Business Consulting

Think Before You Pink 2015

Last year, about this time, I wrote a blog post entitled “Think Before You Pink.” Once again, we have entered into the month of October. It is time for crisp fall nights, apple picking, pumpkin patches and Breast Cancer Awareness month. Only 30 or 40 years ago, breast cancer was something that was hidden from view. It was only whispered about and women faced treatment alone-the public was shielded from those facing this battle and sadly these women fought for their lives without needed support. Somewhere along the way women got bold and thought, you know what I may lose my breasts and my hair, but I am not going to hide. Many people credit First Ladies Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan along with TV shows like Dallas for giving women the courage to speak publically about breast cancer and treatment. There are many individuals and groups that we can thank for bringing this issue to the forefront of people’s minds and for beginning a brilliant money raising machine, but let’s face it there have also been some very tone deaf and deceptive “awareness raising” schemes that have done little more than line the pockets of some very shady business people. 

Everyone I know has been touched by breast cancer in some way. At the time of my original post, I had one dear friend who was a multi year survivor living with some health issues that are a by product of her treatment 12 years ago. I am happy to say that friend continues to manage her health issues and is feeling great.  I had another friend, who was fighting for her life. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that about a month after I published that blog, Suzanne would lose her battle with this awful disease. 41 year old women are not supposed to die in 2014 or 2015, but our beautiful and loving friend did. This year, I have even more strong feelings on this subject and I want my clients and anyone who may be paying attention to understand that jumping on this band wagon may seem like a good idea, but it has to be done thoughtfully.

As a marketing consultant, I have been asked often what my clients can do to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I get asked because of my marketing background, but also because I am a woman. Everyone who has asked about Breast Cancer Awareness Month has had a sincere and heartfelt desire to do the right thing in a classy manner and to honor all of the women who face this disease, but especially those who are close to them. For me, directing them is so personal because I have seen my friends struggle not only with cancer, treatment and residual health problems, but also with body image issues and lingering fear. In an effort to honor these women, I have treaded very lightly and asked for advice on how to sincerely do good without being opportunistic or downright skeezy. I ran across an article titled, “Think Before You Pink” and I want to share the link and some highlights so that our readers can make good decisions that reflect the desire to be honorable in their business practices and in their communities.

This is paraphrased from ThinkBeforeYouPink.org (http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/?page_id=13):

  1. If your business is considering a “Pink” initiative in the month of October, is your company going to donate a portion of revenue or each purchase to support breast cancer programs?
  2. What organization will get the money? What will they do with the funds, and how do these programs turn the tide of the breast cancer epidemic? 
  3. Is there a “cap” on the amount your company will donate? Has this maximum donation already been met? Can your customers tell that the maximum donation has been met?
  4. Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breast cancer? What is the company doing to ensure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

I highly encourage all of my client companies to support local charities for a number of reasons, yes it is good marketing, but it also builds camaraderie among employees and solidifies your team. When considering whether or not to make breast cancer awareness and research funding your business’s cause, think about whether it is truly complementary to your business. If you are a spa, makeup artist, hair salon or lady’s clothing boutique then yes, build an initiative that honors and raises money for women affected by breast cancer. If your core business is hunting equipment or a muffler repair shop (and yes I know there are female hunters and mechanics) consider finding an organization that speaks more to what your business is all about. Also, never be afraid to choose a well run program like Relay for Life that raises money for many kinds of cancer research or a local initiative that solidifies your community.

For consumers who want to support companies who do breast cancer awareness month promotions, do a little research and make sure the company you are supporting is living up to the promise of being supportive. Also, don’t judge businesses harshly who may not have a pink initiative in October. Good corporate citizenship does not hinge on this one issue. So many small businesses in our community do wonderful work on behalf of fantastic groups like Big House Foundation, The Jason Dufner Foundation and our local food bank. Keep that in mind and look for ways to support those businesses when they do something to support a local organization.

Well run and heartfelt breast cancer initiatives have changed the face of this insidious disease and business leaders have helped women find support and medical care that was not available in years past. Let’s stay away from pinkwashing and work to support causes that truly help our neighbors.

 

Free Marketing!

Today begins the first week where both of my kids are in school all week since May! So, I have some time to blog. We have had a fantastic summer and I sort of hate to see it end, but we are loving this taste of fall and football starting.

I have had the opportunity to do a lot of networking this summer and it has been a lot of fun. I have met with all sorts of small business owners at different events. The thing that I hear very often is that there is not much budget for strategic marketing. I get that. I own a marketing firm and my marketing budget is tight and I know how hard it is to market myself and still serve clients. So what is the best advice I can give someone with a small marketing budget? It is so simple…be the best in your field with customer service. Return phone calls promptly, let folks know if you are running late, if you are out of stock on something help a customer find it even if it means sending them to the competition for that one thing. I see people in our community asking for recommendations for service people or great places to eat often via Facebook and other social media. Almost every time the person leaving a comment says they had a great customer service experience with the business they are recommending. If you have no marketing budget, if you are great with your customers, they will do your marketing for you!

Last spring one of the panels in one of our garage doors split. The door was discontinued, so both doors had to be replaced. I called 3 local garage door places and not a single one picked up the phone and called me back. I have no idea what they margins are on garage doors, but for us it was a $2000 expense which in my opinion warranted a garage door company returning my call. I finally ordered from Home Depot and used a local handyman (who calls back in 24 hours without fail) to do our installation. So now if someone asks me about one of the local companies, I will tell them I was not impressed.

I am not a scientist that will cure cancer, nor am I going to do anything to take care of many of the ills that effect our world. But if I can help a business owner do a little better and be able to provide more for his or her family, then I feel good about my job. As always, if there is anything I can do to help your small business, give me a call!

May God Bless America!

This is one of my most favorite weeks of the year! My kids and I spend the week leading into Independence Day on Lake Martin and my husband joins us for the holiday. My family has had a home on the lake for almost 20 years. John and I got married here in 2009 and my kids love being at Mimi’s and Papa’s house. Every year I am reminded of how we lucky we are to live in our great country, but this year I feel especially blessed.  During my 16 year career, I have spent 10 years working in small businesses.  This year I am creating something that is not only a career passion of mine, but I am working with business owners who have turned their passions into viable enterprises.  What could be more of an American Dream?

There is a huge “shop small” movement going on across America and the statistics are telling.  According to the American Independence Business Alliance, "More than one dozen studies over the past decade show locally-owned independent restaurants re-spend twice as much per dollar of revenue in our local economy than chain restaurants. And independent retailers re-spend more than three times as much of each sales dollar locally compared to their chain competitors. That adds up to a huge difference in creating local jobs and local wealth." 

This year while I am eating barbeque and watching fireworks, I will also be reflecting on how great it is that we live in a country where those who start small businesses can truly make a difference in our communities.  From sponsoring little league teams and breast cancer walks to supporting local chambers of commerce that give members the resources to thrive, small businesses not only fulfill the dreams of the entrepreneurs that run them, but they lay the foundation that give our communities their identity and their life.

 From my family to yours, Happy Independence Day and may God bless America!

2015...A Brand Odyssey

I ran across a meme on Linked In last week that simply said this:

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is. It’s what the consumers tell each other it is”

And everyone said, AMEN!

In all of my blog posts I try to give you a little bit of background on me and my life. I am a child of the 80’s, without question. I had a Dorothy Hamill haircut and later on something akin to Jon Bon Jovi in his early videos. I wore Forenza cable knit sweaters from The Limited. In the 5th grade I had two pairs of Jelly shoes. I have never been a blue jeans person, but my brother mowed a ton of lawns to buy those with the Guess triangle on the bum. We were not obsessed with the brand names really, but somehow I think the kids of the 80s were the first generation to be hit in the head with marketers telling us what was going to make us cuter, smarter and more popular.

The 80’s also set in motion some of the biggest marketing and branding case studies in history. From the New Coke disaster, to Apple computers coming on the scene, to Super Bowl Ads becoming big business the era of “Greed is Good” went wild with marketing. All of us can see the swishy checkmark emblem and know we are looking at a Nike product, the cursive writing on a can of Coca Cola is engrained in our brain and that horse and rider on the pocket of a golf shirt lets us know a preppy person is in our midst.

So in 2015, what has changed? In some ways nothing and in other ways everything. Yes, the corporate identity or logo of a company has to be striking and get attention. It has to set you apart from your competition in some way. It needs to shout to people, visually, that if you buy me you are going to be more cool amongst your peers and you are getting something more valuable for your money than a product without name recognition. But getting close to 40 years after the dawn of the Reagan era, a brand also has to stand the test of social media and word of mouth that is faster and more cut throat than in any time in history. In 2015 a brand is not just an attractive visual symbol, it is also what you are to your consumer base and what they say about you on social media. The marketing machine is no longer guys in suits telling us what we need in our lives, it is now a network of everyday people from mom bloggers to our neighbors telling us in real terms why a brand makes their life better and sometimes worse. Marketing is no longer always aspirational, it is now appealing to the consumer in everyday terms. The game is no longer just price or quality, but also value and superior customer service and experience.

So, how is your small business appealing to your customer base and making sure they are telling their friends and family about your brand? Do you truly understand all aspects of your target market and how to reach them through social media and beyond? Do you even completely understand what you want your brand to be and how to achieve that? If any of these questions lead you to scratch your head and ask yourself more questions, please give me a call and let’s get your customers talking about why everyone should be doing business with you!