But Black Friday isn’t like any other shopping day; you need a strategy. After working at retailers during my college holiday breaks (Macy’s and Express) and many Black Friday shopping sprees, I have a few dos and don’ts to share.
• Do plan ahead. Check out Black Friday websites or your Thanksgiving Day newspapers to make a list and plot your course. This will help you spend less time driving and more time shopping.
• Do make a list. Making a list will help keep you on track and on budget.
• Do bring snacks. If you are like me, you’ll need to refuel every few hours. Pack water and food like peanut butter crackers, almonds and granola bars that are good for sustaining energy.
• Do wear comfortable shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Just in case you find the perfect pair of shoes, you can take a minute or two to try them on!
• Do wear layers and leave your bulky coat in the car or at home. One less thing you have to carry the better.
• Do wear a tank top under your layers. Should you find a sweater, shirt or coat you want to try on, you will not have to wait in line for a dressing room.
• Do check pricing prior to going to the register and ensure your merchandise rings up correctly. You will save time by stopping the sales associate if something doesn’t look right while he or she is ringing you up. Otherwise, you’ll be standing in the customer service line for a price adjustment.
• Don’t be afraid to ask the sales associate for a coupon at retailers that are known for them like Macy’s, Kohl’s, Belk, etc. The worst they can say is no or I’m not allowed to do that.
• Don’t head to Target, Walmart or Best Buy unless you are fighting for a limited number of electronics. Rather wait until later in the day to get the same sales without all the lines. Most retailers have plenty of stock on Black Friday and will continue to stock their shelves throughout the day.
• Don’t leave your purse on a dressing room hook unless you keep a good eye on it. There is an increase in theft during the holiday season. And this is an easy way for thieves to get your pocketbook while you are distracted looking in the bigger dressing room mirror. Also, be sure to lock your car doors.
• Don’t want to fight the traffic or the crowds? Stay home. It is highly likely (almost guaranteed) retailers will continue to offer special sales throughout the entire holiday season.
Do you plan on being one of the millions of Americans that will be shopping on Black Friday? If so, share your personal survival tips in the comments section.
Thank you President Obama for promising Americans all kinds of relevant change and delivering more of the same. You told us to vote out of hope, not fear… I’m afraid we’re still waiting.
Thank you big corporations for showing huge profits in the third quarter of 2010 and keeping it all to yourself by not hiring any new employees. The jerk store just called and there is no shortage of you.
Thank you big banks for living up to the reputation given to you by Frank Capra more than 60 years ago in his classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If George Bailey were still alive he would jump off a bridge.
Thank you terrorists for forcing an entire world to live in fear and anxiety while you claim to be acting in God’s name. I am sure he will be proud of you when you finally meet.
But enough about the half of the glass that is empty.
Thank you mom and dad for teaching me the difference between right and wrong, for loving me in spite of my many shortcomings, for having faith in me and encouraging me to do good, for constantly reminding me that my responsibility in this life is to serve the greater good, and most of all for setting an amazing example by living lives that reflect your words. I love you both.
Thank you Denny and Patty and Brian and Kevin and Shawn and Kelly and Annie (my siblings) for always being there whenever I need you. You are a tribute to your parents and a constant inspiration to me.
Thank you Kathy and Matt and Crystal and Christian (my family) for loving me unconditionally and turning out to be such wonderful people. You are the reason behind my every good action.
Turns out Frank Capra was right.
We are developing a media plan for 2011 and are evaluating trade magazines to advertise in. How important is it that magazines have a BPA or ABC audited circulation?
By Jennifer Manocchio
Many trade publications are audited by BPA or ABC and many are not. Auditing verifies the publication’s circulation and confirms the titles of the people reading the magazine. If publications are not audited, it simply means they did not want to pay a third party to verify the circulation.
There are two major auditing companies – Business Publications Audit of Circulations (BPA) and Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). Since audits are expensive, publications that conduct audits want to make that information easily available. You will usually find the audited statement in the media kit. If you cannot locate the BPA or ABC statement in the media kit or online, ask the sales representative if the publication is audited.
If a publication is not audited, you should not immediately disregard it. Audits are not the only aspect you should consider when purchasing advertising. Look to see if the publication is free or requires a subscription. Magazines with a subscription tend to be seen as more credible to a reader.
Also, research what competitors are advertising in the publication. If major industry players are advertising, then they likely see the publication as valuable. Pay attention to the quality of the editorial coverage. Look for articles that are well-written and not blatant advertisements. Most readers will recognize poor writing and biased reporting, which reduces the credibility of the magazine in the readers’ eyes.
Additionally, consider if the publication is for a professional society. If so, that publication will likely have a captive audience that respects the publication.
The only time we would recommend an audited publication over an un-audited publication is if all things were created equal (subscription required, good editorial coverage and competitors were advertising in the publication), and you had to chose between the two.
The bottom line is use the audits as a tool to confirm circulation numbers and reader’s titles, but don’t let it be the end all be all to your decision making when developing media plans.
Advertising in 2011 and need support developing your media plan and creating print and online advertisements? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
Black Friday, the day that most retailers begin operating in the “black”, is almost a week away. We all know that on Black Friday retailers are known for slashing prices on popular gift giving items (electronics, toys, etc.) to get shoppers up at the crack of dawn and into their stores.
But what is killing me this year is media is claiming that major retailers like Walmart, Sears, Target and Sams Club Black Friday sales have been “leaked” on popular Black Friday websites. Come on… first of all is this really “news”? And secondly, how are the sales being “leaked” if on my way out of Costco last weekend, the sales associated handed me the Black Friday circular.
On a more positive note, you don’t have to wait for the newspaper to arrive on Thanksgiving morning to start planning your Black Friday shopping marathon. Head to the Internet to sites like http://bfads.net/ or http://www.blackfriday.info/ or http://www.black-friday.net/ or http://www.blackfridayads.com/ or http://www.theblackfriday.com/.
Happy Black Friday shopping!
I love Canada, and I love Canadians, but Howard Chimoff and Frito-Lay Canada are a couple of toque-wearing hosers.
As the story goes, not long after Frito-Lay introduced its annoyingly loud compostable SunChips bag, real Americans offered Frito-Lay an ultimatum: Make them quiet or give me back my old bag. It’s kind of funny when you consider how loud we Americans tend to be in the first place. Anyway, after US sales dropped during the 18 months following the introduction of the new noisy bags, and after 50,000+ consumers signed up on the Sorry But I Can’t Hear You Over This SunChip Bag Facebook page, Frito-Lay caved.
Our neighbors to the north, confronted with the same dilemma, did what they (and France) do so well, they waived the white (er, green) flag and embraced the noise.
According to Food Navigator-USA, “Frito-Lay has pledged its commitment to retain its 100 per cent compostable packaging for SunChips in Canada and now offers free ear plugs to anyone who finds the bags too noisy.”
Canadian marketer Howard Chimoff has commended Frito-Lay Canada for being creative and staying the course. Apparently he is only too proud to wear the earplugs. After all, you don’t have to listen to reason if you can’t hear.
And somehow, someway, all of this makes me very giddy. I am proud to be a loud American who won’t settle for the pablum some corporate behemoth tries to feed me. I am proud that consumers let their wallets do their talking for them and forced Frito-Lay’s hand. And I am equally confident in the ability and resolve of Frito-Lay to figure out a new and quieter eco solution (and they’ll probably jack up their prices in the process). By God, this is the United States of America – we’re loud, we’re proud and we always figure out a way to make things work out.
I love this country.
We are starting an email marketing campaign. What are the common pitfalls we should be aware of prior to beginning our campaign?
Email marketing is a very cost effective and measurable marketing strategy that can immediately boost web site traffic and sales. According to the DMA, email marketing generates an ROI of $43 for every dollar spent, but you must avoid the common email marketing pitfalls to achieve that type of return.
There are three major challenges to email marketing that must be met in order to achieve a desired level of success:
1. Getting your email into your audience’s inbox
2. Getting the recipient to open your email
3. Getting the recipient to act on your email
In the process of overcoming each of these challenges, you must be aware of potential hazards… and avoid the inevitable pitfalls.
Purchasing Email Lists: Because of spam laws, most reputable sources – including magazines and trade associations – do not sell their lists; instead, they “rent” them. This is a common arrangement in which you produce your own emails and submit them to the list owner for distribution from its server. You will never actually see the names on the list, but you will be able to track open rates and click through rates.
Of course, you can also buy a list, but we suggest extreme caution. There is no way to know for certain how a purchased list was generated and whether or not the people on the list voluntarily opted-in. Yet, you are liable for potentially spamming the contacts on that list. And should email recipients mark the email as spam – or worse, call and complain – your IT department will spend hours getting your IP address off black lists. Also, the email distribution service you are using (e.g., iContact, Constant Contact, JangoMail) will freeze distributions.
The ideal approach is to build your own email list internally. You can do this in many ways. For example, develop a sign-up form on your web site, create advertising campaign landing pages, gather contact information at trade shows, hold contests and add an opt-in for email communication in your checkout process.
In the meantime, “rent” lists from reputable sources. Ensure they are quality lists and that the supplier is following the CAN-SPAM Act. Ask the supplier how the list is developed, if all the recipients have opted-in, how often the list is updated and how often the list receives email messages. Also, ask if it is possible to test the list with a small group of contacts before committing to renting the entire list. This will help you gauge the expected response rate.
Distributing From Your Company Email: Unless you know virtually everyone on your email list (e.g. outside sales reps, customers, associates) and the list is fairly small, do not use your own company’s email system to distribute emails. If recipients start marking the email as spam or call and complain, your IT department will spend hours – if not days – getting your IP address off black lists.
Instead, invest in a professional email distribution service. There are many reputable email distribution companies to choose from depending on your needs and budgets. If you are looking for a simple, easy to use system there are many affordable options like Constant Contact, iContact and JangoMail.
Junk Mail: Depending on each recipient’s email settings, there are numerous reasons an email message can appear in a junk mail folder. The first one is the subject line. Don’t use all capital letters and avoid characters like explanation points. You can use “free” in the subject line, just ensure it isn’t the first word, in all caps or followed by explanation points.
A second and very common mistake is designing the email as one big image. Spam filters look for a balance of text and images. If you have too many images and not enough text, your message can end up in the junk folder.
To be sure your email hasn’t crossed over into the junk category, run it through a spam test. Most of the email distribution services have a program available that will evaluate your email. If not, there are a few free programs available online, including ContentChecker by Lyris that will score your emails.
Erratic Frequency: There is a fine line between “just enough” and “too much” email. Once you find the perfect balance for your target audiences – whether it is once a week or once a month – maintain a consistent delivery schedule.
Subject Line: Write enticing subject lines that will get your recipients to open the email. The right few words can make the difference between your email getting opened or trashed. Provocative can be good, but do not include a subject line that is misleading. You will lose credibility with the recipient and risk being reported as spam.
Link Errors: Double and triple check your emails prior to hitting “send”. A broken link can equal a loss in potential conversions.
Call to Action: Every email communication needs to include a very clear call to action. If it doesn’t exist or it is buried too far in the email, you will lose out on potential conversions. People tend to scan emails; you need to ensure your call to action is clear and prominent.
Link to the Right Page: Unless you are driving recipients to specific content on the home page, avoid sending them there at all. Instead direct recipients to a page that coincides with the email. This does not mean you have to create a new landing page. For example, if you are promoting a product, send them to that product information page. However, if it is within your budget, create a page that is specific to the email content; this will help increase the conversion rate.
Want to start or need support with your email marketing campaign? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688 to discuss how we can increase your ROI.
As most of you know today is Veterans Day. As I began thinking about the day and all the veterans who have served our country and those who have lost their lives, I realized it is one of the only holidays that the greeting card manufacturers and retailers haven’t commercialized.
I have seen some Veterans Day cards at retailers like CVS and Walgreen’s, but every year the cards continue to look the same and their little space on the rack never seems to grow. That is certainly not the case with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Sweetest Day, Grandparents Day and on and on. Apparently the greeting card manufacturers and retailers haven’t determined a way to capitalize, and by that I mean dollars, on this special day and I certainly hope it stays that way.
Commercializing this day would only take away from its true meaning and the raw reality of war. Our veterans face things we civilians cannot even begin to comprehend and the sacrifice veterans and their families make is truly amazing. As a Marine Corps wife, I understand that first hand.
So I ask greeting card manufacturers, florists, candy companies, retailers, etc. to continue to leave Veterans Day alone and let us honor our veterans with raw emotion and gratitude they deserve.
How is it that a guy of my age and experience continues to be surprised by how many – and how often – otherwise intelligent and well-meaning marketing executives act thunderstruck by the cost of doing business in the 21st century?
And to be perfectly honest, I really don’t know if they are truly incredulous or are simply acting surprised as a preemptive move to negotiate costs.
Imagine being willing to pay $8,000 (that’s at a 12x discount rate) every month to run a full-page, color ad, but balking at the idea of paying a one-time charge of $3,000 (including copy and layout concepts, photography and print-ready art) to produce it. Really?
Imagine willingly shelling out nearly $100,000 to exhibit at a key annual trade show, but hesitating to invest $5,000 to support this investment with target marketing strategies designed to increase booth traffic, engage visitors and secure additional media coverage. Really?
Imagine wanting to see your product featured on multiple national TV talk shows (e.g., Today) and in national consumer magazines (e.g., Dwell) during the prime 2011 spring cleaning season for a budget in the neighborhood of $2,500. Really?
Imagine asking your agency to dramatically increase traffic to your website and improve sales conversions in the process through a strategically managed PPC program, but hesitating when you learn that the cost of managing the campaign is almost $500/month. Really?
I mean I get professional marketers wanting to squeeze as much value out of their budgets as possible. In fact, we even encourage them to set tangible, measurable objectives so we can determine if the results of the strategies we propose and implement justify the financial investments they make. That’s good business.
But what are executives thinking when they expect professional services to be cheap… or worse, free? I suspect the problem lies deep within the boardrooms and executive suites where poor decisions are made about how much money should be dedicated to marketing the organization and its products/services.
My son recently reminded me – while we were discussing the merits of various cable/Internet/telephone service providers – that you get what you pay for when you shop for the lowest price instead of the best service. If you don’t mind slow Internet speed and spotty cable, then take advantage of the low bundled price. If you want fast Internet speed and dependable cable, then pay the asking price. If you don’t want to pay for anything, just ignore your current bill and see how that works out for you.
Maybe it’s because we have come to the end of the first decade of the new millennium. Or maybe because Sweeney is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Or possibly it’s because I can not remember a time in my 30+ years as a marketing professional when I was so confused about where the industry is heading.
And then I remembered something my wise hero Kurt Vonnegut once said: “We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.”
Suddenly – in this context – the state of marketing seems less of an issue.
We recently shot short educational videos on a hot topic in our industry. How can we utilize these videos online?
By Jennifer Manocchio
Online video is a great marketing tool and has many benefits from search engine optimization to brand building and increasing sales. However, “if you build it they will come” isn’t necessarily true for online video. You need to drive traffic to the video in order to achieve results.
Assuming your video has good, relevant content, following are 10 ways to increase traffic to your video online.
• Post the video on video sharing sites and your website. Ensure the video is optimized so it has the potential to start appearing in search results. Inc. magazine has a good article about optimizing video. You can find it here: http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/05/search-engine-optimization-for-video.html
• If you can determine a news angle for your video, develop a news release about the video or a news release where the video can support the content (e.g. product instructions, product performance tips) and distribute the release and video through news distribution channels like Business Wire or PR Newswire. If the video is non-promotional, send the news release with the video link to your media list and encourage media to use the video.
• Post the video on your blog. If you have multiple videos, post one video per week.
• Post the video on your Facebook page. If you have multiple videos, post one video per week.
• Post a link on Twitter to your Facbook page, blog, website or YouTube Channel promoting the video. Again, post one per week if you have multiple videos.
• Incorporate the video into current or new email marketing campaigns (promotional emails, e-newsletters, etc.).
• Share the video with your sales force and all employees.
• Share the video with bloggers.
• If the video content correlates with speaking engagements, use it to promote speaking opportunities. If you receive the attendee list for a trade show or conference, you can email a link of a video to increase attendance at the presentation.
• If the video content correlates with sales or educational presentations, include the video in the presentations and provide a website address where the audience can find more relevant videos.
Have video and want to promote it or would like to start using video as a marketing strategy? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
A few weeks ago I was at dinner with friends who ordered a bottle of The Prisoner wine for the table. It is an Orin Swift wine and is simply divine. If the wine itself is not a conversation starter, the label artwork, which is very dark and mysterious, will.
Just this week, my friends who ordered The Prisoner sent me an email that the wine was going to be featured in this week’s Cougar Town. They have the inside track on Orin Swift wines because a friend of theirs is a distributor.
Evidently, Courtney Cox and her cast mates are huge fans of the wine and reached out to Orin Swift awhile back for some product placement. The first episode that featured The Prisoner was just last night and the wine will make several additional appearances in the show.
The show is very wine centric so the winery is pretty excited about the opportunity. But what stuck me the most about this was the email from my friend that said:
Do you recognize this bottle? This is one of the bottles we drank at dinner. We are so hip!
Hip huh? This is a true example of how TV product placement and celebrity endorsements can benefit brands. Point proven by my friend, product placement and celebrity endorsements can not only increase sales among new customers, but also can keep current customers coming back for more. Because after all, if Courtney Cox drinks The Prisoner then that makes us “hip” for drinking it too!