Today’s PR Explodes with Social Technology

Written by Barbara Tipton, owner of Grapevine Marketing Solutions which specializes in business writing, public relations and media communications

Public Relations are target-market awareness strategies used to meet the goals and objectives identified in your comprehensive marketing plan. Today, it’s wise to out-source separate marketing and Public Relations services if qualified individuals are not on staff, as each discipline has its strengths for securing valuable market share.

By studying research gathered in your marketing plan, promotional activities focused on the 7-P’s of the extended marketing mix—Product, Price, Promotion, Place (distribution), People, Processes, and Physical Evidence (of services offered)—can be evaluated honestly. In the first step, Public Relations (PR) campaigns manage the public’s perception of your business, reputation, a program or a product. And within both the marketing plan and the PR campaign, there’s energy to create remarkable things worth talking about.

The methodology of Public Relations is to invest resources on building positive, long-lasting relationships with profitable audiences. PR professionals next identify the desired target market, then craft and tailor every positive message, piece of collateral, media communication, and special event to influence that audience, constantly measuring ROI against the influence. With fast-forward technology at your fingertips, the promotional tools you choose to use today will be obsolete tomorrow, so you must work at the top of your game.

Standard Tools
The audience will define the promotional activities and media tools used today. The days of printed advertising, sales promotions, direct marketing pieces are dwindling. Printing costs, expensive postage, dwindling newspaper readership, and junk mail are not as effective as they used to be. Dynamic websites, along with these electronic PR tools are welcomed most frequently by today’s environmental-friendly and ‘too-busy’ audiences:
• Electronic press releases
• Links to online Press Kits
• Wire service distribution feeds
• Electronic news releases to strategic media partners
• Online personal sales blasts, e-zines, e-coupons

Social Media
Narrowing the scope of the target market defines success today. ‘Age’ now dictates whether to use print or electronic means of PR communication. An audience above 40-years old may still respond to printed materials and values something they can hold in their hands, read and keep. A younger audience, between 25 to 40-years of age, is more comfortable online, preferring interactive, digital communications and e-files. Whatever is new, personal—yet practical, will capture the attention of the Gen Y’s and future cyber generations. And lately, smart businesses are using social technology at record-speed to share their message with a narrow, but precisely chosen audience: 
• RSS satellite feeds
• Pod casts
• Web casts
• Blogs
• Face-Book
• My Space
• You Tube

Partnership Events
Lastly, one of the most accepted and strongest promotional activities today are partnership events. Even though these people-friendly venues raise business PR to a new level, they are very resource heavy and must be professionally planned for success. Individual or product placement within community events or at celebrity functions can develop high-visibility if you carefully select strategic alliances. Products/people can be launched at press conferences, media seminars, public speaking opps, grand openings as well as entertainment and sporting events. The secret is to garner events that establish honorable partnerships, which in turn benefit the bottom line.
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Public Relations professionals keep abreast of the fast, ever-changing landscape of business through the local and national association of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Barbara Tipton can be reached at 817-329-0318 or brtipton@tx.rr.com.  Her website address is www.shazammpromotions.com

Know Your Graphic Design Basics – Part I

(Written by Mili Suleman, owner of a graphic design solutions company.)

Welcome Readers!

This is the first in a series of articles I’ll be writing focusing on graphic design for the small business.  (Thanks Kate!)

The average consumer is becoming savvier about graphic design software programs and that’s awesome.  But if you think knowing how to put together a newsletter in Publisher is all you need to know in terms of graphic design, (we’ll lovingly call it GD from now), read this article and you’ll probably change your mind.  The harsh truth is the image of your business presented to the world each day can be a lot more important in the start than the actual product or service you are delivering.  So, get comfortable and read on…    

First off, let’s define ‘graphic design’ that is sometimes confused with ‘desktop publishing’ and discuss how the two are different.   

Graphic Design is the art and science of laying out images (photographs, scanned images, computer-created artwork) and text into a space that communicates a message to the audience.  This could take the form of logos, brochures, annual reports, branding/identity, restaurant graphics, direct mail, posters etc.  GD is an intensive and sometimes lengthy process that involves research, conceptualization, sketches, designing and revisions.  GD can involve creating pieces of work completely by hand and then transferring them to a computer or creating them from scratch on the computer.  Hence, graphic designers usually have a background in studio arts, photography, etc.  Programs used by a graphic designer include Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Bridge, Freehand, Flash, Quark XPress, etc.  

Desktop Publishing (we’ll call it DP for short) is the usage of the computer and specific software to lay out newsletters, brochures, and other functional pieces.  Compared to GD, DP is usually a process that is not as in-depth, which doesn’t mean it isn’t as time-consuming unfortunately, and focuses more on the function than the “art.”  DP is aimed at the average consumer who doesn’t have a design background.  DP is entirely completed on the computer using programs such as PageMaker, InDesign, Quark XPress, Word, Publisher, (Photoshop, Illustrator on occasion). 

Let me illustrate how GD helped a client of mine with branding her company in creating an identity that presented her business with a sophisticated and professional image…  

Case Study:  Yvonne Fontana Jewelry 

Yvonne and I met at a women’s networking meeting after she had started a small home-based business of making delicate, beautiful jewelry for women.  Like any small business owner, she dreamed big.  She came to me for a logo that represented her work.   

I met with her a few times and got to know her better.  Then I started working on some concepts, which resulted in several pages of sketches.  The images you will see in the near future are only a sample.  I worked on typefaces, shapes, colors etc.  Image “d” is the final product.   

We knew we wanted something that represented Yvonne’s strong faith and her product.  The shape in the center can be interpreted as a star, diamond, sparkle, a cross.  The colors I chose have a feminine quality.  The typeface (or font) is delicate, stem-like.  I also created a black logo on a white background and a white logo on a black background.  This gave Yvonne the versatility to print it as she pleased.  She has patented the logo, made necklace tags and earring cards, and is on her way to selling the heck out of her jewelry.  

I’d like to end this article by asking you to make a list (I love lists!) of your qualities, passions, personality traits that you might like represented in your company’s logo.  

Mili Suleman can be reached at 817-456-6622 or mili@schnauzdesign.com.  Her website is www.schnauzdesign.com and of course features some of her design work.

Local Population Changes in Greater Southlake Market

The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) recently released its official Jan. 1, 2008 population estimates for the greater DFW area.  NCTCOG estimates are based on building permits, occupancy factors and household size; this process differs from U.S. Census methodology.

For the five cities in the greater Southlake marketplace with over one thousand residents, Grapevine experienced the greater increase of 3.6 percent, or 1,650 new residents.  Keller had the second highest growth rate at 1.9 percent, for an increase of 700 residents.  Overall, the five cities grew by 3,150 residents, or 2.3 percent from 138,500 in January 2007 to 141,650 on January 1, 2008.

Here are population estimates for the five local  communities with over one thousand residents as of January 1, 2007 and 2008.

Colleyville
2008  22,500
2007  22,150

Grapevine
2008  47,150
2007  45,500
 
Keller
2008  38,400
2007  37,700

Southlake
2008  26,100
2007  25,700

Trophy Club
2008  7,500
2007  7,450

Marketing in a Sluggish Economy

Here are three tips to remember when marketing in a struggling economy.

First, focus on strengthening relationships with your best customers.  Who are the twenty percent generating eighty percent of your revenue?  Use your tracking system to identify them if you don’t already know.  If you don’t have an effective tracking system and customer database, now’s a great time to start developing them!

When was the last time you had a personal conversation with these key customers?  What are their concerns?  Do you need to modify payment terms?  Do you need to reward them with special services that may only cost a small amount but generate additional loyalty?  Do they provide referrals?

Second, examine your current marketing activities.  Focus on those producing the greatest return on your investment of time and money.  If you can’t quantify your return, now’s the time to develop a practical method.

Third, now is not the time to cut corners on customer service.  If you lose profitable customers due to a decline in service, you may not regain them after the economy improves.

Who to Contact Locally for Certificate of Occupancy and Business Signs

If you need to obtain a certificate of occupancy or learn about signage requirements within the greater Southlake area, here are the appropriate departments within each local community to contact.  

Colleyville: The Building Inspection Department handles both items. 

Grapevine: Development Services is the division to contact. 

 Keller: Contact the Development Services Division of the Community Development Department. 

Southlake: The Building Inspections division handles both items. 

Trophy Club: The Permitting staff handles both items. 

Westlake: Planning and Development is the department to contact. 

Local Kudos

Here are two examples of local businesses providing great customer service.

Southlake Jewelers, located in the Village Center Shopping Center (with Kroger as the anchor) on East Southlake Boulevard, has always treated me very well.  Whenever I’ve visit their store, they’ve not only always cleaned my rings for free, but they’ve also repaired various broken necklace clasps for free while I waited! 

The Albertsons at West Southlake and Davis Boulevards made a special trip to our home with a case of chips I had special ordered.  I visited their store twice in one day to pickup the merchandise after receiving a phone call that the case had arrived.  The food manager who placed the order was not in at either time when I stopped by the store.  They found the case of chips immediately after I left the store but couldn’t catch me in the parking lot.  They called our home before I arrived home and asked where I lived as one of the employees who had been involved in the search for the case of chips was getting off work and wanted to deliver the chips!

 

Unraveling the Strategic Planning Process for Small Businesses – Part II

Here’s the final part of a two-part series designed to help small businesses understand the strategic planning process.  This first part focused on the BIG picture or visioning process as it’s often called.  This second part focuses on the steps taken annually to develop and update an organization’s marketing plan. 

Both articles are written in everyday language and hopefully provide practical ideas for your small business.  My mission is to explain the variety of terms employed in strategic planning that are also used in budgeting and other planning processes.  I’m relying on common definitions, explanations and examples of the most frequently used terms.  As previously mentioned, if you read a variety of books on strategic planning, you’ll find authors using and offering varying descriptions of these terms.

As we switch gears to the annual planning process, we’re talking about goals, objectives, strategies and tactics.  Here’s a quick overview of these four terms based on definitions found in Barbara Findlay Schenck’s highly recommended book Small Business Marketing for Dummies.

A goal is a sales or professional target set for a specific time frame and employs the use of numbers or percentages.  A goal answers the WHAT we want to achieve question and is measurable. 

An objective is a measureable result to achieve a goal; one goal can require two or more objectives.  Objectives address HOW to meet a goal.  Action words such as introduce, gain or improve are put to use.  An objective statement often includes the use of a verb, a noun and then a precise description. 

A strategy is a plan for achieving each measureable objective; it should be flexible to respond to external forces.  A marketing strategy generally addresses one of the four P’s of the marketing mix: product, place, price and promotion.

A tactic is the specific ACTION you’ll take to enact your strategy.

At the first level of annual planning, we start by setting our goal or goals for the year.  Webster’s offers this definition: a goal is the end toward which effort is directed, or the AIM.

Let’s think of a small business’ goal or goals as the one or two financial targets you really want to achieve, whether net profit or some type of unit goal.  And yes, you may establish more than one goal for a year!  Also, one should have a tracking system in place to measure these goals.

In The Successful Marketing Plan by Hiebing and Cooper, the authors discuss how goals vary by industry. 
• If a manufacturing entity, you’ll probably focus on dollar and/or unit goals.
• In retail, focus on dollars and transaction goals, or unit goals.
• If a service provider, the focus is usually dollars and persons served.
• Non-profits are likely to set a goal for funds raised to support their programs and the number of volunteers involved or volunteer hours contributed.

They also point out that dollar sales goals should be set to provide a profit to the business.  If you set a gross sales goal, you may meet it but you may not have enough money to pay for expenses and earn a profit.  If you solely focus on units, transactions or persons served, you again may meet the goal, but may not earn a profit. This doesn’t mean that you won’t track or set goals for gross sales, but that net sales or revenue is a more meaningful goal.

Here are examples of goals.
• Increase net revenue by six percent
• Increase occupancy by four percent
• Achieve an average $2000 net profit per month
• Increase membership by five percent

After establishing your goals, you’ll now want to establish objectives to meet these goals.  (Please note that numerous business planning authors discuss the need for setting objectives but may not have both goal and objective setting steps.  Additionally, if you refer to dictionaries and thesauruses, the terms goals and objectives are interchangeable.)
  
I favor the establishment of both goals and objectives (similar to Ms. Schenck) so one has an opportunity to break down each goal based on measurable categories within our business, such as new customers and existing customers, residential and commercial customers, dining-in versus take-out.  At this stage, we can focus on target markets; a target market is a group of people or businesses with a set of common characteristics.

And just to reiterate, both goals and objectives should be specific, quantifiable, and measurable, such as related to a certain time frame (i.e., quarterly, annually, etc.).  If you’re just starting your business, you may want to set gradually increasing goals and objectives.

Here are examples of objectives.
• Increase the number of new customers by four percent or acquire 200 new customers
• Increase the average sales per customer by 1.5 percent
• For a spa, retain 95 percent of your existing customers by ensuring they visit your store and make a purchase (services or products) at least once every three months
• Purchase a new truck for a service route with an outlay not to exceed $20,000
• For an insurance agent, increase from six to ten the number of monthly presentations to new prospects.  If you offer both car and homeowners insurance, the agency could have different objectives for these two types of insurance.  They could also establish objectives for year 1, year 2 and year 3.

At the third or strategy stage, we’re going to focus on different methods or ways to meet your objectives as we concentrate on affecting the behavior of your target market(s).  Here’s the chance to use more descriptive terms, and as Ms. Schenck mentions look to the four components of the traditional marketing mix. 

Here are examples of strategies.
• Find two new products for your home improvement line (product)
• Eliminate the three poorest performing products (product)
• Segment or categorize customers to identify their purchasing habits, if you don’t already do so (product)
• Undertake a study of customer satisfaction (product)
• Find one new distributor for your line of engraved baby linens (place)
• Extend delivery service hours (place)
• Develop a frequent buyer program (price)
• If a floral shop, increases prices by five percent over Valentine’s holiday and Mother’s Day (price)
• Offer quarterly seminar on a specific topic (promotion) 
• Market to one new zip code (promotion).
 
At the final or tactics stage, we’re getting down to specific actions for putting strategies into play.

Here are examples of tactics.
• Join the Chamber of Commerce by a certain date.
• Contact two customers each week; maintain contact log including whom called, issues discussed, action taken or needed.
• Take one customer out for lunch once each month; maintain activity log.
• Develop a tracking system of residential versus commercial accounts and review every two weeks.
• Locate a consultant to help with a customer satisfaction study
• Study competition to determine if and what types of seminars they offer
• Donate two products to the local PTO fund raiser.

Here’s a brief example for a gift / card shop in which I only identify one goal and one objective with related strategies and tactics.  Since tactics can involve very specific details, a marketing plan may just list high-level details or dates.

Goal: Increase net revenue by five percent

Objective: Increase the number of existing customer visits from once/month to twice/month at a minimum.  (This assumes you know the average number of times customers visit and you’re able to track visits by sales receipts or credit card/debit transactions.)

Strategy:
1) Conduct a six-week long sweepstakes for prizes in which customers complete an entry form when visiting your store; purchase not required.  (May be able to collect missing or important customer data on the entry form!)
2) Implement a frequency shopping card program which offers increasing rewards the more often they shop.  (May need to have a minimum purchase requirement.)
3) Offer mystery coupons over a two-month period (that differs from the timing of the sweepstakes offer) in a sealed envelope that are awarded at one-visit and may only be used at the next visit when un-opened envelope returned to the store.

Tactics:
1) Develop and print sweepstakes rules.
2) Design promotional program for sweepstakes promotion.
3) Design and print entry forms.
4) Train employees on sweepstakes rules.
5) Obtain on-site collection box for entry forms.
6) Evaluate sweepstakes promotion.
7) Develop and post card program rules.
8) Design promotional program for reward program.
9) Train employees on reward program rules.
10) Develop and print reward cards.
11) Conduct quarterly evaluation of reward program.
12) Develop and print mystery coupon program rules.
13) Design promotional program for mystery coupon promotion.
14) Train employees on mystery coupon rules.
15) Purchase envelopes for mystery coupon promotion.
16) Develop and print mystery coupons.
17) Evaluate mystery coupon promotion.

I want to close by encouraging the use of a marketing calendar which organizes and reminds what you and/or your staff should be doing on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  If you attend the Chamber monthly luncheon on the third Thursday of each month, place that in your calendar for each month.  If you desire to contact two existing customers each week, post it on every Tuesday or whatever day works best.  If you want to visit a competitor’s location once a month, pick a day such as the 10th or 15th, and schedule it for the next twelve months.  The use of a calendar is a great way to develop positive habits.

In a perfect world we would be able to establish a year long calendar; but plan to enter as much as possible even if you start by just entering dates for starting the planning and execution of all details for each strategy, and then routinely updating your calendar!

If you would like to meet to discuss how strategic planning can be put to use for your business, please contact us at kgbmarketing@hotmail.com.

Unraveling the Strategic Planning Process for Small Businesses – Part I

Here’s the first part of a two part series designed to help small businesses understand the strategic planning process.  This first part focuses on the BIG picture or visioning process as it’s often called.  The second part will focus on the steps taken annually to develop and update an organization’s plans. 

Both articles are written in everyday language and hopefully provide practical ideas for your small business.  My goal is to explain the variety of terms employed in strategic planning that are also used in budgeting and other planning processes.  I’m relying on definitions, explanations and examples of the most frequently used terms.

When an organization discusses and develops its vision, mission, or statement of purpose, they’re focusing on statements to guide the entity for the long term and are quite broad.  You’ll find that organizations of all sectors undertake this process including for-profit companies, non-profits and governmental agencies.

So at this top level, we’re talking about the WHY of a business or organization.  These statements
• don’t involve the use of numbers
• won’t change from year to year (that is until the next visioning process is undertaken)
• will be incorporated in numerous company documents
• should be shared with employees, customers and prospects.

If you read a variety of books on strategic planning, you’ll find authors offering varying descriptions of these terms; I want you to remember as a small business that you really just need to have one of these statements that expresses what you want your business to become in the long term.  Whether you call it a vision, mission, or statement of purpose is not significant, but creating one is!  The following definitions are based on Barbara Findlay Schenck’s highly recommended book, Small Business Marketing for Dummies. 

A vision is a statement of what your company strives to be in the desired future.  A vision statement uses verbs or action words such as eliminate, make, or find.

A mission is a statement of how to create your vision, i.e. the core purpose of and the approach you’ll take to achieve your vision.  Some experts refer to it as the general path. A mission statement uses verbs and action words such as build, travel or rehabilitate.

A statement of purpose is usually a combination of the vision and mission.  This statement defines your purpose and states your long-range goals and core values.  It might also state the positive changes you are trying to create.

Here are examples:

  • Microsoft – to enable people throughout the world to realize their full potential
  • 3M – to solve unsolved problems innovatively
  • Southwest Airlines – The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.
  • Merck – to preserve and improve human life
  • Avis – to ensure a stress-free rental experience by providing safe, dependable vehicles and special services designed to win customer loyalty
  • Walt Disney – to make people happy
  • Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream – A product mission stated as: “To make, distribute & sell the finest quality all natural ice cream & euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.” This mission inspired Ben and Jerry to build a cause-related company.
  • Mary Kay Cosmetics – to give unlimited opportunity to women
  • Wal-Mart – to give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same thing as rich people

If you’re currently working on your vision, here are a few quick guidelines.
• Define a person or an organization by setting out the basic purpose for being
• State what you value and are trying to accomplish
• Use to inform, motivate or involve
• Incorporate the parent company’s mission into yours if you’re part of a large organization.

If you’d like to share your vision or mission statement, just email it to me at kgbmarketing@hotmail.com.

The second article will focus on the annual process of planning and strategizing for your small business.  The primary terms we’ll discuss are goals, objectives, strategies and tactics.

Local Planning and Zoning Commission Meetings

As a small business owner/operator/manager, you may periodically need to attend public meetings at which important decisions impacting your business are discussed and made.  If you live in the greater Southlake market, here are the meeting times for the Planning and Zoning Commission of each community.  This commission is often referred to as “P&Z”.

Colleyville: The Commission meets the second and fourth Monday of each month. The regular session begins at 7:00 p.m., Colleyville City Hall, 100 Main Street.

Grapevine: The Commission meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 pm, Grapevine City Hall, 200 South Main Street.  Special meetings and workshops are held as needed.
 
Keller: The Commission meets the second and fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m., Keller Town Hall, 1100 Bear Creek Parkway.

Southlake: The Commission meets the first and third Thursday, following the first Tuesday, of each month, at 6:30 p.m., Southlake Town Hall, 1400 Main Street. 

Trophy Club: The Commission meets the first and third Thursday of each month, at 7 p.m., Svore Municipal Building, 100 Municipal Drive.

Westlake: The Commission meets as needed on the fourth Thursday of each month, at 7 p.m., Westlake Town Hall, 2600 J. T. Ottinger Road.

Contrasting Cross-selling and Up-selling

Cross-selling involves asking a customer to purchase a related or complementary item with an item they have just ordered.  The following examples should help.

  • Would you like French fries with your burger?
  • Do you need a warranty?
  • Do you need a printer along with your new PC?
  • This belt or these shoes would look great with those slacks!

Up-selling occurs when one suggests a better or more expensive product.  Examples include offering

  • a larger size of French fries or shake
  • a faster computer
  • a golf membership with greater privileges.

These two sales terms are often interchanged with one another, and many on-line articles seem to suggest these strategies are exclusive to Internet sales.  But they’re not as they’ve been around for quite some time!