Category Archives: Small Business Solutions

2010 In Review or in your Rearview?

Yep. It’s time for the lists again.

End of year = lists of best of, lists of worse of, lists of lists …

Here’s Dog-Eared Pages TOP 10 list: (drum roll please …)

How to rocket your marketing message to the moon in 2011:

1) Craft something that’s unique. What? Your marketing message sounds like the competition? That’s like nails on a chalkboard. Liven your product or service’s special selling points within your messaging. Review this year’s success. Do you have some concrete numbers you can place within the messaging? Think how powerful your message can be if you can say something like, “9 out of 10 skiers in Denver choose Pete’s Ski Shack for all their slope needs” ….

2) Leverage social media platforms … they’re free you know. Once you have your unique message crafted, now it’s time to get down to business. Think of it as a stamp. Every time you speak about your company … STAMP … your marketing message to it, especially in the social media realm. No matter what you are using, Twitter, Facebook or even LinkedIn, if your unique message is not out there, people don’t know what is different about your business. Find new ways to impart that to the masses.

3) “Shout It Out” Have you declared a message about your company and “become the broken record” of your brand? Do you tell everyone around you about your company and it’s mission? If not, now is a great time to start. Make sure your unique message stays consistent and blankets all marketing materials you produce. Yes, even the pocket folders.

4) Let Testimonials Take A Front Seat If you haven’t had a chance to gather some client feedback, the end of the year is the perfect time to listen. Find out how your product or service is working with a simple survey. I like Survey Monkey. Ask why they choose you, why they need your product/service or even what is it about the company that needs improvement. And, while you’re at it, capture some testimonials about their experience working with your company. Once you have gathered their testimonials, make sure you have their permission to use them in your future advertising effort. Testimonials can pay off in a big way and if your clients communicate a message that resonates with your unique marketing message-BONUS!

5) Speak Customer Speak, Not Industry Speak What you say and how you communicate it with your customer base is very important. If you are using industry jargon like ROI or CPE or bit-mapping, your customer may be confused. This is not to say that you should talk down to your clients. I cringe anytime someone says, “We need to dumb down our marketing messaging”. No, you just need to be more aware of your clients. Know what is important to them. Think to yourself, if I was a client of the service/product I sell, why would I need it? What issue/event causes me to need it? Then speak to that with your marketing messaging, in their words.

6) Rid Your Messages of Superlatives Super what? Superlatives are those words that make your company and the items provided sound too good to be true. Those “$5000 words”. ICK! Scrap that stuff. If you find your messaging saying anything like “The best, An Outstanding Value, Top-notch, Most Beautiful, Unmatched Quality, the “you know what” police are on their way.  While your company may be great at what they do, don’t oversell with flowery words that are limp.

7) ID Wants, Needs, and Desires Make sure that your messaging speaks to the real reason people buy from your company. What void do you fill? Is that void mentioned in your unique marketing message? One of my favorite tag lines I saw this past month was “We Scoop Poop”. It’s direct, it tells the need they fill and what it is they do. Even if it’s a dirty job, they nailed their marketing message in only 3 words-BRAVO!

8) Support Your Message No matter what venue you are using to promote your product, make sure what you say is in line with how your company is different. Even in your public relation materials, you should speak with the same messaging. If you are giving away calendars, those words that speak to your business’ uniqueness still need to be present. Support your unique messaging across all formats.

9) Use $5 Words Instead of $5000 Words There is no reason to speak in verbose words. It can be an immediate turn off for many people. If your business comes across as ego-centered or too elite, it can send your customers quickly into your competitor’s offices. Use common words that your target market would use. Much like speaking “industry talk”, using big words can work against your messaging.

10) Focus on one thing Even if your company is great at everything it does, having no more that two outstanding (opps-superlative) things that your business can do is key. Don’t try to sell all aspects of your business in a small print ad. Just promote the one main thing you wish your target market to know. That’s it. It’s then up to your sales force to showcase the rest of your greatness.

Here’s to a Happy 2011!

Wishing you much success –

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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Can opening an email be as exciting as opening a package?

Recently I received and email with the subject line: 6 Career Tips Your Dog Knows. Being a “Dog-Crazed” person, I was instantly all ears. Here’s the article and I really like the parallels it offers. Check it out for yourself. 6 Career Tips Your Dog Knows.

All of this got me to thinking about the power of subject lines. What do you place within your subject lines? Do you use bright colors? All uppercase letters? Or do you take some time to think about what will resonate with your reader?

Here are some interesting articles I ran across on how to get your audience to open your emails.

Subject Line Comparisons

15 Rules to Writing Subject Lines Right

Tricks to Grab Reader’s Attention

10 Email Subject Line Blunders

So what subjects get your reader’s to open?

Happy  emailing –

Sarah @Dog-Eared Pages

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Opps … Your Brand Is Showing

If you haven’t had a chance to catch the Oscar winner for best animated short, Logorama, here’s a quick clip.

It’s a marketing geeks paradise I admit, but what an ingenious idea … branding, branding, branding as far as the eye can see. Who would have thought a movie made entirely of company logos would turn so many heads? Not only did it turn my head, it got me to thinking about my client’s and their branding.

What would it be to have no Branding?

Think of it. How would your company function if you didn’t brand yourself? Customers walk into your store or call your customer representative and while you may be a great service provider, they can’t seem to refer you any business and actually forget about you.

Like it or not, without branding you have no name, no logo, no tagline, no selling features; it’s just you and a desk and a handful of employees. Frightening.  What’s worse, without being able to talk about your company, remember you have no naming convention, you have to say “we”, “us”, and throw out the “we’re #1 in client satisfaction”. This is why branding is so very important.

Play the “I Spy” game of branding.

Often I have my clients play “I Spy” with the brands around them. I know, I spent way too much time when I was younger sitting in the backseat of the car on family vacations trying to pass the time … But seriously, take a look around you. What brands do you “Spy”? How are they different from one another? How are the same? Which ones stand out from the others? When you start to think about other people’s brands, you remove the emotional attachment of your own brand and clearly begin to see what works and what doesn’t.

Tip: Ignite Your Brand

Make a list of the brands that are around your place of employment. How do they motivate you? Do they motivate you to do anything or are they just “pretty”? Now, take what you have seen and turn inward to your current brand. Are you motivating people to do anything? Do people even know you exist?

Play “I Spy” and take the journey to a new and improved branding experience.

Happy Branding-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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Out of a Recession, Into New Marketing Messaging

Okay so maybe we’re not out of the recession woods yet, but I have a sense things are turning around. My colleagues are getting busier and let’s face it, I haven’t had a lot of time to go out for a leisurely afternoon latte!  The long and short of it is this. As I talk with more and more small and medium-sized business owners, I am hearing that their old marketing maneuvers in the form of brochures, print ads and yellow page advertising just aren’t working. While these venues do work for some industries better than others, it’s often how the  company communicates and what they say that has a true defining impact on their bottom line.

Should you just ‘Say Anything’?

The first question, when I begin brainstorming with the client, normally is about marketing messaging.  They ask me, “Isn’t it okay for my message to include something for everyone.”  This is often one of the biggest mistakes a company can make. Don’t sell everything to everyone. It doesn’t help you stand out in the crowd.

Think of your message as a banner flying over your community. If you only had Five Words to say,  that summed up exactly what your business does, what would they be? It’s not easy, but it gets you to begin thinking about short messages that stick.

See Nike’s “Just do it.” Or what about Apple, they don’t even have one, they just have an image … an Apple. Seems pretty elementary when you think about it, but this one concept can cause major problems, especially if you use multiple messages.

If you want some real examples how the recession and new marketing messaging is changing the income for some businesses, take a look at these examples.

Happy Messaging-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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Filed under Advertising, copywriting, Marketing, marketing in a down economy, Small Business Solutions

What is Your Story?

When I was little, one of my favorite things was a bed-time story.  As the book cracked open, the world stopped turning and everything but the sound of my parent’s voices went silent.  My mother and father would sit on the edge of my bed and unlock the magic of a book which I selected. We probably read the Poky Little Puppy a million times, but it was the way my parents read with distinct character voices and story of the puppy’s problem with curiosity  on top of the high importance they placed on reading that made a lasting impression on me. Now, as a marketing professional, I often think back to the magic of storytelling and engage business owners to tell me their story.

Chapter 1: Why Businesses Need a Story

Creating a hook at the beginning of a story is vital. As we sit down beside business owners, I often have them begin with an introduction to their company Many business owners start telling me about the day they opened their business. I hear things like:

“We’ve been in business since 1960 …”

“We started with only $500 in the bank and now we’re  a multi-million dollar generating business …”

“We’ve been in the same building for 30 years …”

All of these are great facts and important to “building the story” but they aren’t the main story, just a part. This is where the story can become very interesting, so I encourage them to tell me more. I then ask, “What was the motivating reason you or the owners decided to open the business?” Defining your passion offers an intriguing first chapter. Have you ever considered why you began your business? Have you ever told this to your customers? Is it different from the way you do business? Do things need to change? How do you begin your story?

Chapter 2: Allowing The Characters To Have Distinct Voices

It was magical to hear my mother speak like a puppy. As a kid, it always made me giggle, but more than that, it was memorable. Giving your current clients a voice is the next important chapter of your company’s story line. If you haven’t asked your clients how your working relationship is going, now is the perfect time to do so. Asking clients to offer their perspective, in their own words and in their own voice is a great way to learn what is working, tighten your bond and give each client a more defined customer experience.

Remember: When marketing and promoting your business, testimonials are king. What your clients are saying about you can make or break your business. After three months of engaging a new client, do a gut check. See what they think, ask what they like and don’t like. Finally, ask if they will write out a testimonial for you to use in you future marketing efforts.

Chapter 3: Choosing The Right Story

One of the hardest challenges each night before bed was choosing. I had a huge bookshelf stacked with books, each one my favorite (kids think everything is their favorite!). However, The Poky Little Puppy was my favorite, favorite! Why? Well, of course, hello, it had a dog in it (total bonus) and two it had a story line that resonated with me. This little ball of fur was curious and it was his curiosity that constantly got him into trouble. Unfortunately, I had the same trait growing up, well and quite honestly, still do. I say all of this to bring home the fact that telling a story that interests, engages and emotionally draws your customer into your story is key. By knowing what is important to your customer base, talking to them with words and phrases that resonate and unfolding the story in a way that nudges their emotions are all great ways to craft  memorable tale.

So the next time a customer asks why you’re in business or even why they should buy for you, will you have a story to share with them?

Happy Tales To You-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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New Year + New Ideas + Fresh Perspective = Blogtastic Results

This year I am starting a new blog post each week called BlogN2010. This will be a place where business owners can find tips, tricks and tasty tidbits that can help make your company blog fresh, profitable and a “must-read”. Stay turned for more blogtstic ideas!

Keeping fresh ideas pouring out of your blog posts is a challenge many blog writers face (myself included). Yes it’s a type of writers blog, but often times, it’s more than that. I constantly find myself asking:

What will people want to read?

What is timely and a topic on everyone’s mind?

Do people really care?

Bottom line, if you’re a small business and you need some fresh ideas for your up-coming blog post this year, here are a few things to consider before posting your masterpiece.

3 Business Blog Post Brainstorm Igniters:

1) Become Dear Abby-Offer Tips, Tricks and Tangibles

Let’s face it, you’re in business for a reason, you know something that people will pay for and need. So that means there are millions of things you can provide including tricks and tangible information that can help your readers. Providing educational tidbits is one of the easiest ways to bring what you know about your industry to light.

What’s more, not only can you provide valuable information, you can also provide advice. Take for instance the top three things your clients constantly ask your opinion about on a weekly basis. By taking those common questions, you can offer valuable advice that educates your customers and helps them better understand the importance of the services you provide.

2) Extra! Extra! Read All About It! – Bring fresh industry news to your readers.

Offering your readers insight on your industry’s new innovations, changes and newsworthy updates shows your readers that you’re on top of it. Trust me when I say your customers don’t have time to monitor your industry and their industry, so you must be the watchdog for them. Not only does it keep you in front of your clients, it also offers them a chance to discover additional products and services they may want to purchase from you. Plus, it’s easy to do. Find two or three industry blogs that you can follow and subscribe to their RSS feed. You can also go to Google Alerts, key in your industry and Google will email you news articles, industry topics and research on our designated profession.

3) Yes, pay attention to the person behind the curtain- let your clients walk in your shoes.

I used to work in television. I can’t tell you the many times people asked me to take them behind-the-scenes so they could see how we went about  putting a newscast together. For some reason, people love to see what it is other people do. Humans are curious and when you peel back the curtain to show what happens behind closed doors or even how your team works in the field, they seem to hold you in high regard. Now I am not saying that working at the TV station won me a ton of dates or anything, but what it did do was help people understand what I did on a daily basis and generated a ton of respect. Two things all business owners want! This is a great place to start your blog.

If you’re new to blogging and you’re looking for additional inspiration, check out The Writer’s Block by Jason Rekulak. It’s a handy little book that really jump-starts the brain. You can also keep a folder on your desktop and place interesting articles your run across in it. Keep your eyes open, blog topics are all around us!

Happy blogging-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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Why Simple Simon Had It Right

What a great insight USA Today provided  recently in their article denoting that  how simple sells. I talk about this a lot and firmly believe in the less you say, the more you tell. USA Today goes on to state that simplistic marketing tactics are expected to be king in 2010. Oh be still my beating heart!!

Think about the last few things you have seen from:

Apple

Starbuck’s

Campbell’s

Besides the fact that they are all well established brands, they have one brilliant thing in common. Their marketing message, look and promotional insight are all simply executed. No flowery words. No extra fluff. It’s ONLY what they do, how the do it and what benefit they provide to their customer.

I offer this thought in reaction to the new trend expected for 2010 … How can you simplify your current marketing message?

Here are three ways to simplify and sell your product/service:

1) Focus on the reason your top five customers choose you over your competition. What you haven’t had that conversation? Now is the perfect time to start. Give your favorite customers a call. Ask them why and how they decided upon you.

2) Promote only one thing at a time. Don’t have an offer on every single page of your web site that is different. Be direct. Be focused. Offer only one thing, one incentive or one benefit at a time. With all the media circus that is around us, one direct, focused message can really stand out in the crowd.

3) Think like your customers. How many times have you fallen into the trap of creating marketing messages, advertising pieces that you like, only to find out your clients didn’t “get it”? Step back from your industry talk, put yourself in your consumer’s shoes. What is it that you would like to know about the product or service you are in the process of purchasing? What are some of your objections to buying the item? What factors have come into play that made your potential customer choose a competitor over you? Not sure what the answers are to these questions? Get busy doing the research. Once you find that one thing-focus in on that and only that.

Wishing you much success-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

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