Friday, September 18, 2009

Engage Your Customers in a Discussion!

When speaking with your customers, don't just speak to them and give them information...engage them in the conversation! Discuss with them why they are interested, what impact it will in in their lives or how they will use it.

Remember, people generally comprehend:
* 11 percent of what they hear.
* 32 percent of what they see.
* 73 percent of what they see and hear.
* 90 percent of what they see, hear and discuss.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Encourage Participation With Your Team

When leading a sales meeting, do not do all the talking yourself. Salespeople (and most other people) hate to be lectured to.

Ask questions and listen to the answers. Ask for opinions, and always question the reason for a particular opinion. Remember, people generally comprehend:
* 11 percent of what they hear.
* 32 percent of what they see.
* 73 percent of what they see and hear.
* 90 percent of what they see, hear and discuss.
Source: Business coach/consultant Jonathan Farrington

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Apple's New iPod Nano Featuring FM Receiver Showcases Radio's Importance

Radio is Premier Source for New Music

AcquisitionRadio's 235 million weekly listeners will now have another way to listen to Radio, with the launch of Apple's new iPod nano featuring an FM receiver, which will also offer live pause capability as well as iTunes tagging to the user experience.

According to Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan, "Apple clearly recognizes that Radio is the number one source for new music acquisition and has made it simpler and easier for today's listeners to access the audio entertainment they value so highly. The ability to bring a live listening experience together with digitally stored music will have a dramatic impact in listener involvement."

This announcement in tandem with the news that Microsoft's Zune will offer an HD Radio feature underscores the dominant listening position that local broadcast Radio holds in the U.S. Reaching 92 percent of Americans, it is clear that Radio fits seamlessly into the modern media lifestyle.

"Radio is an important part of the media mix for today's time-starved and mobile consumer and will remain adaptive as new technology continues to improve the medium," Smulyan stated. "In addition, the broader distribution of Radio on mobile devices will make for a safer and more informed public."

Radio's Emergency Alert System (EAS), now in existence for over 60 years on all broadcast Radio stations, plays an important role in alerting local audiences to storms, disasters and other public safety threats. "The adoption of FM on mp3 players and cell phones increases the likelihood that a mobile listener will be fully informed," Smulyan added.
( 9/10/09)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Are People Buying Now?

I believe that the last line of this article is the point we should all take to heart right now. Value is in the eye of the beholder. As you are looking at marketing yourself you have to build in percieved value. You don't need to necessarily discount your product or service, but you do need to provide perceived value.

What we're buying -- and not buying -- says a lot about how consumers are feeling these days.

It also says a lot about the American economy, considering that consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of all U.S. economic activity. Every time we go out to lunch, buy a new sweater or pick up a DVD, we're contributing to the retail sector, the biggest sector in the economy.

Last week, companies from Home Depot to Target to Saks reported results for their latest quarters. Some were strong, some were weak. All tell tales of the consumer: thrifty, staying close to home, and focusing on basics.

Here's a look at what people are and aren't buying.

What We're Buying:
People are buying more garden products and paint, especially in areas with high foreclosure rates like California, according to Home Depot. CEO Frank Blake told investors that as homes are sold as part of the foreclosure process, that spurs sales of paint and carpet upgrades, since owners want to improve their new homes.

Lowe's reported that small projects were big winners in the second quarter -- only the paint and nursery categories were doing better than a year earlier. The company said consumers -- with an eye toward boosting the appearance of their homes -- bought a lot of mulches, seed, and patio blocks.

There was also solid demand in faucet repair and for repair parts for outdoor power equipment. Tiller sales were also strong as consumers planted more gardens.

What We're Not:
Home Depot said consumers continued to limit their purchases of bigger items like appliances.

Purchases above $500 fell 16 percent compared to last year for Lowe's, which also noted last year's second quarter included the effects of a federal stimulus package that gave most consumers about $600, prompting sales of big-ticket items.

Sears said its decline in its home business, including appliances, continues to be affected by the state of the housing market.

Target said people limited their purchases of decorative home and garden items, with patio furniture a standout weakness. Target noted it had planned very conservatively for that category this year.

Consumers are staying close to home and they want it to look nice. But they're not committing to big purchases like patio furniture to spruce up their home.

They're tackling more projects themselves, especially smaller ones, and opting to fix a faucet themselves rather than call a plumber. They're also planting gardens, perhaps with an eye toward trimming their food budgets. And forget new appliances -- they're making do with what they have.

What We're Buying:

Target says the items people feel they need the most, like products related to health care, food and beauty, are doing the best. The beauty category benefited from people making those purchases at Target rather than in more expensive department stores.

More people were shopping at stores run by TJX Cos., like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods. Sales of basics like sheets and towels and clothing were all strong.

Fashionable denim is doing well at Saks Inc. stores, the high-level retailer said, noting that the trendiest brands do the best.

What We're Not:
Clothes and home goods were weak in Target's second quarter, and Kathy Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising, summed up the consumer mindset in one word: "cautious." The number of people coming into the stores has slowed, and people who made purchases spent less money. Frequent shoppers aren't coming in as often and they're cutting their weekend trips even more than their weekday trips.

TJX is seeing more people come into its stores but they're not spending as much, on average.

Limited Brands Inc., which operates Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works, said sales of fine fragrances and bras and panties were weak in the quarter. It noted its spring color palette was "muted and serious" and trends improved when it introduced bright colors in July.

Overall sales at Saks continued to slump as fewer people came into the stores. The company's less expensive Off 5th stores continued to outperform Saks' full-price locations.

Shoppers are still tightfisted and cautious. They're looking for bargains -- which is why traffic is up at stores like T.J. Maxx. But they're not yet ready to resume shopping at pre-recession levels -- which is why spending is still down. They're still shopping with an eye toward fashion, though, and want to keep up with trends.

What We're Buying:
Spam, Spam, Spam. Hormel said sales of its meat-in-a-can continued to rise in the quarter, gaining in the low double digits, while sales of other canned items and Hormel chili kept improving. Hormel's party trays, which sell for about $10, continued to be strong, as they have been throughout the recession.

BJ's Wholesale Club, which has been seeing more customers coming in, said sales of cereal, meat and household items made gains in its second quarter.

Heinz reported infant food and ketchup sales were strong.

What We're Not:
Hormel said customers bought fewer of its more expensive items, like microwavable meals, while its food service division, which serves businesses like restaurants and hotels, continued to slump.

Sales of Weight Watchers Smart Ones entrees fell in the quarter, too, Heinz reported. It noted the frozen food category is tied to consumer confidence and has been down for a year.

Heinz and Hormel said they were still competing with store brands and other generic products, which cost less than branded ones. Heinz said the trend was lessening, though, and there are signs that consumers still want brands.

Food prices may be dropping as lower ingredient costs fall for manufacturers, but they're still not low enough for consumers, who are shopping with savings in mind. They keep dropping down to store brands and they're still willing to sacrifice convenient items like frozen foods to pad their food budgets.

But that doesn't mean they're being entirely thrifty. Consumers will pay for things they perceive have value, and that includes name brands.

As Hormel CEO Jeffrey Ettinger told analysts last Thursday, "Value is in the eye of the beholder."
(Source: Associated Press, 08/21/09)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sampling Inspires Repeat Purchases & Has Long-Term Effect

It's no secret that sampling programs can get people to try and occasionally purchase products. However, new research suggests that such giveaways can also help drive long-term sales and increase purchases of other items from the product line.

Whether it is a new product launch, line extension or established brand, sampling programs drove a 475 percent sales lift the day of the event compared to non-sampled households, per the "Report on In-store Sampling Effectiveness" conducted by Knowledge Networks-PDI on behalf of the marketing services company PromoWorks.

Those who sampled an item were 11 percent more likely to purchase it again during the 20-week period that followed. They were also 6 percent more likely to buy another item from the brand franchise.

"It's always been understood to a certain degree that there is a lift during the event. The big 'aha' is the long-term impact and the effect a sampling event has on the franchise overall," said Neal Heffernan, svp, gm at Knowledge Networks-PDI.

Participants were nine times more likely to purchase a line extension on the day of the sampling event. The sales lift continued, up 107 percent after a 20-week period.

For older, established brands, the sales lift the day of the event was 177 percent greater than the control group, which received no samples. It remained up 57 percent after a 20-week period. The sampling event also casts a halo over the entire brand portfolio, said Heffernan.

The parent brand of the product sampled received a 107 percent sales lift the day of the event and a 21 percent sales increase after a 20-week period.
(Source:, 08/04/09)

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Crisis Inspires Breakthroughs"

Steve Clark, a sales trainer that I like, wrote this in his newsletter this morning. I liked and thought I would share.
Have a great weekend!

"Crises Inspires Breakthroughs"
by Steve Clark

"Our greatness lay not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves" ~ Mahatma Gandhi
"Psychological suffering, anxiety and collapse lead to new emotional, intellectual and spiritual strengths. Confusion and death can lead to new scientific ideas." ~ Dr. Ilya Prigogine
"A personality is born of chaos. Resistance to chaos can only beget more chaos and resistance" ~ Stephen Wolinsky
Failure and adversity are better teachers than success and prosperity because they require us to dig deep and discover new talents and resources not yet recognized or understood. A trip to the bottom is what fuels the trip to the top.
We learn to deal with adversity by dealing with adversity. Therefore, failure is not to be avoided it is to be embraced. This counter intuitive concept is hard for most people to understand and accept because our environment teaches us that failure is bad and should be avoided.
The kid who never falls off a bike seldom becomes the best bike rider. The salesperson who avoids rejection never gets good at selling. The best at anything have all failed thousands of times in their attempt to become good.
When we experience adversity it is hard to think beyond the immediate pain and disappointment. But moving beyond the immediate pain is what we must do if we are to grow and mature emotionally. Instead of pissing and moaning when we experience adversity we should accept it, acknowledge it and then move on by using it as a lesson learned.
In our sales training, we teach taking every failure and rejection and reflecting and debriefing in a written journal what happened, why it happened and then analyzing what we will do differently next time we are faced with that same opportunity. Failure to debrief and to rehearse how we will do it differently next time ensures that we will repeat the same behavior over and over again with the same result.
Walt Disney used his experience of being fired as a cartoonist from a Kansas City newspaper to fuel his desire to create Disney Studios. Oprah Winfrey used her experience of being fired as a news anchor in Baltimore to launch her show. Lance Armstrong used his battle with cancer to propel him to his seven Tour de France wins.
As the bumper sticker says "Shit Happens". And it happens to every one of us. Sooner or later if you live long enough you will experience failure, disappointment, a near death experience, loss of a loved one, a debilitating illness and more. Life is full of disappointment. You cannot escape it. When you are faced with these situations you can use them as stepping stones to become something greater than what you are or you can use them as excuses to self-destruct.
Since you cannot avoid failure and disappointment in this life it only makes sense that you get good at using them to make you something greater than what you are. There really is no other choice except to crawl in a hole, feel sorry for yourself and wither away. That's a miserable way to live.
(source: Steve Clark

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Recession Forcing Consumers to Change Where They Shop; Who's Winning?

The recession has significantly changed the shopper mix in virtually all retail channels, according to a new report from WSL Strategic Retail. Supermarkets have regained the No. 1 share of shoppers for the first time in 10 years, ahead of supercenters. And dollar stores are in the right place at the right time with the right brands.

Meanwhile, convenience stores and drug stores are increasing their share of shoppers because they're quick, easy, less tempting and save gas, according to the report. Mass merchandisers, including Wal-Mart and the Internet, are picking up more affluent shoppers. And, with unemployment reaching 10 percent, more men are doing more of the family shopping.

Smart retailers will heed the warnings of the retail-channel shift and adapt their businesses to realize the new opportunities, the report states.

The channel shifting in the recession has had some obvious moves:
* Wal-Mart has been a winner; Target has not.
* Supermarkets and dollar stores are doing well; mall stores are not.

However, beyond the obvious, WSL said many of the shopper shifts open some immediate opportunities for retailers.Beyond that, the WSL "How America Shops PULSE" report, which compares the demographic shift in shoppers by retail channel from the second quarter 2009 vs. the same period 2008, offered these other observations:

* If your retail strategy has been very Wal-Mart-focused, it might be time to take another look at the supermarket channel.

* The obvious reason for the growth of supermarkets is the spending cuts shoppers have made in take-out food and eating out, which means more cooking at home with food purchased at the supermarket.

* 46 percent of shoppers stay out of stores where they are tempted to overspend. When you only need to buy food, the mass merchandiser has too much temptation.

* Dollar stores are in the right place at the right time --with more of the right brands. Over the last five years, dollar stores have moved well beyond their rural Southern roots to open stores in middle class neighborhoods around the country. More manufacturers are realizing the dollar-channel opportunity and selling them more national brands.

* Convenience stores and drug stores are increasing their share of shoppers, which may seem contrary to the frugal shopper mindset, but it makes sense. When shoppers don't stock up, they run out, the report states.

* C-store growth may seem like a contradiction in an era of price-conscious shoppers, but remember how shoppers are cutting back on groceries and not stocking up on sale items. That leads to running out. C-store prices may be higher, but if it's nearby and you save on gas and time, then the trade may be worth it.

* Drug stores are seeing their strongest lift among middle-aged, middle-income shoppers, who, as with c-stores, may need the drug store when they run out of something, or find it a better choice, where a trip to a mass merchandiser to save a few cents turns into overspending on so much more than what was on the list. (It's that temptation again.)

* Internet Shopping is up among the affluent, who are certain they find the best price online. From our last "Online Shopping PULSE" report in April 2008, we know that half of affluent shoppers feel they save money shopping online, and saving money is what they are looking to do more of now.

* Mass merchandisers have an increase in affluent shoppers. For the first time, the share of affluent shoppers in mass merchandisers equals that of lower- and middle-income groups.

* Warehouse Clubs have had a significant decline in younger shoppers who may have discovered that their smaller households were wasting much of what they thought they were saving by buying big club sizes.

* The mall has lost across the board -- men, women, young and old -- but with the biggest losses among middle-income families who just don't need all that temptation.A final note about male shoppers: Unemployment has taken a larger share of adult men than adult women out of the workforce, so it is not surprising that stay-at-home men are taking on more of the family shopping errands.
(Source: Convenience Store/Petroleum News, 08/10/09)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Speaking to consumers who are keeping their cars longer

Below is a recent article from AutoPacific that discusses how Americans are keeping their cars longer than ever before. I don't think that this is a surprising fact to anyone, but how do businesses that touch the auto industry take advantage of it? Here are a few ideas:
  • Sell New Cars? - You better be talking about the long life and value!
  • Sell Pre-Owned Cars? - Discuss value for the money vs. new.
  • Do you do repair? - We extend the life of your car, no need for a car payment when we can get it back up and running for less than you would expect!
  • Sell Auto Parts? - You are golden these days! Why get a new car when you have the parts to get going again, discuss how relatively easy it is to do most of the work yourself. If you have the knowledge to give the customer advice - shout it from the mountaintops!

The consumer knows what is going on in with the economy and the auto industry these days, so speak to them about things they care about. Have fun & go make some money!


Americans Keeping Their Cars Longer
An annual survey of new vehicle buyers shows a significant increase in the number of people planning to hold on to their cars and trucks. In 2005, just over 46 percent of new car acquirers indicated they would not be shopping for a new vehicle for four years or more; in the just completed survey that number has risen to about 59 percent -- an increase of almost 13 percent. At the same time, the number of people intending to replace their vehicle within the next two years has fallen.

In April, automotive research firm AutoPacific conducted a national Internet survey which revealed that the general public was very hesitant to invest in a new vehicle; with 72 percent of those surveyed saying it would be more than a year before they would be in the market to buy a new car.

That finding supports other surveys which indicate that the public is wary about the current condition of the American automobile industry and the U.S. economy as a whole. It also confirms that not only are consumers wary, but those that did make the investment intend to hold on to their vehicles longer.

"Rapid replacers don't seem to be changing their pattern, but people who previously bought a new car every one or two years have significantly scaled back their purchasing, and those who before bought every three to four years are now waiting at least an additional year," said George Peterson, president of Tustin, California-based AutoPacific.

"We'll not be seeing the frequent replacement pattern brought about by strong incentives and financing programs that made it easy and financially reasonable over the last decade for consumers to get into a new car frequently. This may also tell us that consumers will be putting a higher priority on vehicles with a reputation for quality and durability that meets not only their short-term needs, but also their long-term expected needs."
(Source: AutoPacific, 07/14/09)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Do you have time suck?

Twitter? Facebook? YouTube? Blogs? Streaming? Video games?

Sure, we all need to keep up on digital, but not at the expense of getting our most important daily activities done. However, rarely will you or your team make much money letting the time bandit of Twitter or other internet temptations get in the way. Know what the top 3 important activities are for your business, then reinforce those activities regularly with your staff.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Number One Factor

Customers rely on their emotional experiences with salespeople more than any of the traditional factors, according to research by the Peppers & Rogers Group.

The research showed that:
* 60 percent of all customers stop dealing with a company because of indifference on the part of salespeople.
* 70 percent of customers leave a company because of poor service, which is usually attributed to a salesperson.
* 80 percent of defecting customers describe themselves as "satisfied" or "very satisfied" just before they leave.
* Customers who feel their salespeople are exceptional are 10 to 15 times more likely to remain loyal.

Source: Don Peppers, founding partner of the Peppers & Rogers Group (from The Selling Advantage, 07/28/09)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What Happens If You Cut Media Spending?

Predictive Modeling by ThinkVine Indicates One Brand Would Never Close Sales Gap

In the short term, marketers can get away with cutting media spending without much real harm. But that term is as short as a quarter, and the harm, once it begins, can last long after the media switch gets turned back on.

Those are recent findings of ThinkVine, a Cincinnati analytics firm that does predictive media modeling for marketers such as PepsiCo, MillerCoors and Colgate-Palmolive Co. ThinkVine CEO Damon Ragusa said lately he's been getting a lot of inquiries about the potential impact of going dark altogether for a quarter or more.

An analysis the firm did for one unnamed brand looked at the impact of turning off media entirely for a year, then turning it back on the next year at prior levels. For about 16 weeks, sales volume was about the same. By the end of year one, however, sales volume was about 20 percent lower without media than with it.

Turning media back on in year two reversed the sales decline as the brand began growing again at the same rate it would have otherwise. But it never closed the gap in sales results compared with what it would have achieved had it maintained media spending both years.

Different brands respond differently to media cuts, Mr. Ragusa said, and some brands with dominant positions or in less advertising-responsive categories may get away with cutting budgets unscathed. But for many, possibly most, getting back sales and share lost from cutting budgets can be a lengthy and expensive process.

"There is a downside risk," he said. "The cost of getting back what you lose is often greater than the savings."

A brand that is on a downward trajectory anyway because of the economy is much more at risk from a temporary withdrawal of media support than one with flat or rising sales growth, he added.

ThinkVine uses correlation and regression analysis and sales data. But it bases its predictions on the makeup of each brand's consumers, including detailed data on the media and spending habits of various consumer segments. It then crunches as many as a trillion data points for each forecast.

The results aren't perfect but tend to come within 2.4 percent of the real-world sales data in ThinkVine's validation work, Mr. Ragusa said.
(Source: Advertising Age, 06/29/09)

Monday, June 29, 2009

What Will Be Your Customer's Memory Of You?

“It [the Cheshire Cat] vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.” – Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

I never ask the graduates of Wizard Academy, "What could we have done differently? How might we improve?" To do so would be to ask them to search their memories for disappointing moments. These are not the images I want to cement in their minds.

Instead, I ask, "What was your favorite moment during your time with us?" This causes the students to recall each of the high-impact moments during of their time on campus and relive those moments in their mind. It doesn’t matter what they choose as their favorite, I just want to flood their minds with happy memories.
The grin will remain after the rest of it is gone.

It is important to control the Last Mental Image (LMI.) What procedures do you employ to make sure your customer has a positive LMI of their experience with you?

Today the world is forming its LMI of Michael Jackson. So far, the stories and comments have centered on his impact as a performer and his contributions to music. The foibles and flaws that interested us yesterday no longer seem important. Michael Jackson is dead and the world seems a tiny bit smaller.

(source: Roy H. Williams,

Monday, June 22, 2009

Millions Of TV Viewers Go Dark, Few Complain

Suppose someone pulled the plug and a couple of million people didn't care. That may be what the TV industry is discovering nearly a week after the U.S. broadcast industry converted from analog to digital broadcasting. Days after their analog TV signals went dark, 2.2% of U.S. households still haven't bothered to hook up to digital reception, according to estimates released Wednesday by Nielsen Co.

Even more troubling, the estimates are based on households in Nielsen's national and local TV ratings panels, which means that more than 2% of Nielsen's panel is reporting zero TV usage in the days following the conversion.

The broadcast industry had expected that the vast majority of analog hold-outs would scramble to convert to digital at the 11th hour, or after their TV sets went dark, but that does not appear to be the case, as a survey of the nation's TV stations by the National Association of Broadcasters reports only "moderate" call volume from viewers to local stations seeking help of information about receiving their digital broadcast signals.

"The call volume is considerably low given that the transition impacts an estimated 14 million over-the-air households in markets with at least one station going all-digital," the NAB said in late Friday, the day analog broadcast signals ceased to transmit.

Moreover, most of the calls received by local broadcasters were among those that had already prepared for the digital transition, but simply needed assistance in scanning digital channels with their new equipment.

"A relatively small percentage of viewers so far have needed assistance given the large number of broadcast-only households affected during the today's transition," noted Jonathan Collegio, vice president for digital television at NAB. "Importantly, much of the assistance sought by viewers has been on the relatively minor issue of scanning and re-scanning converter boxes and digital TV sets."

The NAB has not released new data on the number of households that have gone dark, but the new Nielsen data suggests millions of TV viewers either don't care, or are still perplexed about how to hook up to digital broadcast despite billions of dollars invested by the broadcast TV industry and the U.S. government to help educate them.
(source:, Joe Mandese)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Establish Permanence In Changing Times

During the Great Depression, an entire entertainment genre was created by a forward-thinking advertising team. While no obvious one-stop solution exists for the current recession, marketers do have an opportunity to successfully tap into the zeitgeist.

Gone are the days of flash, glitz and punching monkeys. Consumers today value sustainability, social responsibility and fiscal prudence. If marketers can align with consumers, they can come out of the recession with a more loyal audience than they went in with.

Permanence Establishing a sense of permanence is particularly important during economic downturns. It's not a time a brand can afford to pull back on its marketing efforts, or they will lose the potential to endear valuable customers. Proctor & Gamble wrote the script during the Great Depression. P&G had a strong marketing philosophy: don't cut advertising budgets during recessions.

While many were cutting back on advertising during the Depression, P&G reinvented the wheel with its first soap story -- "Oxydol's Own Ma Perkins" radio show" -- which launched in 1933. It proved so successful that P&G doubled its marketing budget and launched 21 serial radio dramas by 1939, thus creating an entertainment institution: the Soap Opera.

Not only did P&G remain relevant during these times, but it remained a constant in consumers' lives by connecting in a unique way. It successfully engaged its core audience, allowing P&G to come out of the Depression stronger than it had started.

What message can build brand equity during this economic downturn? Economic, social, and particularly environmental responsibility. There is a call-to-action for brands to lead the charge in finding solutions for climate change. Consumers need to know their brands are working towards a common goal.

It's not an easy time for a brand; consumers are more educated and more demanding than ever. They stand behind brands that make them feel conscious and informed. A recent Havas Media study by IPSOS found that 79% of consumers said they would rather buy from companies doing their best to reduce their impact on the environment.

And 89% are likely to buy more "green" goods in the next 12 months, with a third willing to pay a premium for those goods. While it's not an easy time, the returns are high. A bond driving a customer to pay a premium for a similar good during an economic crisis is a bond worth establishing.

Resorting to sustainable claims isn't enough for a brand on its own. The Millennium Generation is particularly vigilant about weak or unfounded responsibility and sustainability claims. A Hartman study found that "consumers are thinking much more broadly than marketers about what words like 'organic', 'green' and 'sustainable' mean. They use more positive words to describe these products, like hope, connection, simple living, authenticity, and control."

The first step in establishing this "connection" and "hope" is to create an authentic story. And if you don't have a sustainable message to tell today, start establishing trust through other channels while working towards sustainability. Take MARS for example. As one of the world's largest cocoa purchasers, it is making great strides to support sustainable rainforests. But even before they had the opportunity to speak to this story, MARS had established consumer trust with transparency and a commitment to their five sustainable principals: Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom.

With ad budgets tighter, how can marketers efficiently and effectively tell their sustainable story? First, don't waste dollars on deaf ears. Identify engaged and influential audiences and tell your story in credible environments. Reaching fewer passionate consumers will go further than blanketing your message across a larger, less engaged audience.

If these change agents believe in your message, they'll do the heavy lifting for you and stretch your marketing dollars. In addition, identify contextually relevant advertising opportunities and media outlets with a similar ideology to your message. You'll find the setting in which the story is told can be as important as the story itself: The medium is the message.

Modern Day Soaps
We are starting to see some great soap opera stories unfold today, from large CPG companies to small start-ups. Jeremy Moon, founder of Icebreaker, offers outdoor clothing created from sustainable materials. Moon faced a significant challenge: He needed to charge consumers a premium price for a premium fabric.

By creatively giving transparency to the source of the material -- you can see pictures of the sheep that grew your merino wool sweater and email the farmer -- Moon's message resonates with change agents. These influencers quickly turned Icebreaker from an unknown shop to the largest outdoor clothing brand in Australasia.

It's not just niche brands that are able to capitalize on sustainability and change. Even behemoths like Wal-Mart are finding sustainable stories of their own and bringing them to life through advertising. Wal-Mart recently announced an initiative to cut its supply chain's packaging by 5%.

This opens up Wal-Mart's doors to a new and influential type of consumer. What they care about is that Wal-Mart is saving millions of pounds of garbage from landfills and taking the equivalent of 213,000 trucks off the road every year. The fact that Wal-Mart stands to directly save $3.4 billion doesn't hurt its bottom line either.

In this economy consumers are feeling vulnerable. Now, more than ever, people want to feel a part of a responsible and sustainable culture, and they are spending their dollars accordingly. Go tell your story. People are listening.
Source (mediapost Colton Dirksen Wednesday, June 17, 2009)

Monday, June 15, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS Cedar Rapids / Iowa City Corridor!

Next Generation Consulting Ranks Hotspots for Young Professionals to Live and Work in the U.S.

Next Generation Consulting (NGC) announced its “Next Cities” rankings - the best places to live and work for young professionals - in three population categories. NGC tabulated the rankings after collecting and analyzing 45 measures for all U.S. cities with over 100,000 people.

NGC has studied the residential and relocation patterns of 20-40 years olds since 1998, and has developed a one-of-a-kind indexing system that evaluates a city based on the assets that are important to next gen workers.

According to NGC, the seven indexes of a “Next City” are: Earning, Learning, Vitality, Around Town, After Hours, Cost of Lifestyle, and Social Capital.

The rankings announced today are based on a city’s total score in all seven indexes.

“Simply being the cheapest place to live, or the city with the most jobs is not a long-term workforce strategy,” says NGCs founder, Rebecca Ryan. Although jobs are important, Ryan says, “The next generation is very savvy about choosing where they’ll live. They look carefully at quality of life factors like how much time they’re going to spend in traffic commuting, if they can live near a park or hike-and-bike trail, and whether a city’s downtown stays awake after five.” The Next Cities list ranks cities that are - or have the capacity to be - great places to live and work for the next generation, because they have the best overall score in the seven indexes the next gen values.

Noted economist Richard Florida underscores the large economic dividend paid to cities and regions that are talent magnets, noting in the April 2009 issue of The Atlantic that “The world’s 40 largest mega-regions, which are home to some 18% of the world’s population, produce two-thirds of global economic output and nearly nine in ten new patented innovations.”
Mighty Micros - Next Cities with Population of 100,000-200,000
1. Fort Collins, Colorado
2. Charleston, South Carolina
3. Eugene, Oregon
4. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
5. Springfield, Illinois
6. Cary, North Carolina
7. Ann Arbor, Michigan
8. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
9. Pueblo, Colorado
10. Gainesville, Florida
11. Stamford, Connecticut
12. Des Moines, Iowa
13. Spokane, Washington
14. Syracuse, New York
15. Huntsville, Alabama
16. Peoria, Illinois
17. Springfield, Missouri
18. Salt Lake City, Utah
19. Richmond, Virginia
20. Hampton, Virginia

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

America Revs Up Its Do-It-Yourself Passion

While some marketers may be sick of hearing how the recession has changed the way consumers spend money, those selling do-it-yourself products have cause to rejoice: America's passion for DIY is fierce, with no sign of slowed growth.

Some 67 million Americans now change their own motor oil, 58 million are growing at least some of their food, and 36 million women are coloring their own hair, according to a new report from Packaged Facts, based on Experian Simmons National Consumer Study data. Overall, a whopping 56 percent of American shoppers are dabbling now in some level of DIY.

It's not all about the recession, and Packaged Facts predicts the trend will continue, even once the economy rediscovers its mojo. "The DIY movement is related to aspects of consumer psychology that extend beyond pure economics," it says -- adding that in some segments, demographic factors also play a major role.

For example, while 70 million people prepared their own tax refunds using software this year, it forecasts that through 2013, that number will grow 13 percent, fueled by the eldest Gen Y workers just entering the workforce. And it anticipates that the number of women using at-home hair coloring will increase 10 percent to total 40 million between 2008 and 2013, fueled by increases in multicultural women, who are more likely to experiment with home hair colors.

The number of automotive DIYers is expected to grow even faster, adding 16 percent by 2013. Drivers, eager to keep old cars on the road longer, say they are doing more and more repairs themselves, explaining sales increases at chains like AutoZone. "DIYers in the automotive sector make up 30 percent of the adult population but 40 percent of all adults planning to buy a car in the next six months and 37 percent of those planning to buy a domestic make," the report says.

Predicting growth in home DIY projects is still tricky, based on the weak real-estate market. But the vast majority of homeowners do at least some chores themselves -- only 18 percent rely exclusively on outside professionals to get the work done: The report finds that 101 million adults in 46 million households have been involved in some home improvement project during the past 12 months.

Some, however, are much more hands-on. Extreme DIYers are the single largest segment of the home-improver population-- 64 million people, or 52 percent of home improvers and 29 percent of the adult population; they also tend to be less affluent. Moderate DIYers, however, are more likely to make more than $100,000, and spend more time shopping for their DIY purchases.(Source: Marketing Daily, 06/01/09)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Questions To Ask When Evaluating Online Media

With companies allocating more of their marketing budgets to online media, it's important to know what to look for and ask about when working with new-media companies.

Alignment with your goals, audience, reach: these criteria apply across all media buys. However, other issues are specific to the online world: online metrics, conversion accountability, reputation of Web sites and more.

Below is a list of questions to ask when evaluating online media.

Is the media opportunity aligned with your marketing objectives?
It might seem obvious, but it's worth answering. Is your objective to generate leads? Promote your brand in new markets? Position your company in a leadership role? We know, it's all of the above. But some online media are better suited to gaining and raising brand exposure, others for lead generation. The best offer a combination of each.

What audience will you reach?
Before committing to any online media, ask for a profile of the audience you will reach. For example, with general search engines, the audience is the entire world, because everyone uses them, so funneling out only your specific niche becomes a challenge that you need take into account. On the other hand, there are many effective online media options that focus only on specific industries or target audiences.If you're advertising on a Web site, ask for information about its site traffic, demographic data, the number of visitors per month as well as if they have a third-party audit statement of qualified traffic. Look for growth trends on those sites where you are considering promoting your business.

Which metrics matter?
One of the great advantages of online media (other than the fact that your customers and prospects are online) is its reporting capabilities. Page views, impressions, opens, clicks, click-through rates, conversions -- there are many metrics. In the end, it's the conversions that equal leads, and the impressions that equal brand exposure.

How is lead capture performed?
Online media that offers comprehensive marketing programs and delivers leads to you with full contact information is what you want. If you are using keyword search ads or e-newsletter ads, you're likely driving prospects to a landing page on your Web site where you should have lead-capture mechanisms, such as white paper or Webinar offers. More important than who's responsible for lead capture is to make sure that you have a way to convert visitors and viewers into leads. Plan for this in any online media campaign. If your media program offers a lead conversion capability, you won't have to devote as many resources to landing pages and other lead-capture mechanisms.

How, when and for how long will your message be delivered to your audience?
How your message will be delivered depends more on the type of marketing program you choose, such as e-newsletters, banner ads, online catalogs, and e-mail campaigns. Push marketing, where you proactively reach out to prospects, is done, for example, through e-newsletter sponsorships.

You can also get a high frequency rate if the e-newsletters are issued on a regular basis, keeping you in front of your target audience on a consistent basis. Pull marketing opportunities are when you can connect with customers and prospects when they are actively searching for solutions like yours.

A searchable online catalog or presence in an industrial directory online provides presence 24/7.Ensure that your online marketing program provides a customized fit for your needs. Ask about the ability to choose your target audience, review online metrics, details about conversion accountability, possible campaign timing options, as well as the flexibility to adjust your program options and messaging when necessary.
(source:, Angela Hribar)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Advertise or Die

According to a new Ad-ology Research study, "Advertising's Impact in a Soft Economy," more than 48% of U.S. adults believe that a lack of advertising by a retail store, bank or auto dealership during a recession indicates the business must be struggling. Conversly, a vast majority perceives businesses that continue to advertise as being competitive or committed to doing business.

C. Lee Smith, president and CEO of Ad-ology Research, says "It is critical to advertise in the current economic climate, to maintain long-term positive consumer perception of your brand... advertising... assures consumers of a business' reliability... "

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reaching Moms Through Schools

With more and more scrutiny being focused on advertising that is specifically directed to kids, many marketers are hesitant to even consider a through-school marketing program. What they might not realize, however, is that a through-school marketing program directed to moms (versus kids) is one of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and purchase intent for their products.

Annual spending on consumer goods (food, clothes etc.) for families with school-age kids is expected to reach $143 billion by 2010, according to Packaged Facts. Since moms make most of the purchase decisions for their families, consumer brand marketers must continue to look for new and more meaningful ways to engage the mom audience and make their brand message heard in this overcrowded, noisy marketing environment.

A through-school marketing program cuts through the clutter in the competitive marketing-to-moms space by putting a brand's message directly in front of a key demographic -- moms with school-age kids -- at a time and place when they are especially tuned in to messages and products that speak to their families' unique needs.

Why Through-School Marketing Gets Results

* Precision targeted with no missed hits - While traditional media and marketing options that reach the mom market cast a wide net hitting all segments of moms, through-school marketing directly connects consumer brands to an extremely targeted, captive audience of interested moms with kids ages 5-14.

*Relevant and receptive environment - Moms at school, or engaged in school-related activities, are in "full mommy mode" - specifically focused on their children's well being - making them particularly receptive to brand messages that speak to their challenges as a busy mom and offer solutions that will help them make their families more successful.

* Implied school endorsement and halo effect - When brands sponsor a family-focused school program, moms recognize and appreciate the brand's support of education and their school-family communities - and respond and follow through by patronizing the brands that support their schools.

* Grassroots brand advocacy - Moms attending a school-family event are in an ideal social environment to discuss and promote new products or services with other moms allowing mom-to-mom buzz and word of mouth endorsement to take place naturally.

Tips for Executing a Successful Through-School Marketing Program

Plan Ahead - It's important to know what a typical school's event planning cycle is for the year. Schools make planning decisions months in advance so be sure you allow enough lead time to build momentum and anticipation for your program before it is actually executed. For example, we sign schools up for our Back2School program in the spring before school ends and summer begins. It's critical to get schools signed up to participate in the program in spring so they are ready to execute it come August.

Make it relevant to moms - Make sure your program is relevant to moms in the context of the school environment otherwise you might lose the brand goodwill that you hoped to garner by sponsoring a school program. For example, we set up a through-school sampling program for a client who wanted to distribute detergent samples to moms. Moms were given these samples while attending the Spring Carnival at school, an event where kids are likely to get quite dirty.

Give schools a real reason for doing it - The last thing you want to happen is for your program to come across as blatant marketing with no real benefit to the school. Make sure your offer has value to the school and that your key connection in the school (the person or group who will execute the program) can clearly see how the school and the school families benefit from running your program.

(source:, John Driscoll, 5/20/09)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Pew Research Center measured a number of categories for a chart called "Belt-Tightening in Bad Times." Here are a few of their insights:
  • 57% bought less expensive brands or went to discount stores
  • 28% cut back on alcohol and/or cigarettes
  • 24% reduced or cancelled CATV or satellite TV subscriptions
  • 22% reduced or cancelled a cell phone plan
  • 21% made plans to plant a vegetable garden
  • 20% took over yard work / repairs formerly contracted out

In a recent Gallup poll had a few additional interesting trends:

  • 32% of people surveyes say that not only have they been spending less over the past few months, it has become their "new normal"
  • 27% are saving more and call it the "new normal"
  • 9% are saving on a temporary basis

Here is the reality of business marketing moving forward...bells and whistles are out and thrift is in. As you look at your business you may want to pay less attention to the fluff that has worked in the past. Rather, you should focus your marketing efforts on how what you do will produce a savings in some way or last longer.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Why Consumers Are Leaving Certain Restaurants

The annual Leaky Bucket Report from Restaurant Marketing Group confirms that the trickle of customer defections from restaurants could intensify in this recession, and lack of value and poor service would ensure that guests jump ship.

The online study measures the size of a customer "leak" for each of 160 brands, meaning the percentage of recent customers who report they are unlikely to return to a particular eatery.

Arjun Sen, president of Centennial, Colo.-based Restaurant Marketing Group, said the restaurant industry's average leak size is 36 percent, up 7 percent from 2008.

"If I were a restaurateur," Sen said, "I would connect the dots by saying that a 7-percent increase in the industry's overall leak means (the customer) is grading me severely now."

The survey of more than 5,600 consumers aged 18 to 64, conducted in March, showed an 11-percent increase for price and value as a reason for leaks, compared with last year, accounting for 36 percent of all defections. Service rose 10 percent compared with 2008 and now accounts for 23 percent of all leaks. The only cause of leaks that declined was location, which fell 7 percent.

Food quality, at 25 percent, and menus, at 17 percent, remain unchanged from 2008 as reasons for leaks.

"The main leak increases we have are price-value and service," Sen said. "You're seeing location as a reason for leaks going down, so consumers are saying, 'OK, I'll go two miles farther if you treat me better and give me a better deal.'

"In recent years, location had been a bigger deal-breaker because so many consumers lived near many different restaurants, Sen said.

One industry segment faring better than others is Asian, as that sector's 37-percent average leak size is a 1-percent improvement on last year's average. While that is slightly above the entire industry's 36-percent average leak, the Asian category outperforms the industry averages on every individual metric for leaks: price-value, service, location, food, menu, atmosphere and family-friendly.

"As a category, Asian is so fragmented," Sen said. "From Panda Express to P.F. Chang's or beyond, they're each a little different. But all of them have freshness cues everywhere, and all have been born more recently than (many other) brands. As consumers look for more choices, these brands are jumping up more."

Asian concepts also score far better than industry averages on price-value and service. The Asian category average score for price-value was 33 percent, compared with 36 percent for all restaurants, and the category's service score was 18 percent, compared with a 23-percent industry average.

By contrast, the bar and grill sector's 22-percent service score is merely on par with the industry average and accounts for more leaks than service in the Asian, coffee, sweets and treats, and soup and salad segments.

"I would have expected casual dining to have the most advantage in terms of service," Sen said, "because they're offering the most service."

Many casual brands also struggle with value perceptions, especially at lunch, accounting for a 39-percent price-value leak score, Sen said.

"They're doing what's 'price-value-relevant' for dinner," he said. "If we want to use the best deal, Applebee's '2 for $20' deal, it's still not relevant for lunch. It's very tough for them to compete with fast food and fast casual, especially the sub sandwich (category). In three to five years, Subway's $5 footlong and Quiznos' $4 Toasty Torpedo will be seen as a defining moment. (Those deals) move traffic away from both fast food and casual dining."

The one segment whose average leak size remained constant from 2008 was coffee, which held steady at 33 percent. The three chains in the sector -- Caribou Coffee, Seattle's Best and Starbucks -- combined for a mixed performance on the two main causes for leaks this year. The coffee segment had an average score of 18 percent for service, better than the industry average of 23 percent. But the sector's price-value leak score was 49 percent, due largely to Starbucks' score of 67 percent.

"Starbucks has a price-value problem," Sen said. "It was still tolerable last year, because people said, 'You don't have low-price items, but if I want to spend $5, you are the best."However, Sen noted, this year Starbucks and other coffeehouses face credible threats from McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts, who have upgraded their coffee items. The coffee segment leader has responded with its new value offering, the $3.95 breakfast pairings launched this winter.

"Even with Starbucks' price changes," Sen said, "unless they can move many people to that new $3.95 price point, their biggest problem is still in front of them, because so many people still feel Starbucks' price-value is broken.
"However, "service is still great in coffee," he said. "That's what's holding Starbucks together."
(Source: Nation's Restaurant News, 05/04/09)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

10 Things Never To Do In Your Ads

Leave something to become the delight factor.

If you're planning to take your customer on a journey of imagination, plunge them into it.

Cramming the name where it doesn't belong is AdSpeak. It worked when there were less ads out there, however do it today and your ad will sound like it was written in the 1940's.

Fear and disgust work face-to-face, but they often backfire when used in mass media.

Drawing attention to a smaller competitor makes them larger in the eyes of the public.

Most people won't believe you. Instead, tell the public something objective, factual and verifiable that causes them to say, "Wow. Those people really believe in customer service."

All you are really doing is reminding the customer that now is not a good time to be spending money.

Unsubstantiated claims are the worst form of AdSpeak. Win the confidence of the customer by giving them details.

Here is the litmus test: If remembering the humor forces you to recall the message of the ad, the humor is motivated. If recalling the humor doesn't explicitly cause you to remember the ad's main point, the humor will make the ad less effective.

Every form of advertising out there is competing for your attention. Today, we are bombarded with over 5000 messages per day. The mundane, the predictable, the usual are filtered by Broca's area of the brain and rejected from our consciousness. Surprise Broca and win the customer's attention with words and phrases that are new, surprising and different.

(source: Roy Williams,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Customer Relationships are Recession Busters

Your customers are your personal recession buster -- but only if you focus on them more completely, deeply and consistently than ever.

Think about it this way -- your customers are the source of all revenue for your organization; your customers write your paycheck. It makes sense to build and deepen your relationships with them always, but that is never more true than in times where they are buying less and probably distracted by the economy themselves.

Your customers are looking for new solutions. Your customers want help. Your customers need you.

Five Ideas
Here are five ways you can focus on deepening your relationships with your customers, starting right now.

Get in touch...
Stop by, make a call, send a handwritten note, send an email (in that order of priority -- the further up this list the more valuable the contact will be). Let them know you care, take the effort to be connected.

Stay in touch...
Don't make this contact a one-time event but part of an ongoing process of staying in touch, connected and at the top of mind for your customer.
Ask how you can help them...
No strings and no qualifiers. Do you appreciate it when someone offers to help you with something? So will your customers, even if they don't take you up on the offer.

Educate them...
Send an article, share an idea. After you know how you can help or what their challenges are, it will be easier to determine the best things to share based on their interests and needs.

Focus on serving, not selling...
People buy from those they like, trust and respect. Sales will come. Focus on the person, building the relationship and serving them.

These are just five ideas -- you probably can come up with 55 more. Your challenge is to find ways to be relevant, helpful and available to your customers.
(Source: Business consultant/trainer Kevin Eikenberry )

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Four Key Tips To Leadership

1) To lead, people must trust and respect you.
2) Demonstrate respect for people you lead.
3) Give people equity in your decisions...allow them to have a say in the decision.
4) Execute your decisions with confidence.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Independent Stores Pump Up the Perks to Lure Shoppers

In these tough economic times, what's a store to do to make sure it's still in business a year from now? "

Get a tarot card reader," said Emese Boone, owner of Box Turtle in Little Rock, Ark.

And she's not kidding -- Boone hired a local tarot card reader to give free readings during a recent jewelry trunk show in her clothing, jewelry and housewares shop.

Retailers like Boone are hoping special events, classes, blood pressure screenings and even career counseling will inspire shoppers to keep on shopping during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Boone has also hosted a cocktail party and a book signing and started a rewards program that gives customers a 20 percent discount every time they spend $500 in her store.

"The place is like a party," says Tanya Fitzgerald, a customer who discovered the shop through its special events. "It's more fun and personal."

Do these perks translate into dollars? Not necessarily. And it costs money to pay for entertainment and refreshments. Still, shop owners think it's worth a try.

Tamara Lee, owner of Brooklyn Mercantile in New York, is teaming up with a local nurse practitioner who will conduct free breast cancer and blood pressure screenings, as well as free nutrition workshops at Lee's store.

In addition to her usual sewing and craft workshops, Lee plans to enlist a career coach who will offer guidance to customers. Her shop had already become a local gathering place for those interested in do-it-yourself activities, but even those have suffered.

"Because of the economic climate, people are worried about their work lives, they're cutting back on extraneous spending and looking inward," said Lee. "They want to do things to fix up their homes without spending money."

Still, independent businesses are managing to hold on during the downturn.

Holiday sales declined an average of 5 percent at independent stores last year, according to research by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Overall December retail sales were down 9.8 percent from the previous year, according to the Commerce Department.

The picture was bleaker for Sasha Wingate, who saw sales decline 40 percent over the holidays at her San Francisco store BellJar, which sells an eclectic mix of soap, candles, jewelry, clothing and updated vintage furniture.

"The economy has drastically affected my business," she said.

She's taken to throwing evening parties with specialty cocktails, live entertainment and an "eccentric Victorian photographer" to entice customers. She's also offering exhibits by local artists and free workshops in knitting, leather crafting and building a shadow box.

A neighborhood walk sponsored by local businesses also helped. "It helped bring people in. There was so much publicity and so many people came out," she said.

When 200 customers crowded into Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, for a local author's book launch party, co-owner Chris Bowe was thrilled that it produced 100 sales; that more than made up for all the hot dogs he gave away.

Bowe believes that developing a personal connection with his customers is good for business. That's why the shop sends out personalized birthday cards, which include a 25 percent discount certificate, and offer Longfellow Dollars, a rewards program that gives 6 percent back on every five items bought.

Ellen Murphy, a retired lawyer who recently moved to Portland from New York, said that even in a tough economy she was willing to skip discounts at big chain stores in favor of local shops like Bowe's.

"I don't want to live in a Wal-Mart world and I want to preserve neighborhood identity," she said.

Bowe's worried about that, too, but more pressingly he wants to be sure he can give health insurance to his employees.

"There's a sense of community here, a sense that we're in this recession together," Bowe said.(Source: Associated Press, 03/26/09)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Down-Sizing vs. Right-Sizing

Now more than ever I hear CEOs, sales managers and other key decision-makers talking about either Down-Sizing or Right-Sizing their business. More often than not, they use the terms interchangeably.

While that might be understandable, it will be a real serious mistake if you think you are doing one, and you're actually doing the other. With the economy affecting your business today unlike any time in my 32 years in the business world, it is essential that you know the difference between Right-Sizing and Down-Sizing.

Down-Sizing is when you are cutting back, letting go, getting rid of, and eliminating resources, tools, assets and people because your business has suffered a setback or change that cannot support the level of overhead you've structured in the recent past.Right-Sizing is a totally different concept.

Right-Sizing is what Jim Collins referred to in his book Good to Great as getting the right people in the right seat on the bus. In a recession, a time of downturn, a time of change, a time of pressure on sales and bottom-line profits, there couldn't be a better time to Right-Size your sales force.

Whether you're Down-Sizing or not, you should be focused on Right-Sizing. Many times in the midst of Down-Sizing, it is also the perfect time to Right-Size. Now more than ever is the opportunity to remove the slow, low producers and replace them with the most aggressive, most professional, best-trained and highly-compensated salespeople.
(Source: Sales consultant/strategist Ken Edmundson.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How Easy Is It For Your Potential Customers To Reach You?

Do you want your advertising to have even stronger results? Review the ways that you are asking your potential customers to reach you.

When you create your advertising message, take a strong look at how you are asking them to connect with you. It has to be easy to remember to have the kind of recall you will ultimately need to maximize your marketing return on investment.

The method with the lowest result is to ask them to come to your business. Everyone is time starved, and unless you are a restaurant, your potential customers do not want to come to you to learn about you.

If you are asking them to call you, make sure you are giving your potential customers a phone number they can easily remember. You may even want to consider purchasing an additional vanity phone number that spells something related to your business. By doing this, you make it easy for your potential customers to remember your phone number - especially if you are using broadcast media. Remember, you will need frequency in your advertising message to imprint the number into your potential customer's brains. Radio works best for this. Nearly 30 years ago Tommy TuTone broke their song "867-5309/Jenny," and to this day most of us can recall that number.

Finally, is your web address easy to remember? If it is not, purchase an additional URL for $10 a month and use this in your marketing. You can even have this easy to remember URL simply forward to your existing site. Once you make your web address easy to remember, you can begin monitoring the traffic...and you will be surprised with the increase in traffic and sales you will see.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Consider The "Mom Timeline"

Does your business target moms? Consider where they are in the "Mom Timeline" as you create your marketing message.

New moms, single moms, soccer moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms, urban moms, hybrid moms. From the moment the home pregnancy test shows positive, women officially enter the world of motherhood, and the marketing world tries to categorize them.

It's with good reason anyone would try to get a handle on the estimated 82.5 million women in the U.S. with children. According to the independent industry organization The Marketing to Moms Coalition, Moms represent the most powerful consumer group in the U.S., controlling 85% of household spending and estimated to be worth $2.1 trillion. The more marketers can understand these buyers and influencers, the better they can build and nurture a long-lasting (read: profitable) relationship with them.

However, it's not so easy to put a label on this group. There are at least 100 ways to carve up the Mom market. You could do it by location (D.C. or Silicon Valley), by their age or by their lifestyle. But what all Moms have in common is kids. What better way to slice up a multi-faceted, wide-ranging demographic than to create a Mom Timeline tracking the course of motherhood through the ages of their children?

Most Web sites and research groups focus on the early stages of a Mom's experience. identifies the Moms in their various age groups ("Millennial Moms," "Boomer Moms," etc.) but focuses on the first eight years of their children's lives, noting that it's during this period that Moms make more purchasing decisions.

I'd argue that, like the old adage, "a woman's work is never done," so is the timeline of a Mom. Once a Mom, always a Mom - you don't stop being a Mom when your kids turn 18. Instead, your relationships morph until the grandchildren come and the Mom Timeline cycles around again in various degrees.

Like Mamasource, an online community of Moms that advise each other, I'd prefer to dissect the Mom Timeline into small time periods based on age ranges. While Mamasource begins its timeline with the pre-birth stages of trying to conceive and pregnancy, as well as a special nod to adoption, I propose starting here:

* Infant (0-12 months): That first year of life with a baby can be tough, whether it's the first (I started with twins) or fifth. These mothers are dealing with a whole new world and are just trying to get some sleep. They've had nine months of baby product research and now have little time to really put them to any test but trial and error.

* Toddler (1-2 years): Moms at this stage have some experience behind them and have usually bonded with several groups of similar-stage Moms. Many are still grappling with sleep issues, starting potty training, toys, and the possibilities of more siblings.

* Preschooler (3-4 years): Several studies indicate that this is when mothers begin to consider the education options for their children. By the time their child is four, Moms have pretty much chosen private versus public and are often dealing with little brother or sister(s).

* Child (5-6 years): Kindergarten looms large over the early part of this phase; this is also when life shifts to a September-to-June calendar year.

* Older child (6-10 years): By now, most Moms are in the groove of raising their children. These are the good years! It's pre-hormone, pre-scary teenage years. Moms in this phase are concerned with homework, nutrition, extracurricular activities and starting to see that maybe, just maybe, they can start regaining a life of their own.

* Tween (11-14 years): Thus begins the hormonal, scary years, including junior high, high school and the expenses that entails. I ask you, how much technology does a 14-year-old need?

* Teen (15-19 years): While we tend to categorize the baby years as the most physically challenging, the teen years are the most emotionally challenging. Teens are taking those first steps into adulthood, trying to push away from parents. College (and the stressful process of choosing and applying) looms large for families now, as well as the painful evolution of an emptying nest.
* Adult Child: Yes, a Mom's role is never done, it just changes. Today's Moms remain in close contact with their adult children, offering support in ways the previous generation didn't.

* Grandchildren: Here, the timeline recycles starting with infants all over again. Many grandmoms participate in the raising of their grandchildren directly and indirectly. Some might not babysit, but many provide input.

Of course, Moms can be at multiple stages simultaneously. What is important for marketers to understand with the Mom Timeline are the needs of Moms at each stage of their children's lives. The days are long and the years are short, but the Mom Timeline is evergreen - it just keeps spinning around.
(source:, Mary Lee Shalvoy, March 25, 2009)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Want To Reach Moms? Consider This...

As the economic crisis continues, so does the hibernating. We are becoming more of a "hiber-nation" as families hunker down to weather the storm with more time spent at home and less out spending at malls and restaurants. (Movie sales are up but that's an annex of the hibernation cave that helps us to escape for a few hours).

With families spending more time together at home, they are slowing down, bonding differently and discovering joy in spending real time together. Moms are enjoying the experience of a stronger family unit. And, as head of domestic purchasing, Moms are finding strength and are taking pride in not buying.

As Americans, we have been weaned on consuming; it's part of our lifeblood. However, the gatekeeper badge of honor has shifted from "I got such a deal" to "I haven't bought anything new in weeks" or "I've switched from buying expensive shoes to a simple lipstick." American mothers are meeting the challenge and expressing the thought that, "this is hard but, ultimately, it's a good thing for my family -- we are pulling together, spending more time together. It's less about accumulating stuff. It feels more real."

There is a sea change afoot, and it is defined by a new set of consumer values. It's actually an old set of Puritanical values that is roaring back with renewed strength. You take stock of what you have, you take very good care of it and you make it last as long as possible. It's a sensibility that embraces the "It's not what you earn, it's what you don't spend" attitude. And when you do buy, you buy only what you know and trust, and you trust it deeply. The culture of responsibility that felt old-fashioned 18 months ago now feels stabile, secure and appealing today.

So what's a marketer to do? If you are in the business of selling things, how do you sell to Mom's new mindset?

New-fangled and novel will always capture a certain amount of attention, especially in categories such as electronics and beauty. But deep roots and time-tested can present key opportunities for great old American brands that frankly, felt 'fuddy-duddy' and past their prime in the 21st century. And, when they were in their prime, they marketed to the quintessential '50s housewife versus the modern, dimensional woman of today.

As Mom watches her family reconnect and recommit itself to spending real time together, great American brands have the opportunity to get real and tap their heritage. Marketers should not only mirror this value shift but truly embrace it. If done with ingenuity and authenticity, a brand's heritage story can become valid and compelling once again.

This new set of consumer values will be responsive to:
* Truth and transparency
* Virtue-based attributes
* Ethically minded culture
* Good foundations
* Good value -- not just a cheap or a good buy
* Local support -- community involvement

And finally, go back to the old recipes -- get back to your good old roots both in product and communications. Too much has been taken away from the winning formulas that made great American brands great in order to maximize profits. Products often don't taste or work as well as they originally did.

Stop making substitutions for the real, good ingredients and materials. Get rid of what's artificial. Moms want real, not a chemistry lab on their breakfast table. The litmus test is, if you can sell it to a New England farmer's wife, then you've got something.
(source:, Kyla Lange Hart, 3/18/09)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Financial Institutions Build Confidence With Advertising

Troubled financial institutions need to advertise more to have a chance of building consumer confidence.

According to a recent study by Nielsen IAG, 55% of TV consumers who have seen, on average, more advertising from financial institutions over the last six months have "complete confidence" in the health of those companies. On the flip side, only 18% of those consumers have confidence when they have seen less advertising on average.

Nielsen says that when financial companies go "out of sight," they can possibly go "out of business."

Last year, financial institutions--financial services and insurance companies--started pulling back on their ad spending. They ended the year down 13.4% versus 2007, spending $8.4 billion. When most of the troubling economic news started in the fourth quarter, financial companies cut even bigger pieces of their media spending--down 23.3% to $2.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008 versus the same period in 2007.

On average, older consumers 55 plus with assets of over $100,000 generally have more confidence in financial institutions than younger consumers.

Consumer confidence is derived from financial institutions having the wherewithal to advertise themselves, as well as strong overall marketing efforts. For example, consumers said they would have increased confidence from seeing advertising via TV, regular mail, email and/or Internet offers.

But the biggest factor for consumers comes from non-paid marketing efforts--reading positive stories in the press about those institutions.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Local Search Tools For Small Businesses

Search marketers have tools at their disposal to help raise the profile of small businesses and gain more insight into local markets.

Two of my favorite tools offer help with local directory listings; my other two favorites are Google programs that allow online marketers to overlay search data with location data and provide interesting insights into local search.

Universal Business Listing
This directory service saves you an enormous amount of time and effort by helping you distribute your business information to many local search platforms, directories, and portals across the Web.

Create an updatable profile on its Web site and it will periodically push the data out, not only to sites like Google Maps and Yahoo Local, but also to a myriad of other local and local/social Web sites and Internet yellow pages, such as Superpages, Insider Pages, YellowBot, Kudzu, Judy's Book, MerchantCircle, and the like. UBL will also deliver information about your business to 411 directories, navigation systems, like OnStar and TomTom, and Internet portals, such as AOL.

In addition, a listing with UBL quickly gets your data into the InfoUSA database, which is itself a trusted source of widely-shared business information. You get great coverage, while saving valuable time creating and updating profiles in all the local places you need to be.

While you can purchase very similar services at numerous places on the Web, Universal Business Listing charges only $30 per year, making it a real bargain for local brick-and-mortar enterprises.

This tool is a great time saver for local business owners. Simply enter a business name and ZIP code on the home page and the program will search for listings in four influential local business directories: Best of the Web Local, Yahoo Local, MSN Live Local, and Google Maps.

If you aren't listed, click on the links provided to go directly to the page on each of the sites where you can add details about your business. If your listings can benefit by enhancing them with reviews, photos, videos, or citations, GetListed will also tell you that. Advanced features include a dashboard for the convenient monitoring of two or more brick-and-mortar businesses, instructions on how to add photos to your listings, and articles to help you with marketing local enterprises on the Internet.

GetListed is intuitively easy to use and gives you a great deal of actionable information with the click of a mouse. The developers, David Mihm and Patrick Sexton, plan to continue adding features to this awesome new tool, so keep an eye out for future enhancements.

Google Trends
This very handy Google tool shows you trends in search and allows you to visually compare search trends for multiple terms. You can't see any solid numbers, but you can view charts that clearly display the "winner" in search volume for the keyword terms you're researching.

You can choose the month or year for which you wish to see data. The trend lines are tagged with instances of significant news events pertaining to your search terms to help explain spikes in interest.

This example shows that the term "bikes" is searched for three times more often than "bicycles."

It also shows the top 10 locations for those searches, according to what regions you ask to see. For this example, I chose the United States, so I was shown the relative search volume for the 10 states and 10 cities with the most searches for "bikes."
I then clicked on Colorado and was shown the 10 towns in Colorado where "bikes" is searched for most often.

From this data, you can see that a sports store in Durango can benefit by bidding on both "bike" and "bicycle" in its paid search campaigns, while one in Steamboat should stick to "bike."
No matter what stage of marketing you're in, from doing initial research to fine tuning a mature campaign, Google Trends can help you see search in ways you may not have yet imagined. Spend some time discovering its capabilities and it may become a standard weapon in your online marketing arsenal.

Google Insights for Search
This is another interesting, though somewhat complex Google tool that I�m certain you can glean thought-provoking information. Spend some time checking it out. For instance, it allows you to see Google Trends-type information according to locations and time frames and to compare the search trends in those locations and times to each other.

For example, if you're a tennis instructor in the D.C. metro area wondering where to concentrate your AdWords spend for the upcoming season, you could use Insights for Search to help with your marketing decision by asking the tool to show you the search trends for "tennis lessons" in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., during the timeframe of your choosing.
click to enlarge
(source: ClickZ, Mary Bowling, 3/12/09)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Discounting Damages Brands

The Dollars & Consumer Sense 2009 study, released today, finds that consumers often have a negative reaction when they see the price slashed for their favorite product or service.

In fact, 70 percent of respondents to the Yankelovich poll said such cuts probably mean the brand was overpriced in the first place. And, 62 percent said they assumed that the product was old and they were just trying to get rid of it.

"People are suspicious if you significantly discount your brand,” said J. Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich Monitor and executive vice chairman of The Futures Company. “If you make significant changes in your value proposition it can confuse them. You have to give them reasons to buy stuff as opposed to just lowering prices as a knee jerk reaction to the economy.”

Earlier this year Saks Fifth Avenue announced it was retreating from a discounting strategy after it lost nearly $100 million in Q4. CEO Stephen Sadove said the chain would add a mix of lower priced items instead. The assumption became "they are just overpriced all year long," said Smith.

Brands that do not discount achieve a positive halo among many consumers, per the study, which polled 1,0002 consumers in January. Sixty-four percent of those polled said they assume the product is either extremely popular or a good value if they maintain their price.

Earlier this month, Brand Keys announced similar findings among the 26,000 consumers it polled for its Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. Consumer expectations regarding brand value went up 20 percent. In other words, many aren’t looking for lower-priced brands rather they are looking buy products that they consider a good value.

A potentially more damning result of lower pricing is deflationary expectations, per Yankelovich. This means consumers are postponing purchases in anticipation of prices falling further. Up to 60 percent of those polled believed companies that cut prices would continue to do so. “People are sitting around waiting for more discounts. That’s a really bad thing," says Smith. "The deflationary cycle is very difficult to remedy once it takes hold."
(source: Brandweek, 3/11/09, Kenneth Hein)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who's Buying Eyeglasses?

Not an overly enlightening post today, but one I found interesting. These are not overly large markets...and Cedar Rapids is #6????
Have a great day!

Who's Buying Eyeglasses?
Top 10 DMAs in which adults who spent more than $150 on eyeglasses in the past 12 months:
1 Ft. Smith/ Fayetteville/ Springdale/ Rodgers, Ark.
2 Waco/ Temple/ Bryan, Ala.
3 Huntsville/ Decatur (Florence), Ala.
4 Minneapolis/ St. Paul
5 Shreveport, La.
6 Cedar Rapids/ Waterloo/ Iowa City & Dubuque, Iowa
7 Knoxville, Tenn.
8 Louisville, Ky.
9 Tri-Cities, Tenn./ Va.
10 Birmingham (Anniston and Tuscaloosa), Ala.
Source: MRI's Market-by-Market study,

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Best Dealers Keep Customers After Warranties End

Even if you are not in the automotive industry, these are some good areas to take a look at for your business. For automotive service practices such as providing promt appointments, greeting the customer immediately on arrival, knowing the vehicle's service history and returning the auto clean (with my wash her car when you change the oil and you have a customer for life).

Not one of the above suggestions cost you a dime! Another point this article makes is that the experience the customer has with your Service Department greatly impacts whether the customer buys another car from the dealership!

Be creative in the ways you deliver your customer service, and make sure it is consistent throughout your entire organization. Have the mentality that every single person on your staff is in sales - in one way or another.

It's fairly easy for auto dealerships to keep service-department customers while their vehicles remain under warranty.

The hard part is retaining them as customers after the warranty expires and they're now paying for service and maintenance work. That's when many customers take their business elsewhere, such as independent repair shops.

But a study finds even though satisfaction with dealer service tends to decline as vehicles age -- particularly in the fourth and fifth years of ownership -- dealers that provide the highest levels of satisfaction during the warranty period retain a greater share of future business afterwards.

Dealership networks with superior service retain more than 80 percent of customer maintenance and repair dollars, according to J.D. Power and Associates' 2009 Customer Service Index Study.

Conversely, retention rates are less than 60 percent for brands with lower-performing dealers.

There are two reasons service work has become particularly important for dealers and their parts-supplying auto makers.

One, during the current recession, customers are keeping their vehicles longer, increasing the likelihood of service visits.

Two, dealers facing an industry-wide vehicle sales slump are turning their attention to other areas of their business, particularly the back shop, for much-needed revenue.

"The significant decline in new-vehicle sales means that dealers are relying even more heavily on the service operations," says Jon Osborn, J.D. Power's research director. "In many cases, this income is keeping the dealerships open.

"Customers who say the dealer service they received was "unacceptable" report spending eight times as much at non-dealer service facilities, compared with customers who report receiving "truly exceptional" service from their dealer.

Consumers participating in the study report spending an average of $310 annually on oil changes, routine maintenance and repairs during the first five years of vehicle ownership.

In the latest study, the Lexus brand ranks highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service, improving from fourth place last year.

Lexus achieves an overall CSI score of 835 on a 1,000-point scale and performs particularly well in four of the five measures. In order of importance those are: service quality, service initiation, service advisor and service facility. The fifth measure is vehicle pickup.

Rounding out the top five nameplates are Jaguar (810), BMW (808), Cadillac (806) and Acura (805).

At the bottom of the list are Volkswagen (725), Kia (724), Nissan (723), Mazda (716) and Suzuki (702).

Newport Lexus in Newport Beach, CA, is an example of a dealership with a service emphasis.

The $75 million, 3-year-old facility is a showplace but Greg Whetter, vice president of the dealership group that owns it, talks with particular enthusiasm about the service department.

There is a 7-lane service drive for speedy intake. Cars go up a ramp and to a work area with 77 bays and 103 lifts. The bays are pre-stocked with parts for the 18 most common service orders.

"We can get you in and out in minutes," Whetter says.

"The highest-performing brands differentiate themselves particularly in the service-quality and service-facility measures," Osborn says.

The study indicates that what happens in the back shop doesn't stay in the back shop -- it can affect whether a customer buys another car of that brand and from that dealer.

"Since dealer service is the last touch-point in the vehicle ownership cycle that auto manufacturers have with customers, providing superior levels of service can leave owners with a lasting favorable impression of the brand," says Osborn.

Practices the highest-ranked brands consistently perform include: providing prompt appointments; greeting the customer immediately on arrival; knowing the vehicle's service history; returning vehicles in a clean condition; and offering alternative transportation if customers leave their cars for service.

These courtesies may seem intuitive, but many dealers do not consistently provide them, Osborn says.The study is based on responses from 106,059 owners and lessees of '04 to '08 vehicles.
(Source: Ward's Dealer Business, 03/02/09)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Radio: Wave of the Future

You heard it here first: Radio is the wave of the future.

All the buzz in advertising is over Facebook, Twitter and social media. Yet Radio technology is burgeoning. The appointment audio of the podcast is catching on, and satellite Radio, HD Radio and streaming mobile Radio are all gaining interest and audience. So, too, is Internet Radio: according to research firm American Media Services, 38 percent of adults surveyed six months ago said they expected to listen to Radio on the Internet at some point in the future; more recently, the figure was 48 percent.

Listening to President Obama's inauguration speech again on YouTube recently got me thinking about stirring orations. Because I'm a Brit, naturally Winston Churchill's 1940 "Fight them on the Beaches" speech to the House of Commons came to mind. Even today, when I listen to it via a scratchy YouTube recording, I am struck by Radio's power as a storytelling medium. I can't help but wonder: In our visual age, have we lost the art of audio communication?

I've long been a believer in Radio.After nine years in this business (and 20-odd as an avid Radio listener), some of my favorite effective brand communication has come over the airwaves.

Radio still has a purpose, and a following. Sixty-four percent of the U.S. population tunes in once a day, and 94 percent of adults tune in every week. That's a cumulative audience of 283 million weekly listeners.

The good news in these tough economic times is that Radio is relatively cheap to create and produce. Moreover, its short and simple production times allow brands to be opportunistic and flexible in their media buys -- a noteworthy advantage over the more-than-four week production lead times of out-of-home, magazine and newsprint, and TV's eight-week minimum.

Most important, however, is that great Radio work can have a huge impact. Best-in-class examples: Bud Light's Real Men of Genius, or CDP's Hamlet cigars. A 2005 study by research firms Millward Brown and IRI found that Radio provided 49 percent better return-on-investment than TV. In recent years, numerous studies conducted by third parties prove that Radio is more personally relevant, more persuasive and just as emotionally engaging as TV. Some particularly thorough researchers have gone so far as to use facial electromyography to track emotional response!

Radio as a medium is tailor-made to the challenges of our multi-tasking, ADD age. Consumers might be working, driving or gaming, but they can still listen. Acceptance of Radio ads is higher than that of TV ads: 51 percent of the listeners queried by American Media Services claim they do not switch Radio channels when commercials come on. I recently worked on Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World" campaign. In qualitative groups, my colleagues and I were shocked at how many respondents recalled lines from the radio -- even more so than the TV.(Source: Caroline Krediet, Media Daily News, 02/18/09)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It Is Not What You Bill, But What You Collect That Counts

This article is a good reminder that the reality of business is not what you bill that really matters, but what you collect. Make sure that you make wise decisions on who to extend credit to, and cut people off before they become too extended. When it doubt, trust your gut. Jeff

A record $14.3 billion in business accounts nationwide was placed in collection in 2008, a 23.2 percent increase from $11.6 billion in 2007, according to the Commercial Collection Agency Association.

That’s up 6.2 percent from the previous record of $13.5 billion for the 12-month period ending September 2008, clear evidence of the worsening economy.

The number of accounts in collection rose to almost 9.2 million in 2008, from almost 8.9 million in 2007, a 2.1 percent increase for the year.

While the number of accounts and amounts continue to climb, the sour economy and increase bankruptcy filings are making it very difficult to recoup the money, collection firms say.

“(Association) members are negotiating a greater number of payment plans for the liquidation of delinquent debt as business debtors are facing a cash flow crunch,” association executive director Emil Hartleb said in a news release. Members expect more accounts and more difficultly making collections through the second quarter.

“Eighty percent of the members report receipts are down — and we’re in that group,” said Larry Cassidy, president of Northern California Collection Service Inc. in Sacramento. New listings are up but collections are down about 30 percent, he said.

Asked what business owners can do to improve collections, Hartleb suggested:
• Be prepared to negotiate longer payment plans with delinquent and slow-paying customers
• Keep payments on a weekly or biweekly basis so you are in more frequent contact with the delinquent customer and on top of the situation
• Get the payment plan in writing. Be sure that any agreement confirms the amount owed and that there are no offsets against the account to avoid any controversy should litigation become necessary, and
• If the customer defaults and won’t take steps or cannot take steps to resume payments, don’t delay review of the account for placement with a collection agency.

“The important thing is early intervention,” Cassidy said “Some businesses wait four, five, six or seven months. Nowadays, it you’re doing that, you’re not going to get paid.”
(source: Sacramento Business Journal, 3/2/09)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Men Changing, Advertisers Reacting and ESPN Benefiting

For years, advertisers that targeted women believing they played a "head of household" role and made the majority of purchasing decisions for the family. But ESPN's Ed Erhardt says that cause-and-effect relationship is changing.

Men are becoming more involved in making household spending choices--perhaps because of the economy--and that could increasingly open doors for ESPN with its male audience.

"Most of the research now shows it is a dual decision," says Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC Sports customer sales and marketing. "A guy is very much involved in that, so I think there's a change in the male consumer--there's a change in the economy and we like our position based upon that going forward."

In ESPN's case, Erhardt says large packaged goods companies (Kraft and Johnson & Johnson, for example) along with travel advertisers and other traditional female-oriented marketers are shifting dollars in an attempt to reach men.

As a result, he says that's serving as a buffer as some marketers in the financial, retail and automotive categories trim spending in reaction to the economy. A top media buyer, GroupM's chief investment officer Rino Scanzoni, said last week to investors that ESPN is challenged--since 40% of its ad dollars come from those three sectors.

Erhardt says ESPN has "a positive and fruitful relationship" with GroupM, but referred to the 40% figure as "grossly overstated." The percentage of business from those categories is "significantly lower than that," he said, although he declined to provide any details.
Scanzoni did say those categories are broad, and within them, there are still areas of strength. Within the financial sector, for example, insurers such as Geico continue to be heavy spenders, and some banks that are now merging such as Wells Fargo and Wachovia are likely to launch branding campaigns.

Erhardt said the insurance category continues to grow at ESPN. Spending by quick-service restaurants (QSRs), which could be placed under the retail umbrella and have not been hurt as much by the economy, also remains solid.

Erhardt said that while spending by American automakers has been plunging--a problem for all media--ESPN is taking its share of dollars from the likes of Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai. In at least two cases, long-term deals signed before the recession are a help--Toyota with a "Monday Night Football" sponsorship, and Nissan's link with the Heisman Trophy and college football.

Still, even as ESPN may be finding bright spots within struggling categories and attracting some traditionally female-targeted dollars, its ad revenues have taken some lumps recently (in line with many other cable networks).

On a Feb. 3 call with investors, Tom Staggs, the CFO of parent Walt Disney, said sales at ESPN fell by high-single digit percentages in the October-December quarter, partly due to "softness in several categories, including consumer electronics and automotive." Staggs also said sales in the current January-March quarter are below the same period a year ago.

Erhardt declined to comment on whether that trend has continued over the past month, and how the performance in the current quarter will end up.

In addition to the economic climate, another headwind is that prime-time ratings in the 18-to-49 demo are flat this season by one measure, although performance varies by sport.

Coming back to the financial category, Erhardt said ESPN is not likely to suffer as much as some other broadcasters because it has very little golf coverage this year. Many financial advertisers, including investment firms, traditionally have used the sport as a venue to target upscale males. (ESPN/ABC will offer the first two rounds of the U.S. Open and the final two of the British Open.)

"We are not impacted by the financials the way that one might assume," Erhardt says.

ESPN does carry parts of all four tennis Grand Slams, which may attract an upscale audience, but Erhardt says those events are less susceptible to the financial category's difficulties.
Separately, Erhardt indicated that with advertisers demanding more accountability, ESPN offers high viewer engagement across multiple screens, providing "a differentiator in today's marketplace."