1. Cusano Marketing

    You may have noticed that things are getting easier, or at least they appear to be.  For example, website design used to require wizardry.  Oh, sure, there have always been programs that helped you organize your text and graphics, but to do really cool stuff you needed a wizard.  Or say you wanted to track who visited your site or you wanted them to download something.  Wizards again. 

    Well, now you can do a lot more on your own without the wizards.  Check out the new design for our site and see what I mean.  It is hosted by Squarespace and it is much easier to manage.  We have decided that pictures are much more interesting than text and they are more smart phone friendly.  So give us a look and come back often to see how we are taking the wizards on. 


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  2. Radio Shack Email Ad
    How well did you do on Black Friday?  

    Did you have record sales?  

    How about on Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday?

    Whether you were shopping or selling this past week, you couldn't avoid all the hype and all the campaigns geared to get you to make a decision, and make it fast.  The trend to get a jump on the Holiday season went into full gear this year with more stores open on Thanksgiving, and the hoopla continues beyond Cyber Monday, making the entire week a Cyber event.

    There is no doubt that what began as a way to encourage shoppers to change their buying behavior has developed into a major change in the behavior of the retailers.  Nearly everyone seems to be in on the act, whether they want to be or not.  And it is spreading.

    Hyundai extended Black Friday deals to the entire month of November, and some online retailers have extended Cyber Monday deals for the entire week.  What next?

    How do you rebound from so many sale days?  Will customers go back to paying normal prices for what they could have bought on sale?

    What all of these specially branded selling days have done for me is to help me focus on pricing and marketing, things on which any business needs to have a firm grasp.  When do you discount and when do you not?

    Apple's One Day Shopping Event
    One commonly understood truth in the retail world, prior to this Black Friday that is, was Apple doesn't discount its products.  The only way to get a savings on a current Apple product used to be to buy a refurbished one.  Now that Apple offered special pricing on a select group of products, who is going to believe it won't happen again?

    One of the most clever behavior changes I noticed was also one of the most subtle.  Radio Shack sent out an email advertising 24 deals in 24 hours.  While the idea wasn't new unusual, the delivery mechanism was a simple game changer.  Each hour, the email contents changed, right there in my inbox.  The email was active, checking the website every second or so to count down the time and change the hourly deal.  Whether I realized it or not, I was being bombarded by two dozen offers without receiving 24 annoying emails.  I suspect others will follow suit, and soon, I will find my inbox has gone from a static repository of unread ads to a dashboard of realtime deals.

    How will that change behaviors?


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  3. Wouldn't it be great if you could take all those old vinyl 45 RPM records that are stashed away in the closet and turn them into something useful? Or what about that stamp collection you thought would be worth something some day?

    When it comes to records and stamps, a little creativity and talent in mixed media art might help, but when it comes to digital assets, there can be many more options available.

    A little imagination and some spare time is all you need to breathe new life into existing content, such as videos photos and presentations. Here are a few examples of what you can do and the tools you will need to do them.

    Animated Graphs

    You may already use a presentation software package like PowerPoint (Keynote and Open Office work well too) to build your slides. You may have even experimented with transitions, those animated effects between and on slides. Did you know that you can export your presentation to a movie and that movie could play in a loop on your website?

    The key to an interesting loop is timing. Your animation should flow smoothly and be meaningful. A pie chart growing by wedge is a good example of animation that helps the viewer understand the content, rather than seeing words just flying around the screen.

    Pocket Books

    So many print on demand companies now offer easy ways to build books that it pays to look into recycling some meaningful instructional content as small books your customers can take with them. This works especially well in training or exercise programs where the client needs to repeat a routine on their own. If you have photos of the routine, why not make a small photo book with simple instructions? Apple and Blurb are good choices for these types of products.

    How About an App?

    App builder sites are popping up everywhere. You can use simple plug in tools to pull blog content or photo libraries into a simple smart phone app. We have been playing around with a couple of these offerings and will be sharing our findings in future blogs.

    If you have any type of valuable content, there is a way to repurpose it and bring it back to life. It may even increase in value in a reborn form, so why not give it a try? And, as always, if you need help, drop is a line. Info@cusanomarketing.com.

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  4. I hate waiting. It seems I find myself doing it far too often, partly because I tend to arrive early, but more often, others tend to arrive late or begin later than at the appointed time. I understand there are times when it can't be helped- traffic, an emergency, etc.. But some mishaps are due to poor planning. How I handle time delays may make all the difference in a situation, whether I am the culprit or the victim.

    If I am going to be late for a meeting, I should call. But how late and when? I have developed a simple rule. If the appoint time is reached and I am not where I am supposed to be, I need to be on the phone explaining the situation. That explanation should include an estimated time of arrival that is accurate. My reputation is at stake, so I won't be saying I am five minutes away when I can't possibly be there in twenty.

    What about people waiting for me in my outer office? Keeping people waiting is rude. Also, it hurts business. A doctor's office is a perfect example of a place where waiting has become the norm, but that doesn't mean the experience has to be negative for business. Even mundane chores, like filling out paperwork, could be made more interesting by handing the patient an iPad locked into their personal file Most people resort to using their smart phones while waiting, so an app that gives them access to medical information could be something they are directed to while waiting. I was once given access to a site that showed me every step of a medical procedure I was about to have.

    It is rare to have someone's undivided attention and wait time is one of those opportunities. Which is better, having a patient watching the clock or engaged in something that promotes your practice?


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  5. One of the interesting differences between selling products or services is how one deals with promotions such as give-aways. I remember back when cigarette companies could advertise openly, they would hire people to stand on street corners giving out small sample packs of three cigarettes to passers-by. The idea was to get you hooked on the brand. They must have understood how addictive these things were to limit the pack to three. Seriously, though, the concept of try before you buy works well for products, but what about services?

    It's hard to imagine getting a free haircut or auto inspection. And the idea of a free cleaning at the dentist seems totally bizarre, but wait (as they say on TV), that may be coming.

    I happen to be a fan of HGTV and I watch Property Brothers, those guys who take an outdated home and using computer-aided design technology, show the reluctant home buyer what the finished renovation will look like before they buy. Plastic surgeons do the same thing, modeling the new look for the prospective patient before making the sale, and it is common for architects, designers and engineers to put together renderings, representations of the final product or project outcome before beginning work.  But what about actually doing the work first?

    My grandmother was a pattern maker.  She would make a sample dress based on a designer's drawings, and then from the pattern she created to make the one dress, others could be made.  Technology is making pattern-making, template-making and prototyping a whole lot easier and more cost effective than ever before, so it is highly possible to show your client what the finished product will look like rather than try to explain it.  Professional services can work the same way.

    Recently, my wife and I decided to go to Cafe Mozart in Mamaroneck, where tables had been set up outside so patrons could enjoy the music of the Free Lunch Rock Band.  Since I know the band members, I brought along my camera.  Why not record the event and throw together a sample video for them?  Yes, it takes time and yes, it is giving something away, but it is an example of what I do, and I love what I do, so why not keep working on my craft so I can keep getting better?

    The interesting thing about creative concepts is they are hard for someone other than the creative artist to envision or comprehend.  A musician has no choice but to write a song before anyone can or will buy it, so why not do the same thing with other creative arts and services?   It is not much more work than a traditional storyboarding and yet so much easier to grasp.  When I show a prospective client a few designs that were created from their content, I get an immediate reaction.  The conversation is about likes and dislikes, followed by ways to make it better.  It is much more enjoyable to begin a relationship with that type of experience than to wait for a response to a proposal, wondering if it will ever come.

    I know I will put my heart and soul into the assignment, no matter what.  I just find it so much more rewarding to get a head start.  By-the-way, it also cuts the time to deliver, since most of the hard work is already complete.

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  6. Sometimes it seems that no matter what precautions I take, I can be surprised anyway. The other day, while I was taking my morning walk, a car pulled up behind me without warning. Yes, I was walking in the road, but it was a one-way street and I was walking against the traffic. The car was going the wrong way! Was I wrong to assume I didn't need to worry about danger from behind?

    Usually, the only traffic coming from behind me is a faster walker or a runner. Bicyclists usually ride with the flow of traffic, but there is no guarantee of that, I guess, if a car will go the wrong way. I am sure there is a business lesson here as well as one in personal safety. Competitors and others may not follow the rules.  In fact, we hear a lot about "breaking the rules," "changing the game," and "making our own rules," so I guess we should assume that if we are following some sort of structured plan, we may be alone out there, and in the headlights of someone coming up behind us.

    There is even a discussion group out there on LinkedIn for marketing rule breakers, but, unfortunately, there are no real discussions going on.  Marketing Rule Breakers on LinkedIn

    So, in a world of no rules, what does it mean to break them?  This is one of the risks facing companies today.  With a set of well defined rules, you have a good idea what everyone else is doing, and that provides a solid playing field - not always level, mind you, but solid and understood.  When people start ignoring the signs, driving on the wrong side of the road, and challenging all authority, how will they behave with their wallets?  That's the real question.  It can be fun to have companies compete with crazy ads, redesigned logos, flavored vodkas and the like, but when the customers don't follow any logical pattern of behavior, the game is harder to play.

    So, where does that leave us?  I, for one, know that I have to add a few head turns and maybe even some back steps to my daily walk.  I need to keep track of what is happening all around me.  Sometimes the obvious is only so in hindsight, so I'm going to start walking backwards - at least part of the time.  You never know where the next big thing will come from.

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  7. My first recollection of what a business was all about came when I was only four years old. We were living in a rental apartment in a building owned by my aunt and uncle. Not only were they landlords, which totally escaped me at the time, but they owned a business that delivered ice and coal to homes, restaurants, and all sorts of other businesses.

    What fascinated me was everything was right there on the property. The ice house was a wooden structure about the size of a one room house and the garage which housed the trucks was huge, like an airplane hangar. For my sister and for me, these places were like an amusement park. In the summer we would open the thick wooden door of the ice house, kick through the hay and sit on a tall block of cold, wet ice, clear to the center, with mysteriously shaped patterns inside where the crystals formed unevenly. There was a lock on the door and one could get padlocked in if no one knew we were there.  We didn't think about such things at four and three.

    The garage was altogether different with rows of Chevy pickup and dump trucks, some old and one or two new. Our best friend was the guard who lived there chained to the building. He was a Great Dane named Skippy, about my age and height, his wet nose just about at eye level. When he stood on his back legs, he could look in the window of the truck.

    The air always smelled like fresh cut grass and when the wind circled round the other way, we could smell the chickens from the yard next door. These are the memories I have of Danbury, Connecticut back in the late 50s.

    Looking back now, over fifty years later, I realize how valuable that experience was. Uncle Joe and Aunt Rose ran the business out of their home. The office was a desk in the hallway between the kitchen and the living room. When that phone on the desk rang, Aunt Rose dropped what she was doing and answered it. A customer in need of coal or ice, and later, oil, took priority. This was a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week service business and they took it seriously.

    Well, my aunt and uncle are gone now and there is just a patch of ground where the ice house used to be, but the memories remain. I wonder if some of their customers tell stories around the dinner table about the old days when the ice truck would come around and the men would lift the large blocks with metal tongs and picks to slide them down the ramp at the store or restaurant. It is hard to imaging similar stories being told years from now about the UPS deliveries from Amazon or Zappos and yet these are the service delivery companies of an ecommerce society.

    My memories remind me of the value of the service experience and that is what I hope to create with my clients. What is the joy of being your own boss of you don't make someone's day a little brighter?

    Besides, it will make you richer as well. In many ways.

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  8. Literary Guild website today.
    Back in the days of Direct Mail marketing, when companies would buy mailing lists and send catalogs out to hundreds and thousands of total strangers, I was working for a company that understood the value of relationship.

    The company was Doubleday Book and Music Clubs, The Literary Guild® and Doubleday Book Club®.  Believe it or not, these book clubs are still around, doing business online rather than via mail.  The marketing strategy has adapted to the changes that brought about competition from then virtual unknowns, like Amazon and eBay.

    My father was an avid reader and a member of the guild.  Every month we would receive a thick envelope in the mail which informed us of the upcoming guild selections, the books which would be shipped to us automatically if we chose not to send the card back to opt out.  A regular stream of book club books arrived over the years, and it was hard to resist skimming through the catalog to see what mysteries or biographies we might want to include in our monthly arrival.  The club had an upscale, prestigious image, and as members, we were welcomed into the family of book lovers.

    So, when I started working at Doubleday, and got to meet the amazing people who put the collections together, designed the catalogs, scheduled the mailings and fulfilled the orders, I was hooked.  I got to see the wizardry and the machines that made us feel so special as "members".  The secret behind the success was simple - communication.  It was focused, respectful, informative, rewarding and constant, without being annoyingly so.

    The world is different today.  Communication takes many more forms and frequencies, and most businesses don't yet have a good idea how to use it to build the kind of loyalty that inspires people to include reference to Literary Guild membership in their obituaries and on genealogy sites.

    Since my days at Doubleday, I have maintained a strong focus on what the customer needs and wants, taking into account the experience and the relationship.  These are things we strive to convey in all we do, from marketing brochures and mailings to video interviews and promotions.  I still look for ways to generate the same type loyalty and dedication to a company and its products or services.  Sure, it is challenging, with so many possibilities available to the consumer, but that only makes the game that much more interesting.  Luckily, so many don't do a great job at winning and keeping customers.  The exceptional ones will definitely stand out, and win.


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  9. In Part 1, we discovered a strategy to make deployment of video more effective, according to the Aberdeen Group.  The key points were:

    • Create engaging video content for external audiences
    • Provide video assets to remote and distributed employees
    • Dedicate support resources for both the network and video endpoints
    • Track video behavior through engagement analytics
    We ended that piece talking about the use of video as a means and not an end, requiring clarity of purpose and function, with follow-up.  So, let's pick up on that.

    Why do you want to use video?  It is clear that many companies have found video to be the way to go, especially on the Web, where users view an increasing number of videos per month.  So, one reason to use video is because everyone else is.  That alone doesn't justify the cost.  Also, with little or no experience in employing video in one's marketing plan, businesses may not know how to quantify the value of the video or its total cost.  So, let's look at a few simple steps a business can take to get started in video.

    Record an Event

    Record something you are already doing and share it, with employees, friends, family, everyone.  It can be something fun like a company picnic, the launch of a new product, the opening of a store or office, anything where people are gathered.  Why?  Events generate excitement and excitement creates buzz.

    Export a Presentation as Video

    Most presentation software users are aware of the tools for animating text, photos and transitions in the final slideshow, but did you know that you can also export the final product to a video?  It doesn't take much to bring a boring presentation to life.  You can add music and record your narration as well, giving your final product a more personal touch.  

    Document a Feedback Session

    Another easy way to introduce video is to  set up a camera on a tripod at a meeting with clients who agree to talk candidly on camera about your products and services.  These videos can be used for training or can be edited into a promotional piece.

    Capture a Computer Demonstration

    If demonstrations are a normal part of your sales meetings, why not capture the online demo as a video.  There are many software tools available for doing this.  We use ScreenFlow on the Mac.  Like the presentation software, these screen capture tools provide capability of recording your voice, and some even capture your image as well while you are narrating the demo.

    Start Simple

    Whatever approach you take, keep it simple.  Too much busy-ness can be distracting, so stay focused on the message and give it a try.  Having captured events, demos and working sessions saves time and money when you are looking to create other videos, since you can use this "stock" footage in a variety of ways.  

    We will address some of the ways best-in-class companies use video in the next installment of Top Strategies.


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