Dec 16, 2007

It's Good to Self-Google

I've been Googling myself for several years. It's good because with so much info out there, it's good to know what info might be out there about you. You can bet your future boss or spouse will Google your name. If there is any negative information, you might have to do some work to fix it.

You can counter it by doing your own AdWords Campaign, in which you can ensure your chosen information about yourself is at or near the very top of the results page. I've been running mine for over 4 years. Google "Kirk Lancaster" and you'll see my little ad.

Often you'll have people and companies with the same name show up in the results, and you actually have to advertise and optimize your site in order to have someone find you quickly.

The point is you have to make sure your name and your company's name is fairly clean in the results of internet searches. Google yourself. It's good for you to know what's out there.

Here's a good article at about it.

Dec 13, 2007

Perfect Example of Getting Customers Involved

Can't write it up any better than this. And this will work for small companies too. Example: A landscaping company could have a "Worse Lawn in Town" contest and give away a lawn makeover. Not a bad way to get people to talk about your company. Think locally!

I'll probably even pick HD over Lowe's on my next trip.

Dec 10, 2007

Ahhh, the Joys of Christmas 2007

Ahhh, the joys of Christmas 2007... a huge variety of Christmas songs old and new downloaded from iTunes, shopping online from our favorite e-tailers, and avoiding the inconsistent service of local retail.

Oct 1, 2007

Yes! THIS is the future of marketing revealed!

Radiohead, one of the world's most popular rock bands, is selling their new album in various formats directly from their site. But for just the download of the music, fans have the option of what to pay beyond the small processing fee. It's like an honor system. Common sense says that most of the downloaders will pay nothing, but the beauty is that they must provide their detailed contact information, so Radiohead will definitely get to market to their listeners directly with tour info, merchandise sales and new releases. Brilliant!

Sep 22, 2007

Make sure you know what you want your website to do

There are only so many reasons for your business to have a website. Make sure you know what you want your website to accomplish, and once you pick your reasons, make sure you're fulfilling each one as simply and user-friendly as possible.

  • Tell people about your business, service and/or products

  • Tell them enough about your business to get them to contact a sales person

  • Sell your items/service, 24-7 online

  • Promote your company 24-7 online in search engines (the new "phone book")

  • Enable two-way communication between company and customers, employees and partners (blogs, instant chat, email, form data... etc.)

  • Learn more about your customers and what they value; what they're looking for

Sep 18, 2007


I always love going to Chick-Fil-A. They seem to be one of the few "every day" brands that manages to be consistent in product and service.

Tonight I realized for the umpteenth time that when I eat Chick-fil-A, there's never anywhere to put ketchup for the fries. Every time I ask for ketchup, and every time I remember that my only option seems to be ripping open the paper/foil bag that holds the sandwhich. There's a ketchup problem at Chick-fil-A!

Sell a "ketchup bucket." Like a small version of pudding cup, with removable foil top. Buy it for a dime and sell it for a quarter... I'd buy it. And I would enjoy my fries more too!

(like this, but ketchup)

Sep 9, 2007

If you have to lead people...

check this guy out. If you manage any kind of team, I'd study everything you can find about this guy. He's the best coach alive for people who have to be prodded to do their best, and at making something work out of what you have to work with.

Aug 22, 2007

Want to understand a viral ad?

Hopefully you don't have to get hurt to do it, but your ad really does need to be remarkable to be viral.

(Even before the "remarkable" part, this guy's pretty funny. It's so crazy that after all these years, local automobile dealers still scream at you. I guess that means it still works...)

Aug 19, 2007

Even though it's easier, it ain't that easy...

Blogging. Digital photos. Advertising in Search Engines. Updating your website...

Everything is so much easier now when it comes to communicating with your customers, employees and other business associates.

But that doesn't mean communicating is any easier. Coming up with a message that is relevant and interesting to your audience is still not easy, especially when your audience has more communication to deal with than ever before.

While it's very inexpensive to set up a blog and website to communicate openly, that doesn't make it easier to write several small articles a month or get your brand properly identified.

While it's amazing that you can be advertising your product to the world within minutes in Google, you still have to have a great product, enticing message and effective call to action. And you have to know to manage keywords or you can waste A LOT of money.

While it's much easier to measure results of online marketing compared to older channels, it's still not that easy to understand what all the data means for your future marketing plan.

You have to stay on top of marketing trends and tools like never before, you have to apply just as much to your marketing budget as ever before, and you have to work just as hard to communicate properly as before.

But here is one thing that is easier in today's marketing world... you do not have to spend so much money TESTING an idea on physical media, such as printing and mailing newsletters, business collateral and traditional media in broadcast and print. You can launch a message and get fairly immediate response from your audience, which allows you to adjust your marketing on the fly. And once you have nailed it in the online world, you can safely launch it in traditional media too.

Jul 18, 2007

Does this Work?

Cathy and Kirk "Simpson"

I am a Simpson's fan, so I will see the movie. Putting out a website that lets me Simpsonize myself is simply as cool as it gets, but by now you shouldn't be shocked getting that from the Simpsons' franchise.

So I would say this is brilliant, except I'm still not going to patronize the sponsor because of this ad. I don't have anything against Burger King, I just know I don't eat there, and a cool online app isn't going to change my mind.

But BK has been kickin' it, so I guess they know what they're doing. Here's one thing I'll bet... that this "Simpsonizer" becomes one of the most popular things ever on the web. I just can't wait to find out if it really sells burgers.

Jul 16, 2007

Make Sure You're Picture Perfect

Look at this AT&T ad featuring Atlanta Braves star Andruw Jones.

You do not have to post pixelated photos/graphics that make the subject look like this, and you shouldn't. Make sure your photos and writing are well-done, by people who know what they're doing. ( -- hint, hint.)

I hate to see this.

Perusing bottles at the grocery tonight, I see "Jerry Garcia Wine." For some reason -- and I'm not a fan of the Grateful Dead -- this bothers me. When I get home to check out the story, (did he have a vineyard?) a typo in their site happens to clarify everything. In a link to learn more about the artist, the site says "to learn more about the Jerry Garcia, click here." "The" Jerry Garcia. That's it. He's an object. Just like ol' Elvis, he has heirs making all the money now.

Maybe the wine maker is making money because of that rabid Dead-Head following, but to the people marketing this (Clos du Bois), I say: C'mon. If your wine is any good, try a little harder than that. Just be honest with your brand. Why try to ride someone's coattails if you want to put out something remarkable?

I'm sure the wine is less-than-average fermented grape juice, they're cashing in on suckers (probably still trippin'), and laughing all the way to the bank.
Hopefully your work means more to you than just preying on the weak with a sub-par, whorified product.

Jul 8, 2007

Looking Into the Crystal Ball

Perhaps by 2012...?

  • Cars will have exterior and interior full-time cameras and recorders; your own little "black box" that will protect you (or possibly incriminate you) in the event of accidents or crimes.Car tags will be wireless and digital, no numbers visible.
  • Cars won't start unless tag and insurance are up to date, and the driver is licensed and authorized to drive. Thanks to these new tags, you won't be running any red lights or stop signs without getting an automatic fine.
  • Cars will have real-time speed limits based on traffic, road and weather conditions. You won't be able to break speed limits, again giving you big savings off car insurance.

Yes, this is another hard-to-stomach, far-fetched vision, and privacy advocates will scream bloody murder. But when you consider automobile accidents are the most common cause of accidental death in America, why can't we use technology to help eliminate 50,000 deaths per year? Many new business opportunities would be created, and many liabilities destroyed.

Jun 29, 2007

119 Years Later

The first known recorded music was created on Thomas Edison's "yellow paraffin cylinder" on June 29, 1888. One hundred nineteen years later, Prince is launching his anticipated new recording in CD format for free to subscribers of a British Magazine.

New methods of distributing information, products, services, ideas -- just about anything you sell or share -- are popping up every day. Are you thinking of new ways to get your product or service into the hands of more customers?
(edison photo from the Smithsonian Institution; Prince from

Jun 22, 2007

May the Young and the Restless Take Over

Seth has a great post today about creating a business environment where workers really care. In addition to the fun interactive promotions listed in his article, I add this: If you really want to make the front line care, give them a real incentive. A piece of the pie.

Give the sandwich maker a small commission on every sale, and he will be more concerned about giving the customer a good product, value and experience. He'll want them to come back. The more sandwiches he and his co-workers make, the more money they take home.

This could apply beyond food service to every day retail. How quickly and accurately do you think your cashiers will ring up your customers if they get paid a commission on every product they ring up, even if it is small? An extra $20 to an employee on a busy day will make sure they do what it takes to make every day a busy day.

Remove the tip jars. Add a commission on every sale for the whole staff. Watch your employees become salespeople, customer service reps, teammates and company champions all in one. It used to be that way; perhaps it's time to bring it back.

One thing's for sure... it's going to take a slew of new business leaders to create the environments needed to enable employess to care. May the Young and the Restless future business leaders take over soon.

Jun 16, 2007

No One Reads Your Crappy Blog...

So funny, and so true... but you have to keep plugging away. You're writing about your business to help customers and employess better understand your services and products -- not to become the world's most-read blogger. By the way, you can have fun with these funny shirts.

Jun 13, 2007

New Music Delivery

There are a lot of ideas about how music will be distributed in the future... but here's one way that's sure to be a hit. Custom USB drives. Pictured above are two options from the White Stripes, selling at $99 for the pair and each containing their new album. Get these down to about $25 each and "record" collections will turn into desktop curios.

Jun 12, 2007

Not Even Wired, arguably one of the best publications of the digital age, even screws up from time to time. Look at this ad, created in Flash, that drops down and stays in my window this morning, blocking all the top content. There isn't even a "close" button at the top.

Don't go nuts if your site goes down today, or if you found out an email didn't make it through to a client. Not even Wired gets it right every day.

Jun 8, 2007

Mobile Marketing Madness

AdAge reports today that mobile marketing marketers are missing masses.

I was hoping mobile was going nowhere, and will continue to go nowhere, because I do not want to use a mobile device to seek products, services or information. My little Vaio laptop is just perfect, and this is as small as I want a monitor to be.

My guess is that in a few years I'll have an ear-piece (ala Jack Bauer, not those big bluetooth bugs hanging on your ears today), and I'll be able to communicate through my laptop, wirelessly, hands-free and with voice command (which I don't use yet).

We'll see... but there's one thing for sure I'm not going to do... read, write or browse through a phone monitor. Even though the iPhone looks cool... I still think that is too small for a monitor.

Jun 1, 2007

I'm the Pusher Man

I have two new projects launching that I hope you check out.

First, an e-book I've been working on for four years. It's only 14 pages. That's right, 14 pages in 4 years. It's about a solution for U.S. taxation, as we all know the current system is terrible. It has a unique marketing plan: let folks read the book for free, and if they like the idea, buy it and pass it on to everyone they know and earn $5 for each sale. It's like an MLM except it's not shady, has a mission instead of a fake product, and very low cost of entry ($10.40).

Please check it out at

Secondly, an extension of my Working Billboards project:
Self explanatory. Check it out.

Spread the word.

May 29, 2007

The Last Great Door-to-Door Sale

Trying to decide if there's anything that could possibly be sold door-to-door again, I came up with this. I might try it!

May 24, 2007

How's Your Paper?

It seems that each newspaper is handling the transition to the web differently. I have been reading every day for a long time, with a free online subscription. I doubt I've clicked on any of their banner ads. I am not sure what content I am missing from the printed version, as it seems they put everything that's important in their online edition. While I am sure that my readership is of some value to the AJC, I don't know how they're making any money online.

In Florida, I read the Panama City Newsherald. I pay just over a quarter a day for an online subscription. They deliver the online version in pdf-like format with a software system called Olive. It's a weird interface. You get to see the paper laid out just as it is in print, which is kind of nice to see the placement of articles and photos. But you have to click on an article to read it, which opens up another window with larger text. It would be eaiser for the reader if they just did the entire site in web text (html, xml, whatever they use), and left out the Olive part.

It would also be easier on their print advertisers, because unless the ad is big, you can't read it in Olive software. And it's funny, because even though I don't click on the "" or "Hitachi" banner ads online, I do sometimes want to see the printed ads in the newspaper. Because printed ads in the newspaper have deals and information locally in which I may be interested.

They have improved recently, making sure that breaking news is updated the same day instead of in tomorrow's edition. But they've added this weird video preview of tomorrow's stories every afternoon. What's weird about it? To me, I go to a paper for the journalism and writing. It would be easier to have their writers post small intros to what they're working on, instead of a video of an editor talking about tomorrow's stories. If they want to be videographers and video journalists, go work for the local tv station. I know video on the web is hot -- and actually a great way to demonstrate your products and services online -- but my newspaper is the last place I want to see it.

Bottom line: newspapers are obviously still evolving in the digital world, and it's interesting to see what the best models will be. My guess is that their online editions will be sponsored and free, and that any print editions will focus mainly on local stories and photography that you won't be able to find online and from the major news sources. National and World news online, Local News and Photos in print.

What do you want out of your newspaper?

May 22, 2007

Who Gets Paid to do This?

What is the point of this ad? Is it targeted to text-messaging young adults who don't worry about grammar? Is the goal of the ad to be so bad that it's talked about, getting much more exposure than just the billboard itself? How does this message make anyone want to check out the services of Superior Bank? How in the world did the person in charge of this billboard approve it?

May 21, 2007

New Name

I started writing articles about online marketing, but realize I'll have more to write about if I broaden my focus to marketing and business in general.

Here are just a few of the fun topics coming up...

  • the cleanest restaurant in the world
  • the future of the health club
  • how is your newspaper handling the shift?
  • home security and neighborhood watch: big big biz
and more of tomorrow's best business ideas!

May 4, 2007

MicroHoo? YaSoft?

If Microsoft does buy Yahoo, I just can't see any angle where this would benefit either company (except for the Yahooligans who take their millions and run, as Seth suggests.)

Microsoft already has a landing site (MSN) and search engine (Windows Live?) that works, it's simply just not as popular as Yahoo's. So what do they do? Kill MSN and Windows Live, and let Yahoo be the online property? Or do they shut down Yahoo and brand it all MSN? Or do they just keep the two brands separated, and expect every user to stay where they're at?

I just can't imagine this being a good idea. I bet a huge percentage of Yahoo fans use Yahoo in defiance of Microsoft to begin with.

Bill, please talk to me about using the $50 Billion to improve the Microsoft brand, not to kill an existing brand that does a pretty good job and looks to be in 2nd place for a long time.

Apr 25, 2007

the Future of Online Advertising Conference

One of the most popular small business blogs - Duct Tape Marketing - awarded me a conference pass to the Future of Online Advertising in NYC in June. I'm looking forward to hearing what's in the works by industry leaders and am working on questions to ask some of the leaders. If any of you have a question about the Future of Online Advertising that you would like me to address at the conference, please comment here and let me know. Otherwise, look here for my reports from the conference in June.

Apr 24, 2007

The New Era of Silent Movies

I don't know if Apple or Wired made the decision to put their ads silently in the site. But it's the only way to go! Don't launch any sound with your website... let the user choose to listen to anything you want them to hear.

Save Internet Radio

It's sad that the government sets the price for copyright royalties in the first place, but a division called "Copyright Royalty Board" is raising the cost of internet radio songs to $.08 per song, per listener. This will put just about every internet radio station out of business.

If I were trying to sell music, I'd want exposure to new listeners every chance I could get. Internet radio is a great medium to find new fans, and the government is about to kill this channel before it ever really hits the big-time.

My assumption is that the big radio station owners are lobbying the puppets behind this, but whatever the cause, it should be stopped. Whether you listen to internet radio or not, you should do anything you can as a business owner OR consumer to keep the government out of free enterprise!

Apr 14, 2007

But for an Extra $300 I'm Going to Make It Happen Fast and with Little Pain!

Another great post by Seth Godin shows the very small business how to succeed online for as little as $60 per year, with no special skills and just a "couple hours a month."

And if you are already familiar with digital tasks such as:

- loading photos off your camera and into an email
- using a web-based email service
- realizing you can work on a spreadsheet and have a browser open at the same time
- you are a pro at "control-c" and "control-v"

Then yes, a couple hours a month is all you might need.

But the very small have bigger "computer" problems than just not understanding domain names, typography or HTML... many of you just don't even like to turn a computer on. It intimidates you (even though it shouldn't!) And I am sure that as you walk through Seth's tutorial, you're going to get discouraged the minute you click on "Flickr," "Squidoo," and "TypePad." This stuff is just over your head, and it should be because you rarely use the computer or internet. You're too busy installing $10K bathroom upgrades, or making a living grooming dogs, or visiting the members of your congregation, or working directly with the needy in your non-profit, or spending 10 days at sea to bring fresh seafood to market.

This is where I come in. What I can do with you in four hours is WAY more productive than what you could do by yourself in four hours. I could even beat Seth's $60 budget and take it down to $0 by using Blogger instead of Typepad. (But instead we're going to shift that $60 to Google AdWords.)

Within our first hour (you on your computer, me on mine, connected online), Here's what we can get done.

1. Get registered with necessary web accounts:
- site hosting (Blogger)
- email service (If you don't already have an easy to manage business email account)
- search engine advertising (definitely Google AdWords; possibly Yahoo and MSN too.)

2. Plan Your Content: Lay out an exact plan for what you have to say on your site (contact info, hours of operation, map, services, benefits, testimonials, pricing, references, etc.)

3. Determine your photography needs:
People like to see photos, as Seth suggests. We will figure out what kind of photos you could put up (staff, building, happy customers, products, etc.), and how you're going to get the photos (buy a digital camera or pay someone locally to get good photos.)

A day or so later we'll have our next online meeting, we'll take the content you've typed out in an email (see "Your Content" from the first meeting), and we'll post this information and photos to your new website. We'll set up and activate your Google AdWords campaign with specific keywords, such as "Birmingham Plumbers," "Atlanta Restaurants," "West Palm Beach Churches," "Columbia dog groomer," etc. Your business is now online and easy to find in Google!

Over the next four meetings (half-hour meetings), we'll put up new posts, such as "here's a photo of my newest client, FiFi, and her adorable haircut. Mention "FiFi" when you make your reservation this week, and we'll give you 10% off your dog's next haircut."

Or "We are on our way back from estate sales in the northeast, and we have 2 beautiful Queen Anne bedroom suites coming to the showroom."

Or "Mrs. Smith has been a wonderful member of our church for 20 years . Please join us at lunch after church this Sunday to thank her for her service!"

You get the idea. There's no business or organization I can think of who couldn't put some kind of new message up to customers and prospects.

Durning these meetings, I will teach you to monitor the advertising, the number of visits to your site, and how to make new posts.

Every project is unique, and in that first hour we might discover you have a few extra needs than others. For instance, you might be a masseuse who already buys and sells a special line of spa products, so we might as well set up a quick PayPal store for your clients to know they can order without driving in to the spa. Or perhaps I will convince you that it's worth an extra $100 a year to have your own domain name and company email, such as "" and ""

But in general, yes, for the very small, it is possible to get online in a big way for less than $500. And this was simply not possible a few short years ago.

Call me now! Kirk 404-429-5386!

Apr 12, 2007

And here's something you Marketing Heads can do today...

Here's another task that would take minutes and yet drastically make a change for the better in your organization:

Send out an email to every manager and employee in your organization and let them know it will be grounds for termination if they ever say "I'll be fine once I get off work in an hour," or "I'd be better if I didn't have to work," or anything that remotely communicates "I'd rather be somewhere else than work."

OK, so I realize this isn't "online marketing revealed;" it's WAY more important than any online marketing you can ever do.

Apr 5, 2007

Does AdSense Make Sense?

Not on a business site. This blog, for instance, is part of my marketing program to show potential clients how I think, and to share ideas with colleagues. I'm selling my marketing services, not an email mailing list.

Once I saw the Google AdSense placement of ads on my site, I had to ask (again), "why would I distract my site visitor with a link off to another website?" Not gonna' do it.

Apr 3, 2007

The Future of Buying Music and Video

Steve Jobs and Apple are making the rules right now, and it looks like they're getting closer to how I hope (and predict) it will play out. They're charging more for unlimited plays, and I see this as a move to controlled music licensing. My prediction:

Songs (and videos) will be sold based on number of plays. Here's an idea of how they could be named and priced.

JukeBox Version: $.25 per song.
Installs on one machine (computer) and one player (iPod, MP3, CD); 5 plays and self-destructs

MixTape Version: $1.40 per song.

Installs on one machine and multiple players; 70 plays and self-destructs

Vinyl Version: $2.00 per song.

Installs on one machine and up to 3 players. Unlimited number of plays.

Groupie Version: $4.00 per song

Installs on one machine and up to 3 players. Unlimited number of plays. Additional feature allows owner to share up to 20 "JukeBox" versions of song with friends.

Update 04-13-07: Maybe a subscription model is coming too. ;c)

Videos would have different pricing, but you get the idea. Steve Jobs, call me.

Mar 29, 2007

What would you do with $780 Million?

Every time I see a marketing budget of a large American company, I have to pause and dream. Sears has $780M to spend on media this year. That boggles my mind. I wish I knew how much their total marketing budget is.

Anyway, here's what I'd announce if I were King of Sears and had $780M to spend...

1. New Name. Sears Holdings is now going to be a single brand known as "Smarts." It's an homage to both names Sears and KMart. And it symbolizes the smart new way to shop in our retail revolution.

2. New Stores. All Sears and KMart retail stores will be redeveloped into "Smarts." These stores will serve mainly as warehouses for our Smarts affiliate distribution, but will have front of the house retail space for browsing, choosing, buying and product pickup. Think IKEA on a smaller scale, and you don't roam through the warehouse to pick your own stuff.

3. New Convenience and Value. Smarts customers will be able to order online and have home delivery within 4 hours or an at-store Smarts pickup within 1 hour.

4. New Delivery Mechanism. 20,000 new Smarts affiliates will drive Smarts vans and deliver Smarts products to customers in their territory. From groceries to household goods, Craftsman tools to DieHard batteries, Land's End clothing to Martha Stewart dishware, a Smarts affiliate is going to be able to deliver within a couple hours to most homes. Think WebVan with assets in place.

5. New Vans. The Smarts vans are an important part of our program. They serve as billboards as well as delivery and service mechanisms. Current sales and product profiles will be updated on a weekly basis on the vans via large color print interchangeable panels.
By the way, we're buying 20,000 new vans from Ford, GM and Chrysler, keeping the investment in the U.S.

6. New (Great) Jobs. A Smarts affiliate will have a much better opportunity for income, security and autonomy than any Wal-Mart store assistant or manager ever will. The unique program will allow for ownership and performance-based growth and income. Smarts customers will come to know and trust their local Smarts affiliates. Think the milkman meets the UPS man meets the Avon Lady.

7. More on New Delivery Mechanism. If you're sending legal documents overnight to another city, UPS, FedEx and the USPS will still be the way to do it. But if you have a gift to send Aunt Erma, our Smarts distribution network will enable us to ship anything we sell cheaper than you could buy at your local Wal-Mart and ship yourself.

For most markets, especially those with a population of over 50,000, we will also cost less than ordering through Amazon or other online retailers who use a third-party shipping service.

8. New Advertising Strategy. We are discontinuing Sunday color inserts. Our newspaper advertising space will be much smaller, but we will advertise daily in every market, guiding local customers to contact an affiliate via web or telephone.

We will buy smaller spots in all print to promote the new Smarts brand and your local Smarts affiliate. We will not advertise individual products in our traditional media. We're moving all that online and on-street via the Smarts vans and affiliates.

We will use TV and Radio to promote the new brand and concept, but not with the frequency nor production costs of the past.

9. New PR Strategy. Our affiliates will be required to spend one hour of each working day providing a service or doing a promotion for the community. More than likely, it will be walking in crowded public areas, handing out samples, passing out coupons, and/or tidying up the area by picking up trash. Or they might help deliver donated goods in their van, participate as a volunteer at Special Olympics, or build a house with Habitat for Humanity. The choice is theirs; they just have to get in 6 hours a week of real Public Relations. Their goal is to create trustworthy relationships with our customers, and plan on delivering goods to the same customers for years to come.

10. We're going to crush Wal-Mart.


There... not bad for a quick plan. Don't think I could get it done for $780 M? Bet I could. I'm shifting the majority of the budget from traditional media to online and onstreet and onfoot. The future of online marketing includes humans too.

Mar 28, 2007

5 Lbs of Leads

AT&T, the mother of all bells, is back in control of the southern one. Today she sent us not one, but two phone books, a big one and a little one.

Wow, I wish I knew how much money went into these two books. Think of all the work at BellSouth/AT&T that went into the layout of these books, to get them print-ready... think of all the printers and delivery people involved. Think of all the sales people who sold the ads, and the marketing department that pulled it all together. That's a huge expense, even if you're really good at making phone books. Which, of course, I hope they are by now.

When I got my first phone book earlier in the month, I posted about how the advertisers can get a lot more out of their ad budget online than in a phone book. This time, I'm talking about the cost of the books themselves. What is this costing me, the consumer?

At first, I don't think I am paying a penny for these books because I don't use AT&T for anything. But then again, I use businesses who spend thousands and thousands on phone book advertising, and of course I'm paying more for their products and services because of it.

To these businesses: please drop the expensive phone book advertising, get online and pass the savings to us customers and clients.

Also, it's a pain and a cost to recycle these things. I hate recycling something that should not have been made in the first place. Especially when I didn't ask to receive it.

Hopefully phonebook season is over since we already have 5 pounds of them.

Maybe I'll dig through one and send nice notes to businesses without websites.

Mar 27, 2007

My Kind of Marketing...

Make your balls pink, donate a portion of proceeds to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and win a small niche that just might take your sales up a couple (big) notches.

Now, since Wilson's "Hope" brand makes it easy for me to donate to a great cause, advertise the cause in the process (people will see my dog with a pink ball in her mouth), and making my tomboy dog look a little more feminine... I'm sold as long as they put them on the shelf.

Mar 26, 2007

Before You Pay a Dime for Internet Marketing...

Seth is pointing out again some of the problems with today's top online / internet / SEO marketing plans. They want to take shortcuts. They'll do anything outside of their real business model to cheat a customer into choosing them.

Just say what you do and do what you say. That's one I have to work on every day, and maybe it's good for businesses to live by this too.

Don't pay a dime for marketing that spams or takes shortcuts. Just make it clear and easy for your audience. Seth calls it transparency and accuracy... you could also just call it "honesty."

Mar 22, 2007

Honesty Will Rise to the Top

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has become a big industry. A lot of dollars are being spent to make sure your site is developed and promoted properly to succeed in the search engines.

One of the SEO tactics is to have an employee call or email a "complementary" business to see if they would put a link to your website on their website. And it works better if someone links to you, but you don't link back to them.

This idea of sharing links on websites is a fine idea in some cases... for instance, let's say I'm the best guy in town who does custom auto paint jobs, and you're the only guy who sells a certain brand of rims. My cars always look great on your rims, so we recommend each other to our customers. We share coupons and brochures and send a lot of business to each other. We put each other's links on our websites.

But this is a case where real, honest business relationships and truly complementary products and services were involved. Having an SEO firm call you out of the blue to ask for a link is not an honest relationship, even if the products do go together well.

If I sell paint jobs, and you just call me out of the blue and say, "Hey we saw your site and it looks great! Will you put a link to our custom rim and tire store on your site?", then you're bugging me. You're interrupting my work.

And you're definitely not helping my business. What if my customer has a budget for a paintjob, but sees your tires and thinks "I'll put off the paint job and do new tires and rims instead."? You might say that's a stretch, but why would I send a customer from my website to your website when I'm trying to close a deal?

But this isn't really even the main point. As in Seth's blog today, it's really just spamming. And eventually it will go away, because honesty will rise to the top of the search engines.

By honesty, I mean your site will be designed with one thing in mind: your clear message to your audience. Google and Yahoo and Microsoft and future companies will do their part in organizing the web, making it easy to put your information and sales pitch into the hands of people who need your product or service. You're going to have to buy some PPCs or PPAs or what ever the next PP is.

The free searches are going to be improved by both the technology and the user preference and experience. Future web users will be better "searchers," they'll put in more accurate keywords, they'll know when to search locally (paint job) and when to search globally (car parts).

The engines will help you figure that out too. I have a pretty good feeling I'll go into a customized Google search interface and say "I'm looking for a new paintjob for my Rover, within 100 miles. I'm looking for four Big Phat Boyz Rims."

I believe then the software will be smart enough to seek the providers, get a proposal back (automated or manual), and within a couple days I have the best prices and proposals right in front of me. I didn't even visit any websites... it was all pulled into my Google (probably known as an "Omnipotent Operating System" (OOS) by then. We will need no OOS optimization (OOSO) for our websites.)

It's going to be fun to see how it really does play out... but spamming will die and honesty will rise.

Mar 20, 2007

Takin' it to the Bank

I have to get a local Bay County checking account. After using Bank of America's online banking system for a few (several?) years, I'm comfortable with it and must have online banking.

Bay Bank shows up on the first page in a search for "Panama City, Florida Banks." I go to their site; they apparently have online banking, but no demonstration.

In a search for "Lynn Haven, Florida Banks," I find Regions Bank and Bank Trust.

Bank Trust doesn't have a demo, and their 3rd party online banking partner announces at the very front that they do not work with the latest Internet Explorer browser. Hmmm...

Regions has a fast site that takes me right into a clear demo. I don't even go through the entire presentation; at this point the fact that their site works means something.

I go to People's First, who were nowhere to be seen in the search engines but are everywhere you look around town. They have online banking, and there's a button for a demo, but every time I click "demo", it just keeps looping me back to the same page. Is that a demonstration of how frustrating my online banking experience will be?

I made my decision tonight, and unless I walk in the office tomorrow and get very poor service, Regions is going to have a new customer tomorrow.

Businesses must learn now that more and more customers will make a decision based on how easy you are to find online, and the information provided through your website. If you don't do it right online, how will you do it right offline?

Marketing a Travel Destination

There is a big debate in Bay County, Florida, home of Panama City Beach. Some might say it's an economic debate, some may say it's a moral debate.

It's really a marketing debate, in which morals and the economy are just part of it all.

The deciders -- politicians and an old local businessman who really runs the joint -- want to keep marketing to the Spring Breakers. These marketers believe that Panama City Beach is a town of seasons, and that they can effectively let the place be Sin City during the Spring and FamilyLand during the other times of year.

There are other marketers in the county who want to get rid of the party image and the college kids who go with it. They believe that you cannot appeal to vacationing families when your destination is known as Party Beach, and I agree with this.

I do not believe your product -- even if it's miles of sand beaches and gulf water -- can be everything to everyone. You have to find your target, serve that customer and stick to it.

Las Vegas doesn't have a "season" where it becomes like Opryland, Destin doesn't have a season that it becomes "Hedonism," and Dollywood doesn't try to be the French Quarter during certain times of the year. It just doesn't work.

When you see images like these below on the Travel Channel, the Wall Street Journal and even our hometown newspaper, it's hard to say "Hey Honey, let's take the kids to PCB!" Or even, "Honey, now that the kids are gone and we've got lots of money, let's go buy our second home where we're sure to have college kids puke over our balcony!"

As for the current leaders, they have a good point too... PCB has always been the party place, it's always appealed to the free-spirit and good ol' boys. Some locals say it'll never be a snobby place like "The Beaches of South Walton," and will forever be a party town. If this is the case, then embrace the image and market yourself 100% as a party town.

Start bringing in more big music acts and festivals, hand out liquor licenses like they're newspapers, make some really nice public transportation to dissuede drunk driving and start putting plugs in the floors for the one-armed bandits. Think "Las Vegas meets New Orleans with a heck of a lot prettier beaches and women than Biloxi."

Unfortunately for the local economy, that will probably never happen. We probably won't go one way or the other, and will continue trying to appeal to both Sinners and Saints, which means our economy suffers because we don't take advantage of either.

If our local leaders pull it off -- filling up with partiers part of the year and families/couples/Baby Boomers the rest of the year, it will be an amazing feat.

It's a marketing debate that might take years to play out, but I look forward to seeing the outcome.

When you think of Panama City Beach, FL, what do you think of? Most people in the Southeast would say, "PCB! Whoo hoo! Par-tay!"

It's generally known as the Redneck Riviera or Spring Break Central. But in Atlanta, it's known amongst the upper-middle to upper class residents as "Trash Central," amongst other derogatory names.

Panama City Beach takes 21% of its annual visitors from Atlanta, but being only 5 hours away, this number should be much higher. And while certainly many wealthy and successful Atlantans call PCB their vacation home, most of Atlanta's money goes west to other beaches in Walton and Okaloosa counties.

By the way, congrats to Ben Bollinger for getting in the WSJ. He and partner Lisa Anderson are tapping a fat market that's right in front of them. Smart!

Local Advertising

I think it's an exciting time to be a small business. Small is big.

You can advertise in small spaces in newspapers and magazines (and TV, radio and websites), and send the potential customer, voter, member, donor, subscriber or client straight to your website.

I live in Lynn Haven, Florida, and as I approach 40, I'm finally becoming interested in the local government. We have a city election coming up, and here's what a candidate puts in the paper:

He's honest and qualified and will sincerely appreciate my vote. No agenda. No platform. No issues. No Solutions.

How easy it would have been to include a website address with full biography and reason for seeking the seat. Do a Google search for Neil C. Jones, and there's nothing about a man from Lynn Haven. Wait a second...

There once was a man from Lynn Haven
His head was brilliant and shaven
He posted his blog
He patted his dog
And asked "does this make me a maven?"

Anyway, I just can't believe that a politician today would not say everything he wants to say on his website, and spend all his money on little local ads sending people to his website.

And here's another local ad that does something almost worse than not having a web address... having a web address that doesn't work.

Mar 16, 2007

Adobe - even the best aren't always the best

Adobe, definitely the most important company in making the web graphically beautiful, does just about everything as close to perfection as can possibly be done. Their software is magnificent, and thanks to their recent merge with Macromedia, they provide us all with fantastic services, which most of us receive for free through their Flash Players and Acrobat PDF Readers.

Why Adobe does not merge with Apple and Google and completely take out Microsoft, I don't know. (I'm not really a Microsoft basher... I'm just saying the Gorilla can be taken down.)

Anyway, they are great, and today one of their email ads grabbed me in (I do subscribe to their newsletters and let them advertise to me. Like most great companies, every now and then they'll email you something that you're really happy to see, like a new product, an upgrade, or a huge coupon.)

This email has intriguing and beautiful design and ... boom! A t-shirt! Who doesn't like a cool t-shirt. So I thought quickly, "Ah, what a cool idea. Give out about 10,000 t-shirts to your rabid fans with a little online game and then let them start spreading the word for you."

So I took their presentation of Creative Suite 2.3, found the answer to qualify me for a shirt, and submitted it. (Click "Brainteaser" at the bottom of their page if you want to play too.)

I thought, "How smart! They just got me to interrupt my work, spend 10 minutes learning about their products... in a way that made me want to upgrade (BUY) as quickly as possible... and now they're even going to give me a cheap t-shirt to help them advertise on the street. So simple, so done-before, but oh so brilliant!"

And then they let me down.

Instead of a screen asking for the address to send the shirt, I got a screen that said something like "we'll notify you by April 12 whether you get a shirt..." April 12! That's almost a month away! Why couldn't you just go ahead and give it to me if my answer was correct?

Not a big deal, but I just wanted to point out that you can do something very well and then at the very end ruin the experience for your customer. I guess I'll still be happy if I get a shirt 6 weeks from now... I'll let you know if it happens.

Mar 15, 2007

Apple needs to make an affiliate program for iTunes

Updated March 20: They actually do have an affiliate program that pays 5% commission (you have to sell a lot of songs to make any money). And it's hard to join, it's handled through Linkshare and the site interface is a nightmare.

They wouldn't let me have an affiliate link to sell their music because "my site has content unrelated to iTunes."

No Duh! I'm not going to write about iTunes on my site until I put my affiliate link up there that says "Kirk recommends these songs from iTunes..."

Again, even the best ain't perfect.
End update -

Not that they need more sales, but affiliate programs are a GREAT way to sell your product online. Apple should create an iTunes affiliate "dj" program. The "dj" composes a play list, as long or short as she wants, and lets her "fans" purchase the entire playlist in one click. Then Apple puts an affiliate commission in her pocket on each sale.

Hooray for the Little Guy

My online marketing experience began with a web hosting company. Back then, all the web hosting companies were small operations, trying to look bigger. Now, most of the ones that have survived are actually bigger, and can't provide the customized and experienced service that independent online marketing consultants can. What they're charging for below - Pay Per Click "starting at $125/mo"... the little guy can do better and save you money and time in the long run.

Mar 14, 2007

A Great New Service Called AOL

It's been over 10 years since the techies at work started teasing me about my AOL account. It was then, and still is, considered the beginners' area of the online world. I ended my 56K account with them around the turn of the century. My excuse to hold on to it as long as I did was for "market research," which in the late 90s, it was, since it was by far the most popular way to get online.

Since then I have used AOL's instant messenger from time to time, and that was just about the last service I thought I'd use from my very first ISP. But then I found myself Monday night watching the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame show live online, compliments of AOL. It was a clean stream, very good quality video being delivered for free online. Good for AOL!

It's going to be interesting to see how media brands will rise and fall and rise again. AOL could have some really good services like this one come up, put a unique spin on media delivery and climb to the top again.

For instance, I've said for years that one day I'll be able to get online to watch David Letterman and have a choice to pay for the viewing (minimal... perhaps $.50 per show) or have an advertiser of my choice pay for the episode. If I choose to buy the show commercial-free, then I am either billed via credits to CBS or one of their online vendors (such as a YouTube or other online property).

If I choose to have an advertiser pay the $.50 for the show, then I am given the option of the willing advertisers. It could be anyone from the local merchant to a national brand.

Let me give you an example. I know I need a new pair of jeans, so I enter "jeans" in my search field. My results brings me 3 options: Target, Levi's and Sears. I choose the Sears ad because it promises an automatic 15% discount on any pair of jeans. Then, a video "player" opens up that is branded with Sears' logo and web link, and a 1 minute commercial starts streaming. Depending on how advanced Sears' marketing department is, you'll probably see the video customized based on the "jeans" search. Or, maybe you'll just see an all-inclusive Sears commercial. Regardless, they're paying for your Letterman show, and you're going to see at least a few more Sears "blips" (5 sec. commercials) during the broadcast.

There are a lot of companies - local and national - who are willing to spend $.50 for you to see a one minute presentation, especially if you chose that advertiser based on what you are looking to purchase.

AOL could have had me in the palm of their hands the other night. I would have either purchased or selected an advertiser to bring me the live feed of the RnR HoF ceremony, but they gave it to me for free. If they are to rise again as a Great New Online Service, then they'll have to start inventing new ad strategies like this.

Mar 10, 2007

Panama City, Florida Restaurants

The realization that search engines are replacing phone books for advertisers has not quite reached every market.

Do a search in Google for "Panama City restaurants," and you will find that this popular beach town does not have a single restaurant advertising directly. Sure, they may be in some of the travel content and local business chamber sites, but they're not right there in your results, saying "Come eat at Flamingo Joes, the best restaurant on the Beach!" (which it is, in many categories.)

Once these small businesses realize how affordable it is to be listed right there in Google, Yahoo, MSN (or Live... whatever they're calling themselves now), they can't say no.

Google has not peaked. Wow.

google results for panama city restaurants

The Difference A Keyword Can Make

The way people search is as unique as people themselves. No one does it the same way. One might type in "Panama City Restaurants" to choose where to eat, while another may be a little more detailed and type in "Panama City Florida Restaurants."

By adding "Florida," Google adds one of their newer services, local search. It includes their outstanding Google Maps at the top to let you know where you're going.

The point is, you need have many different keyphrases and keywords in your PPC campaign in order to reach the different "searchers" of your market.

Online vs. Phone Book

I walked outside yesterday to find a big ol' phonebook in my driveway. "This is the year I'll find out how to make sure we don't get one!" I told myself for about the 8th year in a row.

I looked up and down the street to see shiny plastic bags holding yellowed-paged books as far as the eye could see. It's a sight you won't be able to see in the future. I don't know how far into the future, but the printed phonebooks are going to die.

I have a Legal / Accounting client in Atlanta who had been spending over $8K per month advertising in the Bell South Yellow Pages. $96,000 per year-- for years! This was his major marketing/advertising channel, and the yellow pages brought a fine return on investment year after year. His office grew and prospered in Midtown Atlanta.

Then, in 2005, he saw a drastic decline in business. He could not figure out why. I suggested that perhaps it was because people were getting away from using the yellow pages. After all, if you're online, you've simply become accustomed to getting the information you want, immediately, often with photos, full product/service information, and even video demonstrations. Why go pick up a huge phone book, page through to your appropriate category, and then browse all the options that only give you contact information and a few service descriptions at best?

This client now spends about $1K per month in Google, Yahoo and MSN, and is having the most prosperous year in his company's history. He did not renew his contract with Bell South. For about a thousand dollars, he paid me to set up an online pay-per-click (PPC) campaign that is giving him a $15K+ per month increase in his bottom line. Not bad.