy during this holiday season, so as an incentive for participating, every organization who takes the 35 minutes to attend this free webinar will receive a certificate for $49, which can be applied to the Destination University registration fee.  Additionally, one organization will win a $1,000 scholarship to one of our Destination BootCamps in 2011. What a great prize to give to one of your business owners in your organization!  To have a chance for this scholarship, you must register and be watching, as the drawing will take place at the end of the presentation.

To register, click here.

I look forward to telling you about our new Partner Program on November 30.

Jon Schallert

PS: Feel free to share this post with any of your peers or other directors of organizations that you think could use this.  They will thank you for it later.

The Economy and What’s Coming, I Think

With summer in full bloom, not many people are thinking about what’s going to happen to small businesses in the 4th Quarter of this year, on into the 1st Quarter of next year. But I am. And though I am not a fortune teller, I do believe that many businesses, both large and small, are not prepared for the possibility of a second plateau in sales and consumer spending, even though the economy is stronger than it was last year.

Here are some things we do know about today’s economy:

We know for certain that bad news travels fast, and everyone’s a little jumpy about more bad economic news. We’ve seen it several times when a job report, or an earnings report, comes out and if it’s not what the economists are predicting, the media starts focusing on this bad news. Unfortunately, this news might not have anything to do with your business or your community, but it doesn’t matter because people are still a little jumpy these days. Consequently, when good things do happen in your business, you must be prepared to retell the good news to your customers and the media, and to focus on those things that you CAN impact in your business (which I will remind you, is NOT the national news).

We also know for certain that this economic recovery is uneven. It’s not just that different areas of the country are improving or stagnating at different rates. Different businesses in the same marketplace and the same industries are unevenly improving. Go to your local chamber of commerce meeting and you will find business owners talking about how sales are fine or even good, and then, walk across the room and you will find someone saying that their revenue is horribly off. The net result of this uneven recovery is that there is not one thing that can correct everyone’s woes. So if you have grown accustomed to not looking for Big Brother to save your city or town, you will not be disappointed now; Big B is still not coming.

So what do I recommend? Here are a few thoughts:

I think that these summer months give all of us a great opportunity to look at the weaknesses in our businesses, start correcting them, and to start planning a comprehensive, multi-pronged marketing plan for the 4th and 1st Quarters that magnifies our true business differences, as compared to our competitors. Look at your overall business position and assume that consumer spending and customer traffic is going to decline in your marketplace, and decide right now how you’re going to capture those who have money to spend.

For many owners, their first inclination is to focus on tactical marketing steps, like using Facebook and other social networking tools, and to gear up their use. Well, there’s a downside of focusing primarily on business tactics.

Let me explain: During our Destination Business BootCamp, I work with business owners to help them magnify 24 different aspects of their business uniqueness. If owners work through those 24 points and find that their business is average or below average in the majority of the points, no matter how much you Facebook a customer or tweet them to death, if your strategic business differences are not superior in a consumer’s mind, your primary point of business difference will have to come down to price.

Let’s talk about price discounting for a second: I just read an article the other day that suggested that it’s a good idea to give happy hour discounts of 20%. That might sound really inviting to customers and it might even draw customer traffic to your business, but if your business doesn’t operate at a 20%+ profitability level to start with (or if the products you are discounting 20% don’t have an above average profit margin already), you as the owner are just slitting your throat using this tactic. Better to focus on magnifying your uniqueness and use discounts to reward customers who you’ve previously identified as being the most profitable.

With my prediction that the 1st and 4th Quarters could be a little rough, here’s one thing that you should NOT do right now: Now is NOT the time to clam up, quit communicating, go into a shell, get depressed, fear the future, and retreat into your own mind to single-handedly contemplate how to improve your business. Now IS the time to network with others, find out what works with others, learn from others, create strategic alliances, and start making changes to your business that will cause consumers to say: “That’s the place I’m spending money this coming holiday season.” That means, becoming a Destination business (a strategy that’s available to you if you are trying to attract consumers and you are a retail store, a restaurant, a service provider, or a professional practice.)

Just a reminder: one resource that all of you have at your disposal is our new Destination University Student Center. There are some amazing learning opportunities popping up inside those online walls! In the coming weeks and months, through the 4th Quarter of this year, through the 1st Quarter of the next, we’ll continue to fill the DU Student Center with more resources, Experts, and tools to help you get through this sputtering economy. Don’t underestimate what this tool can do for your business, all for the cost of less than one dollar a day.

Click here if you want to learn how to join the DU Student Center.