Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's Been A Long Time

I have to admit, the Holidays have thrown my schedule off track a bit. But the good news is that I'm back!!! It's time to get ready for 2008, and all that it has to offer.

The Indicator Series is coming to a close, and it will leave room to start another discussion about business and marketing.

Anyway, this will probably do it for this year, but I would like to wish everyone a wonderful New Year. May it be filled with love, peace and stacks of cash!!!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

DogFish Beer

This is a special note to a friend. You were right! That's all I'm going to say about it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

EVERY PEAK HAS TWO VALLEYS

Indicator #5 Are You Mountain Climbing, or Are You Trying To Get Somewhere?

If only every journey followed a flat terrain with very little obstacles, the life of an entrepreneur would have more success stories than it does today. The truth of the matter is that every journey and every venture contains challenges and obstacles that, believe or not, take us along a process to greatness. In greatness, I am referring to the unusual success stories of records labels and shoe companies starting out the trunk of a car, media conglomerates forming in a funk-infested dorm room, or a computer giant rising from the oil-stains of an unsuspecting garage.

It never fails in business, the “Big One” shows up in a late evening phone call, or from a series of fortunate events. There you are with your inadequate budget, limited cash-flow, starring at the project of your career. You are saying to yourself, “If I can pull this one off, I’ll be on my way”. So you mysteriously find the energy and creativity to do everything you can to make this project a success, and you make every detail a big deal, because this is the “Big One”.

In the end, you haven’t considered the impact this project will have on your overall strategic plan. Before you know it, you change your focus from a journeyman to a mountain climber – all because there is an assumed plateau up there with better paying clients and more meaningful projects. The truth of the matter is that every peak has two valleys, and every project has front-side and back-side cost associated with it. What will it cost you to get up there, and how much have you sacrificed coming down. There are no projects of a lifetime, only projects along the way.

If there is a considerable change in the way you do business to handle the big project, then your business model is not in line with your strategic plan, assuming your goal is to grow. The next “Big One” that comes your way, you should give it the same business you give your regular customers. If it’s not sufficient, you should consider your practices, and adjust accordingly. Either way, consistency is the key for efficiency and profits. You will never know the “Big One” until the journey is done.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Public Companies, Private Matters

I've got a wild thought in my head, and I want to document it, to begin exploring if I have a valid point on this subject. My thought is, how does the market benefit from having advertsing and other related companies as publicly held institutions. I know it serves a relatively B2B function, but I'm not sure how an investor benefits from revenue made by an advertising firm, from a business who has to subtract the expenditure from their bottom line. After all, advertising is only as viable as the real producers of our economy. So, what exactly is an investor in an ad agency looking for in terms of performance, which is totally dependent on the spending power of others? I know it's a business, but the pressure for an ad agency to perform means the business sector must give up revenue to make this happen. In the end, who really wins?

This may be a stupid business question, but I'm not so sure.

Help me out with your comments.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Pandora Experience


What should we expect next in the online sampling experience?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tie Die Shirts for the Color Blind?


EAST COAST EXPERIENCE
The Discipline of Discerning

I had the wonderful opportunity, over the Thanksgiving Holiday, to visit my brother in Philadelphia. I chose to drive to clear my mind and take in the scenery. It had been fifteen years since I ventured off into the wonderful highways and turnpikes of the brisk land we call the East Coast. The journey was wonderful, and it has changed my enthusiasm for life, career and the world in general.

I’m sure you don’t want to hear about my “life-altering” trip, so I’ll give you the goods you seek from me. Back in the day, when I was a student in Washington, D.C., we talked about visual literacy, and how important it was to advancing our society. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, visual literacy has to do with an individual’s ability to comprehend and relate to design elements, as they were intended by the artist, designer, architect, or creator. The crazy thing about this concept is, it took four years for me and my classmates to truly understand it, and we were sent out in the world expecting everyone else to know what the hell we were talking about.

Here we are nearly twenty years later, and the concept of visual literacy is as useful as good 90-minute cassettes for recording music. For the most part, there is always a fundamental element of visual literacy within a society or culture, which should be understood long before you decide your major in college. The real secret to this thing is having the talent to speak your own language, and having any person or any culture understand what the hell you are talking about. It takes a master to achieve this, but it takes a genius to achieve this and have them act upon what you are saying. Target marketing is just the first phase of this global thing. It’s just an opportunity for the market to understand just how little they know about the world. Eventually, there will come professionals who speak the world’s language.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Indicator #4 - Don't Talk About It - Be About It

Indicator #4
Corporate Identity Crisis and Product Ambiguity


There's nothing more frustrating in the marketing and advertising business than pulling things out of the air or repackaging an overused product to improve the sales performance of a client. No matter how talented you think you are, or how talented you actually are in this profession, there are certain products and brands you can't change for the better. It has nothing to do with your ability, but everything to do with your client's ability to meet you half way. Before you can develop that wonder brand, or place that product in the perfect channel, your client must first have some grasp on what they are trying to do, and why they are doing it.

Most companies start off with well planned intentions and products, but as the market creates challenges that require unintended responses, they slowly lose their way in the market. The winds of change blow away their purpose and action, so they call on you to help improve their brand or push their products a little further in the market. What they are really asking is for you to save their company, or help them regain their focus. However, the RFQ doesn't ask for this - it's just a hope that these benefits will come along with your help on their "marketing initiative". If you care about making companies work, then this challenge should always haunt you in your daily operation. What seems to be totally encompassed in marketing, actually reaches in the fields of organizational behavior or operations management.

In my quest to be an excellent marketing professional, my journey has led me to pursuing a Supply Chain Management MBA to better understand the organizational and operational factors that highly influence the performance of a brand or product. I've learned more, during my career, about what branding is not, than what it actually is, which evolved into a very unique understanding of how this marketing thing works. The brands and products that work in the marketplace go far beyond creative strategy, product placement, or sales channel development - they actually stem from human capital and concept management.

Of all the indicators I will write about, this one is the hardest to detect, because it requires the most investigation. You can't visualize it, because you see some forms of progress. However, it can be initially detected by asking one question, "what do you do?". If the answer is longer than ten words, then you have a problem. It never gets that complex to have a lengthy answer, and it never gets that lengthy if you want a competitive advantage. Until your client can provide a brief and precise answer to this question, your ability to work your marketing wonders on their brand or product will be limited at best.

Truthfully, your marketing work starts and ends with getting this question answered in a statement of no more than ten words. A conclusive statement from your client actually triggers the organizational and operational factors that will support their marketing needs. Don't wait for the indicator to reveal itself, ask the question first, and work from there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Indicators Explained - Indicator 3

Before I begin this entry, I would like to make a special note to my brothers Kyle and Jimmy, for always being there, and putting up with me.

Well, I have my John Coltrane station working on Pandora, and I’m ready to introduce my next indicator. However before I begin, I would like to discuss the concept of indicators a little. I think it’s important to properly use these stories and concepts to benefit the development of your company. In order to achieve this goal, we need to discuss the proper methods for acting upon them.

The primary use of indicators is to know when to begin or end a business relationship. Often times, we see the signs, but we ignore them and hope that things will turn out for the best through our ability, their sense of morality, or chance itself. Truthfully, outcomes in life or business follow an almost exact equation, combining factors and circumstances to render a total that may or may not be in our favor. Although we cannot control the circumstances, we can control the factors that are used in the equation of success or failure.

In every situation, there will be an indicator to arise that should make you question whether to continue the relationship. Obvioiusly, to walk away after sighting the first indicator would mean that you should never engage in any business, which means you will never make any money. Indicators are simply a guide to understanding the challenges and risks you face in the business relationship. As Inspector Gadget used to say, “knowing is half the battle”, and it still holds true, especially in business. Every businessman believes he/she has it together, and everyone normally puts, what he or she considers to be, his or her best foot forward. However, we all have flaws and shortcomings, and the misinterpretation of them can lead to undesirable situations in the end.

As you begin to detect indicators in your clients, you should begin to detect them in your business. And as you become aware of how your indicators are obvious, you should to work on them to improve the perception you impart of your desired customers. I constantly use indicators in everyday life, and I typically engage in better relationships. It’s only when I lose sight of my goals, and chose to ignore the indicators in front of me that I experience unnecessary failures in my business and in my life.

Indicator #3
The Vendor Killer


As you are going through your normal course of business, you receive a call from a client who has a project for you, which only needs some small adjustments before it’s ready to go. When you finally meet with the client, they have the project totally prepared, almost as if it had been worked on a few times before. You ask a few questions to understand why you are really there. After all, the progress thus far looks impressive and to the standards you would accept if you were awarded the project. And then you get it, there were two or three before you, but things didn’t work out. And there you are, face to face with the vendor killer. The only thing left of them are a few proofs and files that they forgot to take back before the departed the scene. So, now it’s your turn. What should you do? You could believe this guy and show how you are different, or you could walk away and leave the project for someone who hasn’t studied the indicators blog.

This indicator is important to study, because it is a situation that separates the pros from the amateurs. The pros never handle clean-up work, and if they do, it’s at a premium rate that exposes the insanity of the client. The amateurs always take the bait, because they have something to prove. The vendor killer attacks his/her prey in a variety of ways – lack of money, lack of commitment, lack of anything. There’s always something missing in the client’s business ethic that keeps a typically normal project from taking the standard course of action. The sick part of all of this is that most cases are unintentional – that’s just the way they do business. The other cases will be discussed in future indicator stories.

In all cases, the best option is to walk, and walk fast. The problem is never the project itself, but the client and their way of doing business. You may be able to help them with completing a project that took nearly five vendors, but at what cost? Eventually, you will become another body laid on the side of vendor row, and it will be your fault for believing you could beat the vendor killer. Don’t be another victim

Saturday, November 17, 2007

That Global Thing



LET'S GO GLOBAL

It's interesting, all these years of struggle to simply create harmony between blacks and whites, and here we are embracing, as a nation, the global thing. I've placed this entry in a topic called the process of failure, because the national approach to globalization is truly an example in how marketing can go wrong when you focus more on the money or the setbacks, and not the process that drives the situation as a whole.

There is a process to globalization that I don't think we, as a nation, have begun, and bypassing the process may result in setbacks we are not ready for as a nation. There was a commercial where a young lady said she planned to take her company global, as soon as she took it national. The reality is that most companies, large and small, have yet to take their company regional, from a marketing perspective. Sure, the money may be coming in from all four corners of the globe, but that’s only temporary.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Indicator #2 - Short Arms Deep Pockets


Indicator #2
Short Arms Deep Pockets


As a business owner, the most attractive dream client is the one with a lot of money and a lot of needs that you can help them with to improve their business. You look at their wealth, and then you look at the product, and it baffles you. So you say, “how could this guy accomplish all of this?” So you begin working on them, and laying out your master plan to them – hoping this will be the mega-brand you help to launch. But all this guy wants is a stupid business card, with his company name breaking through a brick wall. In the end, the $75 project winds up costing you $500, because you ignored the indicator that could have saved you money, time and grief. The education business can easily be confused with the consulting business. A man with short arms is lucky to get anything into his pockets in the first place.

I worked for a brilliant man who started a business from nothing. He was savvy, shrewd and very cheap. I spent nearly seven years waiting for the day when he would embrace new ideas about marketing and branding. I soon learned that he would only pay for things that were absolutely necessary. In his case, and in his industry, branding and comprehensive marketing were not necessary. Therefore, he had no need to reach beyond very top of his pocket to drop his money in.

In the end, you must always have the ability to measure your client’s ability to reach, and compare it to the depth of their pocket. The successful relationships in the marketing and advertising business happen when both parties have reach that is within reason of their pockets. A man with short arms and deep pockets will never understand why he should extend his reach. A man with long arms and short pockets will never understand why he should pull back a little. It is the client who understands balance that will become part of the foundation of your success in this game. Always seek balance, and those who seek it as well.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Logo Concept


I'm working with a local promotion company. I'm stuck on logo approaches. Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cool Concept

Comments anyone?

Indicators (Survival Tips for Start-Ups)

It has been nearly seven years since I started my design and marketing firm. Currently, I'm at a point of closing it down, and I'm doing some soul-searching to gain some closure on the experience. I don't consider the closing of the business as a failure, but an opportunity denied and feared by many. When I look back on how things progressed, I realize the importance of having a strong business background to better understand the normal challenges that come with starting a business.

During my struggle to keep my business in operation, I came across similar scenarios, in regard to client relationships, that formed into an informal educational experience. I mentally logged each lesson into a list of "indicators" to help other business professionals understand the numerous pitfalls that exist out there for start-ups.

Over the next few weeks, I will begin formally documenting each of these indicators, which will be later compiled into a document to help start-ups, especially creative shops, look out for challenges that may counter their growth plans for their business.

INDICATOR #1
The Discount For The Deal Scam

The scariest thing about starting a business is the reality of being vulnerable. In fact, the risk involved with starting a business is more associated with being vulnerable than anything financial. For the first time ever, or in a long time, you have to build relationships from virtually nothing. As with most relationship-building experiences, the first responders are always the most dangerous ones. It never fails that one of your first, to be followed by many others, opportunities results in this statement, "If you can do this for me at a substantial discount, there will be more business coming down the pipe".

The English translation for this is, "Because you need the business, I'll do you a favor and give you my business, at a discount of course. And to not make you feel like an idiot, I'll promise you more substantial business later that will obviously never come to you". The Street translation for this is, "I need a sucker. Have I reached the right person?"

The lesson to be learned from this challenge is simple. Why would you take the time to develop a product or service, for a certain type of customer, at a specific rate, with set financial goals, to ruin the plan on the need to stay busy. By taking on these projects, you keep yourself from analyzing how successful your actual product or service is in the market. Additionally, you can easily fill your schedule with these types of customers, which will eventually decrease the possibility of you landing that real client who needs more time to understand your worth to them.

I have found that the true process, which is disguised by this scam, comes from working on small, but profitable projects, which can build credibility with the client and their partners. The fear of going small to big is a normal feeling, but it’s the only way to establish trust and brand-awareness with your clients. However, your price should never change, and neither should your mission.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Marketing at Conferences


I've learned an important thing about exhibit marketing. A cool booth is worth a lot more than a cool product. In the eyes of the decision makers, the creative approach to the brand and the product generate more recall, which can get a company's foot in the door more than cold-calling. Similar to the web, but with more cost, exhibit marketing can present a company in a light that makes it much larger than reality.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Netherlands Visit

My visit yesterday with educators from the Netherlands was very enlightening. Apparently, their structure for higher education involves a research and development component - similar to R&D in manufacturing. After talking indepth with one of the R&D officers, I am very impressed with the strategy and process. In higher education, R&D starts with research and exploration, and it concludes with an organizational behavior component to infuse the idea or concept into the culture of the institution.

I'll report more about my findings on their approach to education after I read a few articles they have published about the subject.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Joseph Weston - My Friend

My prayers go out to Joseph Weston, and the loss of his wife last week. Joseph is a good brother, still trying to make it in the creative world. His love for his wife, until the end, and his struggle to be accepted in a difficult industry serve as an example for us all.

Keep your head up Joe.

The Example of Avid Design



Avid Design, under the leadership of Tom Brand, is an example of good survival skills in the game of design. Tom founded this company with a great vision. He has endured the challenges that come with reaching for success. And twelve years later, he is still standing tall. Unlike the firms who benefit from venture capital, this company is an example of how success can happen when you have a good concept and and enduring spirit of success.

Congratulations Tom, you are my hero.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Another Creative Accomplishment


I learned many lessons with the marketing and creative support I contributed to the launch of The Big Easy. It was through this effort that I was able to offer, for the first time, creative direction based on marketing principles and research. I am extremely proud of this accomplishment, and I hope to begin working on a similar product sometime in the near future.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Purchase Decision Process

After a few months of preparing and educating the group on marketing strategies. I am at the point of reworking a purchase decision process matrix, which will help the organization understand two important things. The first thing is the process, and how successful marketing takes on a methodical structure to reach success, whatever that may be for an organization. The second thing is responsibility. All units of an organization must understand their role in each stage of the purchase decision process.

If anyone has any experiece with helping an organization understand how to apply the purchase decision process, I would love to hear your comments.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Before The Marketing Begins

Just recently, I was part of a wonderful community initiative to reach the hispanic population in the area. After great research and acknowledgement of recent failures, the group decided to take a grass roots approach to connecting with the hispanic community. The development, thus far, has been a success, and it is partly due to two important rules that were followed.

The first rule is, "Make the Connection before the Call To Action", with you marketing strategy. We often become arrogant about the services and products we sell in the market. We often believe that our hard work and intense planning qualify our efforts for instant success. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. The truth of the matter is that development must extend itself in two directions, the product and the person who needs the product.

The second rule is, "Develop the Process to lead to the Product", which lays the educational component of establishing brand awareness. The process is extremely important to developing and marketing the product. As marketing professionals, it is important to understand more than just the final product, but the process that lead to that final manifestation of planning.

Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Marketing with Others

Today,
I learned that a person's ego can get in the way of effective marketing. Marketing is a very humbling experience, and the easiest way to loose your "mojo" is to believe that you have conquered the minds of your target market. This is what makes marketing so exciting, because the mindset of your customers constantly shift to new ideas and needs. The real genius in this game is the professional who can live their lives, and produce a product or service that anticipates their needs

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Marketing Thought

Lately, many professionals have been looking for the perfect way to address their marketing needs for their company. It is apparent that the emergence of the computer and the internet have created many problems in the normal workflow of business. My next few blogs will discuss how companies can begin to restructure the marketing departments to address the overall needs of the company. The first posting will discuss documentation and standardization.