Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oh, quit whining

                       Click link for full article: Oh, quit whining

May 29, 2012
Excerpted from a Bridge e-magazine article
by Nancy Derringer/Bridge Magazine

MACKINAC ISLAND — Everybody knows a chirpy optimist, one of those sunshiny people always telling you to turn your frown upside down and look on the bright side.

But spend a while listening to Fareed Zakaria, and it’s hard not to be swept along by this self-described seeker of the bright side. The writer, editor and CNN host, the first big-name speaker at the Mackinac Public Policy Conference, has a way of backing up his optimism with strings of data points to suggest, with wry humor, that all Americans have to fear is … fear itself. Also, our bullheaded representatives in Washington and the hand-wringing elderly who clamor for more than their share of the public purse, but more on that in a minute.

He started his talk Tuesday by recounting a few of the end-of-America moments he’d encountered in his career — the 1987 stock market crash, shrugged off in a matter of weeks. The early-’90s recession, which crushed the presidency of George H.W. Bush. The mid-’90s crises in Mexico and Asia. The bursting of the tech bubble. And so on.

And then he got to the good news: Zero countries with hyperinflation today. Relative political stability has allowed a “plug and play” world economy in which countries that would never have had a seat at the table otherwise are free to pull up their own chairs. An information revolution that has given voice to the previously powerless like no other in history. He recounted that in 1991, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Saudi government was able to keep it a state secret for six days before letting the rest of the world know.

“Ask yourself how long it would last today,” he said. The “monopoly on information,” once enjoyed by repressive governments around the world is broken.

That’s not to say it’s all good. One of the most arresting statistics he offered was bleak: Since 1945, recessions have resolved themselves first with GDP rebound, and then job growth following six months later. But in 1990, that started to change. Jobs lagged that recovery by 18 months. After the tech bust, by 39 months. And the current one? The economy, in terms of GDP, is fully recovered. But jobs will take five years to catch up.

“How to handle that is the central problem of the American economy,” he said. Easy for a CNN host to say, and he didn’t offer any solutions.

But you don’t get to be a headline speaker by hanging crepe. He offered a locker-room pep talk of all the U.S. has going for it, if only we can shake off the gloom and start thinking differently, with innovation and creativity, backed up by hard science.

Which led to the sobering portion of the session, when he reminded the audience of how much of America’s greatness was born of, and fostered by, the U.S. government.
“The federal government funded massive amounts of research during the Cold War,” he said. “Silicon Valley grew on the back of (California’s) great universities.”

And yet, the government is in danger of becoming, in Washington Post writer Ezra Klein’s words, “an insurance company with an army,” spending increasing amounts on the elderly and less on the young — $4 for every person over 65, but only $1 for those under 18.

We shouldn’t argue over the size of government, but what kind of government we want, he said, one that “panders to the future,” rather than the past. Spending on infrastructure is spending that pays off in growth...

Friday, May 25, 2012

What Small Businesses Can Learn from the Rise of Facebook

By Brent Barnhart
SOURCE: www.chamberofcommerce .com

It started out a fad. Something for kids. Something meant for the underground. Today, Mark Zuckerberg's seemingly innocent social experiment has exploded into a business phenomenon that has taken over the world; quite literally. Hundreds of millions of unique visitors per month in the United States alone. It's been estimated that over 40% of the country has a Facebook account. And it's only going uphill from there.

With founder
Mark Zuckerberg taking the company public and introducing a multi-billion dollar IPO, one can't help but drop their jaw. How did one college student's seemingly innocent idea transform into this; an integral part of our Internet experience, both socially and economically?

It all started with an idea. A seed.

Perhaps it's corny, and perhaps it's overdone. But we all start somewhere. An idea. A plan. It's how we execute and evolve which determines the speed and direction of our growth, especially when it comes to our businesses. Zuckerberg faced his fair share of twists, turns, betrayals, lawsuits and setbacks. And he's overcome them all, never slowing down. He keeps moving forward. Where is he now?

“We don't build services to make money,” Zuckerberg states in Facebook's SEC filing. “We make money to build better services.” Zuckerberg certainly has plenty of money to work worth today; yet how did he manage to get Facebook where it is now? What's his secret?

There's no secret. Sure, maybe a bit of luck involved. Right place, right time. But no secret.

There's so much than small business owners can learn from the rise of Facebook. Zuckerberg's story in and of itself is enough to make you want to stop reading and getting down to work. It's these sort of stories that light the fire under us, and push us to work for something greater.

Something greater. That's what businesses are always striving for, aren't they? A better project. More reach. That's what Facebook has always been about; seemingly constant updates in features and functionality to keep up with the times and offer something fresh. Never jarring, always on the cutting edge. Better features and functionality results in more reach, and more reach results in more buzz. Are you taking leaps to improve your own products and services? What does your reach look like?

Facebook also managed to take advantage of its growth by observing the behavior of their growing user-base. They learned what they liked and what they didn't. They tested. They observed. They came to conclusions. Are you doing the same when it comes to your customers? How well do you know your average buyer, really? Understanding behavior became key in Zuckerberg's masterplan; likewise, understanding customer behavior is incredibly important to any thriving SMB. The more you know, the more you may be able to appease and provide for your base. From there, the buzz will continue to grow.

There are many Social Media sites that have come and gone over the years. There's only one Facebook. Zuckerberg managed to slay MySpace as the “hip” place to make friends on the web, meanwhile the “Facebook killer” in Google Plus still hasn't come to fruition. Facebook's dominance of the social space didn't happen overnight; it took time, understanding, and patience. Time to grow the buzz, understand the weaknesses and flaws of competing sites, and the patience for new users to arrive. And they most certainly did. Could you pick apart your competition if given one shot to do so?

One of Facebook's biggest strengths comes through its ability to diversify. The social giant isn't only making money from ads, games, and integration with other big brands and sites. It's this sort of diversity that allows Facebook to become such a phenomenon. While perhaps it’s not so easy for the average small business to diversify, there are probably more ways you could be bringing in revenue than just one product or service. Be creative and don't be afraid to branch out.

There are certainly good things in Facebook future. What about your own business? Maybe you don't necessarily strive to be a multi-billion dollar marketing machine, but you may always strive to build your
small business into something better. If not, why get into the game at all?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How to Acquire New Customers Through Recession Marketing

Many of our clients and customers are still in a recession mindset.  Here’s some tips to help you relate:

By: Brent Barnhart on Sunday, February 26, 2012

The world of marketing often seems so fast-paced and ever-changing, and it's easy to want to rework and overhaul our strategies in order to fit the times. While this line of thinking may seem progressive, it often takes our “eyes off the prize” and causes us to lose focus on what's really important when it comes to small business marketing.

True, the world of marketing is fast-paced. Times change. People change. Behavior changes. Businesses don't necessarily need to change, but rather, adapt.

For example, today's customers are adapting. They're adapting to having less disposable income and doing more and more in order to make ends meet. Adapting to such a lifestyle takes time. For some, it's easy. For others, it's difficult. Likewise, businesses need to pay attention to their customers and potential customers. Everyone's tightening their belts and holding on to their wallets. Businesses should be well aware, and their marketing strategies should adapt accordingly. Marketing to consumers who aren't so eager to spend is somewhat of an art, yet recession marketing should definitely be in the repertoire of the modern small business looking to acquire new customers despite today's struggling economy.

What exactly is recession marketing?

Firstly, let's look at traditional marketing. A traditional marketing strategy may push a low price point or the immense features of a new product or service at a customer in order to drive them to buy. While such techniques certainly do have their place in the marketing world, recession marketing takes a slightly different slant in an attempt to reach customers who simply don't have much money in the bank.

Recession marketing instead places emphasis on the cash a customer may save by buying or switching to a product. These savings may be due to the shortcomings of a competitor's product or perhaps the result of the product eliminating the need for other products for the customer, thus resulting in more money saved. In short, recession marketing forces the consumer to weigh “wants” and “needs,” with the product in question hopefully being seen as a “need,” urging the consumer to buy.

We've seen these tactics at work over the last decade. How many infomercials have you seen for a cleaning product or super-sponge that heralds in the end of paper towels forever, saving you hundreds and hundreds over the course of the year? It may seem a bit silly and sometimes even hyperbolic, but such products are incredibly popular and such marketing tactics do work. Now, hopefully your product actually delivers on such promises, for that's what will keep your customers coming back.

Another shining example of recession marketing comes from the hybrid car industry. How many ads have we seen over the years promising us big savings through the purchase of hybrid vehicles? Higher miles per gallon equals more money in the bank, right? Such savings combined with the growing environmental appeal make such cars a booming commodity.

Employing a recession marketing strategy also requires your business to show a bit of emotion. Why? In an economy where so many are struggling, it's crucial to stand apart from the competition. Your customers should know that you understand their plight and that your product and service is here to help. By showing understanding and compassion, you're not only more likely to acquire new customers but also retain them for the long-term. Consider creative ways you can employ such compassion in your marketing strategy, whether through marketing language on your website, emails or signage.

For small businesses, recession marketing is an especially effective route to go in today's economy, granted that you know your audience. By appealing to the needs and emotions of your potential customers, you may grow a loyal base of business that will stay with you even after the recession ends.