unboxed marketing

group therapy for marketers and business owners

Archive for February, 2009

unboxed marketing in the news

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 28, 2009

Our local paper, the Rapid City Journal, ran a short piece about the

unboxed marketing made it into the news this week!

unboxed marketing made it into the news this week!

unboxed marketing blog in the Friday edition. Many thanks to Jeremy Fugleberg for including the mention in his Talking Business column and giving us a positive review. He wrote:

“Some blog authors are boring. This one is not, especially because Buchholz personably discusses local businesses and marketing practices.”

Pretty cool. Thanks, Jeremy!

Jeremy pens the Black Hills Business Blog on the Journal website, and I recommend it. Jeremy does a nice job of keeping readers updated about the comings and goings on area businesses.

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diesel fumes get you every time

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 28, 2009

Putting on events can be exciting, frustrating, profitable, and tedious. Often, they are all those things at the same time.

diesel-fumesThe Corporate Education Center at Western Dakota Tech put on a Marketing Boot Camp for Women today in honor of Entrepreneur’s Week. We had excellent speakers (post-event surveys confirmed this), lunch was well-received, and we delivered a lot of great information about marketing. However, I can almost hear what the attendees will say about the event: “It was great, but the diesel fumes were terrible.”

We held the event in one of WDT’s lecture halls, which is located adjacent to a large shop area. An area company rented the shop, and when they were finished, they brought a diesel pick-up into the shop to pull out a trailer. The pick-up was running for less than five minutes, but the fumes seeped into the lecture hall and stank up the place. Two attendees left the room and listened from the hallway, and many others noted the noxious interruption on the event survey.

Frustrating. Very, very frustrating.

We made up for the scheduling conflict by offering all attendees half-priced admission to next year’s event. It was the least we could do.

Planning a great event means taking care of every detail and trying to anticipate every problem. Sometimes, things still go awry. In those cases, you better hope the content of the event is good enough so people start with praise when the answer the question, “How was that seminar?”

Posted in event planning | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

jesus and the stimulus

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 21, 2009

We all love creative ads that tell interesting stories. Of course, there is

american issues project anti-stimulus ad campaign is too little, too late.

american issues project anti-stimulus ad campaign is too little, too late.

true creativity that creates memorable messages, and there is imitation creativity that might make you laugh at the time but is completely  forgettable and ultimately useless.

Using Jesus in an ad that asks you to oppose the federal stimulus bill falls into the latter category.

The American Issues Project is doing just that with what they call a “major television advertising campaign.” The ad blasts the amount of spending in the bill and asks you to call Congress and tell them to stop wasting your money. You can view the ad at the group’s website.

The message is fine. It’s actually somewhat compelling because it puts the $787 billion into context. If you started spending a million bucks a day when Jesus was born and continued the spree to today, you would not have spent $787 billion. That’s an impressive way to show the amount of cash we are dropping on the economy.

However, the ad campaign is too late. The bill passed. President Obama signed it. It’s law. We could all call our congresspeople right now, but it wouldn’t do any good. This pony has left the gate. The American Issues Project would have been far better off running this campaign during the short debate on this legislation. It probably would not have worked, but it could have added something useful to the conversation.

Instead, the group is spending a bunch of cash to run a meaningless campaign. Of course, the organization could just be working for new members, but who would join a group that is willing to waste the donated dollars it receives.

This strategy needs a bailout of its own.

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cruisin’ for a pleasin’

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 21, 2009

Sorry about the headline. Can I use the “It’s late” excuse again?

rushmore honda receives today's unboxed marketing customer service award

rushmore honda receives today's unboxed marketing customer service award

Despite its awkwardness, it fits. Rushmore Honda in Rapid City, SD, deserves today’s customer service award. Our family has been a big fan of the dealership’s service department for several years, even taking our non-Honda vehicles there for service. They’ve worked on our Chevy pick-up and our Volkswagen Eurovan we have since sold, and I wouldn’t take either of our two Hondas anyplace else.

I don’t know that the Honda mechanics are more skilled than the many others in town, but the customer service is so superior, it almost makes taking a car in for service kind of enjoyable. Things all marketers can learn from:

1. The service area is clean and comfortable. A cushy, leather couch and decent chairs are organized around a television set tuned to Fox News (if you prefer MSNBC, I’m sure you could change the channel). The entire area is very clean. Besides the ocassional blrrrp of an air gun, you wouldn’t know you are in a car shop.

2. Free danish, coffee, and reading material (novels and current magazines) are available for consumption.

3. The service manager talks to you like you’re an actual person. He doesn’t make you feel small or stupid. He explains everything they’ve done, what they found, and your options. If you decline a service, they don’t try to talk you of of the decision.

4. The prices are more than fair, and if you have a Honda discount card, you save every time.

Marketers cannot discount the important of excellent customer service. Your customers have many, many options since it’s likely you’re not the only game in town. Treat people well. Be nice. Make them comfortable. Be like Rushmore Honda-allow people to want to do business with you.

Your bottom line will thank you.

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vendor oddities – resolution!

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 20, 2009

Day three of the vendor saga began with me waking with a decision made. (You cna read Day 1 and Day 2 for all the background.) I called the vendor when they opened and told our rep that if the issue wasn’t resolved the way I needed it to be, I would be forced to end our business relationship.

It killed me to do that. I like this company. They’ve done good work for Western Dakota Tech. But I felt in my gut that I needed to have complete trust in them. I wanted to know I could tell them our secrets so they could help us succeed. I expected the same in return. When I saw that wasn’t the case, I knew we needed to find someone with whom we could forge that kind of relationship.

A few hours later, I received an email from the company owner. It included a link to the platform they would use to build our social network and a call for a cease-fire.

I’m very happy. I told the owner that, and I mean it. We’ll need to do some more salvage work, but things will be better.

Whew.

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vendor oddities part deuce

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 19, 2009

The saga continued today.

I wrote yesterday about a strange encounter with a vendor. We had a face-to-face meeting today to continue the discussion about why they wouldn’t tell me the name of an item they were trying to sell me. The item in question: an open source social networking platform the company was going to customize for us.

It didn’t go as I hoped.

The vendor’s reps continued to refuse to give me the information I need to make a good decision about this purchase. The reason didn’t change from yesterday-they are concerned I will take the information and peddle it to someone else. I assured them I wouldn’t and even offered to sign a nondisclosure statement. They didn’t budge.

I told them this was a deal-breaker. I need to independently research the product, and I need to be able to answer questions my colleagues and superiors might ask. As I told the vendor, I cannot say, “I don’t know,” if someone asks me what I’m buying.

The meeting ended with the vendor’s reps telling me they would see what they could do.

For me, this is a trust issue. I’ve trusted this company to help us grow enrollments and improve our marketing, and we’ve paid them quite a bit of money during the past couple years. I’m not sure how this conflict will impact our relationship, but whatever the effect, it won’t be postive.

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vendor oddities

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 18, 2009

Had a weird incident with a vendor today. They had prepared aweird incident had me asking huh? proposal to build a custom social network for my college. I liked the proposal and the cost, but it was short on some critical details, including the name of the open source platform the vendor would use to build the network.

I wanted to complete some independent research, so I asked for the name of the platform.

The vendor wouldn’t tell me. Citing concerns about me taking the info and cutting them out of the deal, they refused my request.

I thought that was odd. How do I write a substantial check without knowing what I’m getting? How do I justify the expense to taxpayers who support the college and students who pay tuition if I can’t tell them what they’re buying?

Am I way off here? We have done quite a bit of work with this vendor, and I’ve enjoyed our relationship. Today’s incident has me rethinking all that. Am I being fair?

Posted in vendor relations | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

training meals at mediabistro

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 17, 2009

I watched some great training videos at medibistro today. For the

Learning is good!

Learning is good!

record, I don’t work for mediabistro or have any financial interest in the company, but they deserve a virtual standing O for its On Demand service.

For just $19 a month, you have access to the site’s entire video libray. In just a few hours today, I watched:

What a great day. How else could I stay in the office and hear these industry leaders help me better understand topics critical to the future of marketing. And after watching these videos, I’ll bet you’ll feel even more enthused about social media’s role in marketing.

Navigating the world of social media can be daunting. These videos can’t be beat for beginners and those wanting to increase their knowledge. And you can’t find this level of training for a cheaper price.

Mediabistro has the subscription thing figured out. The site is super-easy to use and the quality (technical and content) of the videos is excellent. I highly recommend the service.

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book review: Family Business

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 16, 2009

Title: Family Businessbook-cover-250

Subtitle: The Spirit of an American Entrepreneur—Mark Nelsen

Authors: Paul Higbee and Ken Steinken

Number of pages: 100

Reading time: Two hours

Publisher: Maximum Promotions

How Acquired: Purchased

I wrote about Mark Nelsen a few days ago after he made a sales call for his business, Maximum Promotions. I was impressed by Mark’s enthusiasm for his company and for entrepreneurship, so I bought a copy of his book, Family Business.

 

I was hoping to find a continuation of Mark’s passion for business because it is contagious. Talking to Mark is exciting because you know he loves what he does. A conversation with Mark makes you want to do something important.

 

The book delivers that passion in small chunks, but it doesn’t deliver the constant excitement talking with Mark does. That doesn’t mean the book is a disappointment. It just didn’t meet my hopes and expectations. It’s still worth reading.

 

The first half of the book tells the story of Mark’s family and how it helped craft Mark’s personality and his view of business. This section of the book is strongest when the anecdotes clearly and directly apply to doing better business. Examples:  

  • “‘But in our family issues got swept under the rug,’ he relates. ‘There’s a lesson there, for individuals and for businesses, too. Procrastination kills.’”   
  • “‘An issue is still and issue until it’s addressed. If you’re seriously ill, you can get dressed up, but you’re still sick.’”

The remainder of the first half of the book may not help an entrepreneur build a business, but it does help show Mark’s attempts to make things right with his family, which has been plagued by serious disagreements, fights, and estrangements. Mark’s ability to stick with his goal of trying to bring family members together is as admirable as the task is difficult. It also helps explain Mark’s success in business. 

 

The book switches focus for the second half, and it’s here that readers will find help becoming better and more prepared entrepreneurs. This is an intentionally short book, so don’t expect a detailed roadmap about how to get from here to there, but you will find Mark’s useful perspective on what it takes to be a successful business owner.

 

Marks lays out eight characteristics of the successful entrepreneur and includes explanations of each. According to Mark, successful entrepreneurs are: 

  • Opportunistic
  • Hopeful yet realistic
  • Independent yet able to work with others
  • Self-confident
  • Flexible and able to adapt to changes in the marketplace
  • Can stay focused yet can see markets before they emerge
  • Knows his/her strengths and weaknesses
  • Can move beyond thinking and talking and “pull the trigger” after running a risk/reward analysis

Mark’s explanations are short and simple and use solid examples. That makes them very useful.

 

The book then describes the entrepreneurial concepts that, according to Mark, are crucial for business owners to understand. Some of the 12 concepts you have read before, but several are completely unique and alone make the book worth reading. Those items include “airplane avionics,” “capitalism with a conscience,” your house and reputation are on the line,” and “how to live modestly.”

 

As the book winds down, Mark delivers advice about successfully mixing marriage and business, and he tells a story about work gloves. The story wraps up what Mark believes all entrepreneurs must do:

 

“Mark has a standard graduation gift for students: a pair of quality, leather work gloves. His own children got them. So have family friends and even a few graduates Mark didn’t know well, but who told him he inspired them. The gloves are a reminder that good ideas, talent, and the right direction aren’t enough. ‘In business you have to work hard—sometimes insanely hard in the eyes of others,’ says Mark. ‘You have to expect and maintain an intense work ethic for years.’”

 

Amen.

 

Mark has taken his American Entrepreneur show on the road, speaking to high school and college students about becoming business owners. Spreading his message is clearly a passion, and I have no doubt that he puts on a useful, entertaining show. The book is a peek at the seminar, but it isn’t a good substitute for the real thing.

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marketing’s culture of deceit

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 14, 2009

Why do business lie to customers?

Companies that lie to customers destroy the already fragile trust consumers have for corporations.

Companies that lie to customers destroy the already fragile trust consumers have for corporations.

Customers already don’t trust corporations and companies and the marketing messages they try to force you to hear. When businesses layer lies on top of the distrust that already exists, the lack of consumer trust sinks to new lows.

I saw this in action today when the family attended a community yardsale sponsored by the Rapid City Journal, our local daily newspaper. In past years, the sale was huge, with every corner of available space at the civic center filled with someone selling something. In the days leading up to this year’s sale, the Journal ran ads that read, “SOLD OUT,” as the paper has in past years. Unfortunately, the ads weren’t honest.

The sale used considerably less civic center space than past years, and the rooms that were used were not filled. The result? The expectations of consumers were not met. The SOLD OUT ads would have made sale veterans expect a sale of past years’ proportions, but they received something very different.

Consumers aren’t stupid. They noticed the sale was smaller, and they know they were promised something else. That’s one more ding in the newspaper’s reputation. Take enough dings and eventually you’ll have an dent that can’t be prepared.

Be honest. It’s easier. And since most businesses won’t do it, you’ll win the long run.

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