Sequester Is Signal To Let Main Street Lead

Sequester – the latest scene in our federally sponsored passion play over budget issues that is becoming the norm. Maybe it’s finally time to look inward and empower Main Street to lead our sustainable recovery.

We keep letting the opportunity on Main Street pass us by. - Glenn Kass - Catch Driver Marketing (Photo by Shuva Rahim - shuvarahim.com)

We keep letting the opportunity on Main Street pass us by. – Glenn Kass – Catch Driver Marketing (Photo by Shuva Rahim – shuvarahim.com)

Obviously, the country’s issues didn’t occur overnight and one idea will not solve them. However, with each stalemate, local municipalities are left searching for ways to manage through shortcomings at the federal and state levels.

The usual local recourse is re-doubling traditional economic development. Continue to sweeten offers for manufacturing or major retail partners, create TIF districts, etc. Some communities have seen value in revitalizing downtown districts through the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Approach.

Local business is the ultimate community stakeholder, yet we often pass it by and take it for granted. In mid-2012, Realtor Magazine showed results of the impact that small business has on creating revenue for local communities.

Excitement in 2012 over bi-partisan federal passage of the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) held promise for the concept of “Locavesting” in Main Street. It has been dulled by the lack of urgency on drafting rules for executing the legislation.

Previously, I’ve covered the need to move small business support from “Hallmark holiday” status. Even reaching levels advocated by Main Street supporters – that is directing 10% of your spending to local business – would be a big step.

Some are beginning to think creatively. Bayonne, NJ – following enactment of a similar effort in Marlboro, NJ – has recently proposed tying property tax rebates to local small business spending.

Every community has assets in its toolbox. Local small business incubators – some sponsored by local governments, educational institutions and chambers of commerce – are another way to promote local re-investment.

One of my friends has been active politically for many years both locally and nationally. I asked them why they never took up the opportunity to head to Washington, DC when the chance presented itself. They said they have always known that you get more done on your street than on a highway.

It’s time to think big by thinking small. Let’s recruit within our communities for development like we do outside opportunities. What are your thoughts? Please leave your comments.

Glenn Kass and Catch Driver Marketing thinks small is the new big. Learn more at www.catchdriver.com. You can also “like” www.facebook.com/catchdrivermarketing, “follow” www.twitter.com/CatchDriverMktg or “watch” www.youtube.com/catchdrivermarketing.

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Marketing-Be A Feature, Not Just Another Special

Lately, during conversations with friends in the food business, we’ve discussed their dislike of the word special. The word carries negative connotations for them. They prefer the word feature.

Eventually, the Specials at the Edward Hopper cafe weren't enough.

Eventually, the “Specials” at Edward Hopper’s cafe weren’t enough to draw customers.

I have to agree with them when you consider the abuse of the word special. The pursuit of “Special” has made most things, well, not very special. We now see a movable feast of bargain hunters simply wandering from deal to deal with little chance of developing them into customers you can keep.

While marketing in mobile communications, one of my co-workers memorably said, “No one ever says to their friends, ‘Look at my cool new network.’ They say, ‘Look at the features on my cool new phone.'” With that in mind, here’s a reminder of the areas you can build features and grow your business.

Customer Service: The term “customer experience” is overused at times. But, it’s the ultimate competitive advantage, especially for small business. However, some owners have sensory overload in their “experience” attempting to be special. Sometimes this is due to financial reasons. If an owner has done the work on the pre-planning side, each level of a business can develop organically so the customer actually has an experience.

Customer Knowledge: Call it CRM, call it stats…too many businesses miss opportunities to learn about their customers. Analytic knowledge is marketing fuel and the data movement is not going away. Walking the tightrope of privacy is an ongoing debate in this connected world. However, not knowing anything about your customers, especially with all the tools available, is foolish. Always look to make customer info and feedback part of any project.

(To see a Catch Driver video sidebar regarding Features and Specials, click here.)

Education: Do your employees really know your business? Can they tell your story as well as you do? Can you tell that story? Education often takes a back seat to running the business, but it could be a valuable feature. Imagine what continuing education could mean to your business’ overall experience.

Communication: It always comes back to connecting people. Not electronically, but really connecting. So much personal communication is overlooked because we think we covered the subject in an email. That can be the ultimate feature. If carried out in a genuine fashion, what is the ROI of earning a reputation as the business that listens?

The goal should be to continue the development of features. These areas are controllable and are the things that really make your business special.

Glenn Kass - Catch Driver Marketing (Photo by Shuva Rahim - Accent Photographics)

Glenn Kass – Catch Driver Marketing (Photo by Shuva Rahim – Accent Photographics)

Glenn Kass and Catch Driver Marketing features personal, project-based marketing and communication services for small- and medium-sized businesses. Learn more at www.catchdriver.com. You can also follow along at www.facebook.com/catchdrivermarketing, www.twitter.com/CatchDriverMktg and www.youtube.com/catchdrivermarketing.

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Small Business Marketing-Try, Try To Begin

A small, green thought leader from far, far away famously declared there were only two paths – do or do not. Well, upon further review, the master’s seminal message may need an amendment.

This presentation slide needs to be revised.

This presentation slide needs to be revised.

Recently, efforts for a client to promote itself on “Small Business Saturday” resulted in several earned media opportunities. One particular weekend news crew came to get video and quotes and I thanked them for coming out.

Now, understand, there was a diligent effort leading up to the day to position the client for the third annual salute to Main Street. But, when I thanked this news rep, they replied, “No problem. Actually it was a pretty quiet Saturday and we had your info so it was a fit for us.”

I’ve written previously about the inverse effect that the current “buying holiday” approach is having on small businesses. While it has elevated the conversation and made “Main Street” its own brand, it seems that, for some, local activation is skipping do and do not with try about to excuse itself.

Small business owners are confronted with many choices and opportunities. Thanks to social and digital tools along with competitive environments, many are forced to confront do or do not. Christopher Penn wrote an insightful post about the “Zero Moment Of Truth” which examines the sales process and its ties to public relations and marketing.

Most of the time, a small business chooses not to decide and stay the course. A post by Rebel Brown eloquently describes this “heads down” approach and its consequences. In fact, the client I described above is just now beginning to lift its head to make changes in its approach and enable itself for future growth. Our success in gaining attention and ROI reassured the client of what is possible by trying something new.

I regularly advocate for planning and that is where any effort must begin. In fact, a business has to have a strong infrastructure to properly plan and implement marketing and public relations. Remember, you’re asking for business and you need to be ready to deliver. Also, an owner should take time to really know their business and be able to tell the story as well as when it first opened the doors.

Yoda might declare his flip-flop accordingly: “Trying – for it now I am, against it I was.” While do or do not are universally accepted choices when a decision must be made, perhaps restoring some belief in trying is the best way for you to use the force.

Glenn Kass - Catch Driver Marketing (Photo by Shuva Rahim - Accent Photographics)

Glenn Kass – Catch Driver Marketing (Photo by Shuva Rahim – Accent Photographics)

Glenn Kass and Catch Driver Marketing want to help you try and do. For more, visit www.catchdriver.com. You can also follow www.facebook.com/catchdrivermarketing or www.twitter.com/CatchDriverMktg.

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Hey, Disrupt This!

I had a recent meeting with a rep from a printing company. I know, who “prints” anymore, right? However, with everyone talking “disruption” in marketing these days, this meeting produced a surprise worth considering.

The surprise you ask? I got a thank you card in the mail the next day. OK, it’s a printing company so using a card makes sense. In the past, I have written about the loss of communication that we used to take for granted and disastrous results that can occur. What about the genius of using what everyone used to take for granted to now make an impact?

I work mostly with small businesses. I am not so foolish to say it’s time to exclusively use the pen against the sword. Social and virtual tools are here to stay. But, so many are using things all wrong and sometimes abandoning the tools of engagement that could now help you stand out from the crowd.

Jure Klepic authored a great piece for Huffington Post Media about the news of traditional media’s demise being misinterpreted. Mark Sage then detailed in Customer Think that customers can still tune out your best efforts at virtual engagement.

Traditionally, customers will decide how they will use your offers, staff and business. Think up any term of use and you can bet there is a loophole. After all, the customer is always right.

Entrepreneurs are inundated with every new trend and belief and feel obligated to follow along. But, a post by Dave Wellman sealed it for me. What is your business about? If you do not understand your own business, and its goals, then how can you possibly choose tools effectively let alone implement them?

“Know The Room” – a video sidebar from Catch Driver Marketing. View it here.

Rena Wang of Forbes wrote a story about how Social Media will be the site for the shopkeeper-patron conversation going forward. I currently admin social channels for clients and vigilance is indeed important. However, pause to consider a classic disruption to your thinking.

Based on your storefront and your playing field, it’s worth remembering that some traditions may not be ready for the dead letter office just yet.

Glenn Kass – Catch Driver Marketing (Photo by Shuva Rahim – Accent Photographics)

Glenn Kass and Catch Driver Marketing can get your ideas on track. Visit www.catchdriver.com or follow on Facebook (www.facebook.com/catchdrivermarketing) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/CatchDriverMktg).

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Surviving a #marketing free-org

People love free, but hate when it goes away. Not surprising. But, what if your marketing relies too much on it and you suffer a “free-org?” Would your marketing plan survive?

Don’t invest in anger. Planning is the free you should invest in.

Some disagreement with changes are related to unintelligent design which, free or not, is fair criticism. Others center on confusion about changes or execution of various new aspects within an app. Some criticism of intent is occasionally just plain funny.

But, other change comes from circumstances like the news that CTO Bret Taylor is leaving Facebook. Clearly, the Facebook IPO, like others before, will lead to consequences.

Go to search, choose the name of any major online platform these days, especially free ones, and add the word “sucks.” You will get a limitless return in search. I believe some of this is misguided. The reason: complacency.

Entrepreneurs need free apps whenever possible. Budgets dictate that. However, a budget app can’t replace planning and being ready for change. Time is another enemy. Small business owners usually are the Chief Marketing Officer too. That doesn’t leave much time to anticipate and prepare for change.

As the pressure to monetize grows, the developers of apps and platforms will be embracing change more and more. As a small business person myself, I understand the advantage these apps have. There are those I choose to upgrade and pay for because I value them.

The old adage of free being too good to be true is…well, sometimes true.

Another take on free – watch it’s free! (Click here for a video sidebar.)

So, what if you get “free-orged?” Here are some tips:

1. Don’t panic – Even if it takes some time after the work day, look into the changes. Find out what they are really about and if there are ways to maintain some of the functionality you enjoy.

2. Does it still fit – Find out if the changes still help your business. Maybe it will force you from your comfort zone and help you realize that the app no longer works for you.

3. Comparison shop – Go online and look for comparable apps. Also, stop in to see what your competition really is doing. If you have business peers in other communities, reach out to see what they are doing.

Incidentally, enter the words “planning” and “sucks” into search and you get interesting results. The top returns include something about planning being hard to do and not being worth it because you always have to use time to keep changing the plan. That’s free advice you should avoid.

Glenn Kass – Catch Driver Marketing & Communications, LLC (Photo by Shuva Rahim – Accent Photographics)

Glenn Kass and Catch Driver Marketing can help you re-organize your plan. For more, visit www.catchdriver.com. Or, follow on Facebook (www.facebook.com/catchdrivermarketing) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/CatchDriverMktg)

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Small Business-What Would Your IPO Look Like?

Success is celebrated and cursed in equal measures. Build a good company, but don’t break bad. Soon, small businesses may have miniature “IPO” moments like Facebook will have this week. What can we learn from the current court of public opinion.

Think Mark Zuckerberg thought his dorm room project would lead to this? (Photo illustration originally appeared in WIRED Magazine)

The current commentary shows the hurdles of building a company and what happens as the inevitable changes occur during that journey.

In a quiet moment, Mark Zuckerberg may express wonderment when he thinks of the days and nights spent bringing “The Facebook” to life in a dorm room. As his company prepares to go public, he appears to be wiser beyond his years. But, there are inevitable steps in the process that new entrepreneurs still need to get used to.

Google once proudly displayed its motto, “Don’t Be Evil.” But, the public path means you need to know your way around the system to try to maintain control. It reminds me of the phrase, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

In a recent post, I touched on the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act that was passed by Congress and signed into reality by President Obama. A major concern expressed by opponents of the legislation was that a process for small businesses to raise money legally through small investors could develop new levels of fraud and deception.

Here’s some breaking news: There is plenty of illegal and unethical activity to go around.

The bigger issue for small business owners is how navigating this new course of turning a few customers into investment partners will play out. Those who have never started a business have probably never experienced the decisions that, “are good for business.” No matter what expectations are clearly established, an owner once celebrated could soon face a different reality.

“I could have done that!” – View a video sidebar from Catch Driver Marketing here.

A small business owner I worked for had a great metaphor for this struggle. “People think your business should be like a public library. They want it to be available when, and how, they want to use it.”

I believe that there are more positives than negatives with these new opportunities for small businesses that have generated a loyal customer base to tap into that for growth and sustainability. However, plan carefully to consider the emotions that can manifest themselves when you move from being public to going public.

Glenn Kass – Catch Driver Marketing (Photo by Shuva Rahim – Accent Photographics)

Glenn Kass and Catch Driver Marketing want to get your ideas on track. To learn more, visit www.catchdriver.com. Or, follow at www.facebook.com/catchdrivermarketing and www.twitter.com/CatchDriverMktg.

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Small Business Marketing-Big Results From Small Data

Happy “Big Data Week” everyone! From April 20-29, worldwide data analysts are promoting and De-mystifying their work. Of course, to small business, any data is big data. But, that is precisely why entrepreneurs should use some small data to have a big impact.

Small Data Is Better Than No Data At All

Early in 2011, I posted a pair of entries in support of research and data. The topics of Customer Research Management (CRM) and Customer Experience Management (CEM) are continuing to gain deserved attention and importance.

It should because it’s valuable and small business owners need to find the time to do it. There is too much good that can come from having not only a picture of the customer, but also the segmenting that is derived to help direct external and internal marketing.

Few are the entrepreneurs that have a real handle on their marketing channels and the ones that do find the going a bit smoother. Of course, there are many tools available including one of the leaders – HubSpot.* It provided a great overview this week of its product as well as others that can be used to drive the CRM effort easily and cost-effectively.

Besides the hoopla of “Big Data Week,” there is also this recent info from CRM Magazine providing research which indicates that many companies do not realize the full potential of loyalty programs.

The equation: planning plus preparation plus execution plus collection equals good data. It helps guide the decision-making, not only in terms of who are the customers and what do they want, but evaluating and choosing tools that will resonate with your business and its needs.

I have been working with some clients that are using their ability to collect and decipher some data to some advantage. One is implementing a plan that it used previously while another is beginning a process. It is small data to be sure.

But, setting up the right scenario, even simple vehicles such as comment cards or entry forms, can help put the sales and marketing funnels into motion. Imagine setting up the marketing plan knowing the key areas you serve and reasonable pictures of your areas for business growth.

That would be some small business data which would be cause for celebration any week!

*Note – Neither the author or company receive compensation from HubSpot. The post is listed for informational purposes only.

Glenn Kass - Catch Driver Marketing (Photo by Shuva Rahim - Accent Photographics)

Glenn Kass and Catch Driver Marketing want the numbers on your side. To learn more about getting your ideas on track, visit www.catchdriver.com. Or, follow along at Facebook (www.facebook.com/catchdrivermarketing) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/CatchDriverMktg).

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