lemonade social

Jimmy Plan Marketing

I worked in strategic crisis management for about 6 years.  I wore many hats in addition to my marketing role and had several bosses.  I learned so much in those six years about business and personalities.  We worked with a who’s who of companies and we did a variety of things for our clients.  One of the things we were called in to do, often, was to give an expert’s eye to a company’s strategic crisis management plan and to test the client and their teams with various sorts of exercises. 

One of my bosses during my tenure there was a very colorful fellow and one of his favorite sayings was “don’t get caught with a Jimmy plan.”  The client would almost always ask what in the world is a Jimmy plan and his response would always be, “A plan that Jimmy from down the hall says is a good plan.”  Obviously, in that scenario and in my current role I am trying to engage with clients and potential clients and sell them services, but I think that his quip is brilliant.  A lot of times we get so focused on our core business that we forget that it has to translate to the general public.  Having an outsider take a look at your marketing plan is never a bad idea.  Fresh eyes generally see the strengths, but can also point out the weaknesses or tell a business owner how the target market may see their messaging both in good and bad ways.  We have all seen horribly executed advertising or messaging and scratched our head and said “what were they thinking?”  Allocating a portion of your marketing budget to getting outsider feedback can help a business owner to avoid costly marketing mistakes. 

Lemonade Social wants to work with our community business owners.  We can, of course, be your entire marketing department or we can consult with you to make the most of the plans that you have developed yourself.  Give me a call and allow us to assist you in developing a marketing plan that not only guy down the hall thinks is great, but that allows your business to effectively engage with our community.

But We Have Always Done It This Way

I love traditions. I picked my mother’s and my great aunt’s silver pattern and my grandmother’s pearls are probably my most prized possession. That same grandmother used Palmolive to wash dishes and I have a big bottle of the green stuff under my kitchen sink. We have had turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving and Christmas all of my life and I intend to serve that menu for the rest of my days. I like traditional worship, I still wear panty hose and I like antiques. Almost everything I do in my life from how much allowance my 5 year old gets to what brand of toilet paper I buy is grounded in tradition. So why is it that the following 8 words….But we have always done it this way… stop me in my tracks when I hear a business owner or executive say them? Because being grounded in tradition is one thing, staying in a rut is completely another.

The world of marketing and public relations changes on a daily basis. I was at a meeting today of the Lee County Chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama. Two young women who are recent graduates of Auburn University presented their Campaign Class project to us. They worked with Fox Sports U and NASCAR to create a campaign to engage the coveted 18-34yo market using primarily social media. Out of several proposals, theirs was chosen to implement. I cannot do the full project justice, but a brief synopsis is that NASCAR is currently followed by mostly 44-67year old men. NASCAR and Fox Sports U see that they have to expand their audience and they have to remain cutting edge on their messaging to engage new and younger fans and viewers. While I was sitting listening to these bright, young women it struck me that tradition has a place in marketing and PR. Tradition in marketing, advertising and PR is your brand. It is the core of who you are and what your values are. It does not change often, if ever. How you relay that message and educate people on your brand is what has to be dynamic and changing with the times. NASCAR stayed true to their culture and who they are, but by working with these students, they added another way in which to reach viewers and potential fans. They did not let “but we have always done it that way” lead the way to complacency and lost revenue.

I worked for a small consulting firm for years beginning in 2002. We did not have voicemail for almost a year after I started. The COO was terrified that clients would see voicemail as a move to be less customer service oriented and excellent customer service was a core value that was measured at this firm. What she did not understand was that people were so used to voicemail by that time that they were hesitant to leave messages with a live human for fear that the nuance of the message may be lost or it may not get to the intended recipient. Because she had always taken hand written messages and dug her heals in so deep, she failed to consider how the person on the other end of the phone felt about voicemail. She wanted to maintain her core value of excellent customer service, but was not considering that the perception of what makes customer service great had changed over time. Business owners have to honor the traditions that work for their enterprises and further brand awareness, but they must also be willing to try new ways to reach clients and potential clients. If Lemonade Social can help you stay true to your traditions, while exploring new ways communicate your core values, please let us know!

Ever to Conquer, Never to Yield!

In July of 2012, my husband and I packed up our two little children and the dog and moved to Auburn. To say I was excited might have been the understatement of the decade. Being the family of corporate gypsies that we were growing up, Auburn felt more like home than any other place I had ever lived. We started getting settled and involved in the community and we expected exciting things to begin in the fall and then football season began….and my team tanked (and that might be runner up for understatement of the decade). We had a season of 3 and 9. It was AWFUL. I felt like a jinx. I was decorating my boys’ bathroom in a very classy orange and blue theme and someone commented that was fitting since the season was in the toilet. I was terrified my children might fulfill the dreams of their father and become Georgia fans. They might even prefer to bark over saying War Eagle….the horrors of that season were too many to count.

As a child, I became an Auburn fan the day of the 1982, Bo Over the Top, Iron Bowl. My parents are Auburn Alumnae and huge fans, but that is the day I caught the fever. I grew up in the Pat Dye Era and my freshman year was the 1993 undefeated season. I cheered the Tigers on in Atlanta in 1997 when we lost to Tennessee and again in 2004 when we beat them and still didn’t make it to the championship game. In 2011, I held my 7 month old as the last second clicked off the clock when Cam Newton led Auburn to the BCS Championship we were denied in 2004. I grew up with the Auburn Creed framed in my play room, with a grandfather who was a former Auburn Athlete, a huge wardrobe of orange and blue and a solid tailgate crew that is still strong. I was used to the occasional disappointing season, but 2012 was something I had never experienced before.

As the season was dragging on, I started meeting more people and several owned businesses. I heard over and over how the abysmal performance of the Auburn Tigers was really hurting their bottom lines. I was floored, true Auburn people did not abandon our team due to a bad season. Auburn people were better than that, I thought. It was true that people were still coming to games, but many were not staying to the end. Instead of staying in Auburn and spending money on food, drink and Orange and Blue Under Armour, folks were packing up and heading straight out of town and taking their check books with them.

All of this got me to thinking, how do businesses plan for and market to the fan base that is only here a fraction of the time? Many small businesses in Auburn have 3 distinct markets: the students and their parents, full time residents and the non-resident alumnae/fan. Obviously marketing dollars have to be spent to engage the folks who live and work here. But how can a business salvage a bad football season if they count on alumnae and fans to put their businesses in the black by year’s end? This is a situation that is not unique only to Auburn, but it is one that business owners here must address in order to be successful. One easy answer if you are a retail business is to add e-commerce to your website and make sure that your out of town customers stay connected with you via social media and email marketing and are compelled to order from your establishment even when they are not physically in Auburn or Opelika. For restaurants it is not quite that simple, but there are ways to stay in the forefront of the consumers mind. Do you have products that you can ship to out of towners and are you working hard to stay in touch with this group throughout the year?

So I will end by saying, there are 102 days to the beginning of Auburn Football season. Is your business ready? Call Lemonade Social to discuss how to differentiate your marketing strategy during the most magical time in the south!

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!

Tooting your own horn?

Lemonade Social has been up and running for a couple of months now. I am so excited to be out on my own and working for myself. So far, I have been fortunate and the business is picking up projects. I have also had the opportunity to speak to students at Southern Union State Community College at their 2nd Annual Ready to Work Soft Skills Seminar. And if you have read this far, I have to come clean and tell you that writing the last 3 sentences has made my stomach hurt and caused a scowl on my face that could lead to frown lines and crow’s feet. Everything I have said is true, so why is it making me cringe? Well because I am as southern as a butter bean and anything that borders on “tooting my own horn” makes me come close to breaking out in hives!

There is a funny story about how I chose marketing as my life’s calling. I started out at Auburn as a speech pathology major. I made it through my junior year in the curriculum and figured out that I HATED it. I mean the word loathe would be putting it lightly. So sitting on the bed in 209 Dobbs Hall on a fine spring afternoon, I picked up the phone (it was corded and I used a calling card) and with shaking hands dialed the number to my dad’s office. He picked up and I immediately burst into tears. Once he made sure I was not bleeding and got me calmed down enough to understand me, he sort of caught that I hated my major, that I wanted to change and I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. So he asked me what I loved to do most in the world, through tears and sobs my 21 year old self replied, “shopping and throwing parties.” He chuckled, which was good since I knew he was calculating in his head how much this was going to cost him, and said “Shug, you need a marketing a degree.” So off to the business school I went…

So my love of shopping and party planning got me this degree that pays me to “toot the horn" of others so to speak. I am really good at sitting down with a business owner and talking about what they do and why they are passionate about it. I can put together a plan and shout from the rooftops why everyone in Auburn and Opelika should call them for whatever good or service they provide, but when I sit down to do it for myself I am so afraid of sounding pompous or uppity that I second guess everything I put on paper, say to a group of students or post on social media. Until yesterday, I thought this might be a problem that was unique to me and my business, but apparently it isn’t. I sat across the table from a very successful professional consultant that I hope to make a client. Over the course of the conversation he mentioned a couple of times that effective marketing scared him in some ways because he was afraid of sounding cheesy or like a know it all. I left the meeting excited about the opportunity to potentially work with this gentleman and as I was recapping the meeting in my head a light bulb went off. A lot of business owners, especially those with small town enterprises, must have some of the same fears that I do about “tooting my own horn.” That revelation is huge for 2 reasons, 1) it helps me relate to my clients in a new and exciting way and 2) it helps to give myself permission to tell people that I am good at my job as long as I can back it up with client success stories. So, is tooting your own horn at the next class reunion something I recommend? No, absolutely not. Is tooting your own horn something that I think you can effectively do for your business, or better yet, allow me to help you do for your business? You bet!

Thank you for reading my little walk down memory lane. If Lemonade Social can help you and your business toot its horn, please call me!