Why I Switched Careers


It has now been a full month since I walked away from 8+ years working for a group of radio stations in Fort Wayne Indiana.

All together I have spent 25+ years in the radio business with a couple of breaks. I started as a teenage disc-jockey and moved into the advertising and marketing world which I found fascinating.

Radio uses push marketing methods. In order to get the free music, they will push advertising messages out too.

Television broadcasting works this way too. Newspapers also use push marketing methods… you want to read the news, then you have to page thru the ads too.

Yellow Pages is not push marketing. I don’t know of anyone who has casually paged thru the phone book as a source of entertainment.

The selling point for yellow pages sales reps was, the book was the place people go to find a business to spend money with to solve problems. Once you pick up the book, you are ready to spend.

Technology however has made the phone book and the yellow pages outdated. When we want an answer, we Google it. The web and search engines are replacing the yellow pages as the source for finding information and answers.

The other reason I switched careers, I believe in the methods used by my team at Cirrus ABS which combines sound technology, solid strategic planning and analytics to measure the results.

Our Sunday Seth talks more about this:

Paying attention to the attention economy

Most of us are happily obsessed with the economy of money. We earn it and we spend it and we generally pay attention to what things cost.

Certainly, salespeople and marketers are truly focused on the price of things, on commissions and shelving allowances and net margin and the cost of goods sold.

With all of these easily measured activity, it’s easy to overlook the fast-growing and ever more important economy based around attention.

“If I alert my entire customer base, how much will this cost me in permission?”

“How much time do we save our customers with a better written manual?”

“When we fail to ask for (and reward) the privilege of following up, are we wasting permission?”

“Does launching this product to an audience of stangers waste the attention we’re going to have to buy?”

Attention is a bit like real estate, in that they’re not making any more of it. Unlike real estate, though, it keeps going up in value.

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Mobile Media Consumption


What if everything you have been doing for the past 40 years to advertise and market your business was outdated and stopped working?

This was a question I used to ask advertisers a few years ago when they saw the number of new leads shrink from the old stand-by, the newspaper.

I have circulation numbers for my two local newspapers for the past 8 years that shows how the decline in readership coincides with the decline in advertising and the increase in prices for both.

The other form of advertising that should be taking a hit soon is the phone book, if it hasn’t already in your city.

But on the cusp of being outdated is the website that is not mobile optimized.

Check out this report I got from RAB.com:

35 Percent of American Adults Own a Smartphone

In its first stand-alone measure of smartphone ownership, the Pew Internet Project finds that one third of American adults — 35% — own smartphones. The Project’s May survey found that 83% of US adults have a cell phone of some kind, and that 42% of them own a smartphone. That translates into 35% of all adults.

Our definition of a smartphone owner includes anyone who falls into either of the following two categories:

  • One-third of cell owners (33%) say that their phone is a smartphone.
  • Two in five cell owners (39%) say that their phone operates on a smartphone platform (these include iPhones and Blackberry devices, as well as phones running the Android, Windows or Palm operating systems).

Several groups have higher than average levels of smartphone adoption, including:

  • The financially well-off and well-educated — 59% of adults living in a household earning income of $75,000 or more are smartphone owners; 48% of those with a college degree own smartphones.
  • Those under the age of 45 — 58% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 now own a smartphone as do 49% of those ages 18-24 and 44% of those ages 35-44. Even among those with a household income of $30,000 or less, smartphone ownership rates for those ages 18-29 are equal to the national average.
  • African-Americans and Latinos — 44% of blacks and Latinos are smartphone users.

Urban and suburban residents are roughly twice as likely to own a smartphone as those living in rural areas, and employment status is also strongly correlated with smartphone ownership.

Mobile phones are a main source of internet access for one-quarter of the smartphone population. Some 87% of smartphone owners access the internet or email on their handheld, including two-thirds (68%) who do so on a typical day. When asked what device they normally use to access the internet, 25% of smartphone owners say that they mostly go online using their phone, rather than with a computer. While many of these individuals have other sources of online access at home, roughly one third of these “cell mostly” internet users lack a high-speed home broadband connection.

Smartphone owners under the age of 30, non-white smartphone users, and smartphone owners with relatively low income and education levels are particularly likely to say that they mostly go online using their phones.

Phones operating on the Android platform are currently the most prevalent type of smartphone, followed by iPhones and Blackberry devices.

Demographically, Android phones are especially common among young adults and African-Americans, while iPhones and Blackberry devices are most prevalent among college graduates and the financially well-off.

(Source: Aaron Smith, Senior Research Specialist, Pew Research Center, 07/11/11. Complete report at http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2011/PIP_Smartphones.pdf)

By the way, my company Cirrus ABS can create a mobile version of your site or perhaps optimize your current site for those mobile visitors.

Call or email me: 260-255-HELP or SHoward@CirrusABS.com

What’s a Google?

Last weekend I spent a considerable amount of time exploring Google Plus.

This website is powered by Google, I have my entire ScLoHo business built on the Google Apps platform including my email.

My phone uses Android, from Google.

I recently started using my Google Voice number as my business phone.

So, I want Google to survive…

Laura Ries wrote about this recently:

Google Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Google-logo
What’s a Google? It’s a search engine. Want to find something online, you Google it.

Advertising, the money making machine for Google, accounts for practically all of its revenue. Google also depends mostly on the English-speaking market in the United States and the U.K. for 59% of its revenue.

After domination of a category like search, the question business leaders and investors always have is, What’s next?

What’s next is usually taking the incredible success of the mother brand and extending it into new areas. As well as gobbling up lots of other companies and rebranding them with the same brand name.

This is exactly Google’s pattern today. And it’s exactly the pattern of many companies yesterday. Companies like Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo.

If you know me, you know what I’m going to say next. It is a mistake.

The power of a brand comes from its ability to own a word in the mind. The more things you put your brand name on, the weaker that name becomes in the mind.

Say Yahoo to somebody today and they yawn. It means nothing because it over-extended and over-expanded its brand, leaving itself vulnerable to competition.

Say AOL and you think dial-up and failed mergers and expansions.

In the short term, it is hard to see the dangers of expansion. The “Let’s Google everything” strategy gives a boost to the company and more importantly the stock. While consumers and investors get fooled into thinking the strategy is sound, it is not.

(Company leaders who think in the short term are likely to run their companies into the ground.)

Yesterday, Google announced it was going to rename several non-Google brands as Google products. So say goodbye to Picasa and Blogger. Hello Google Photos and Google Blogs.

This is on top of the other Google brands such as: Google Alerts, Google Earth, Google Image Search, Google Labs, Google Local, Google Mobile, Google News, Google Video, Gmail, Google Analytics (Web traffic measurement), Google Chrome (Web browser), Google Desktop Search, Google Language Tools (translation tools), Google Talk (instant messaging), Google Toolbar.

But Google isn’t stopping there, its much-talked-about social-networking brand Google+ is coming soon. Google hopes Google+ will be a Facebook killer.

Just like Bing was going to be a Google killer?

The problem with Picasa won’t be solved by calling it Google Photos. The problem with Picasa is that wasn’t first and doesn’t dominate its category. Flickr does.

Launched in 1999, Blogger was one of the first blog-publishers. But its generic name made it harder to cement the Blogger brand into the mind. In 2003, Google bought Blogger.

Google has done better with other acquisitions that not only were pioneers in a category like Blogger, but also had superior brand names. Namely, YouTube and Android. Wisely, Google plans on changing neither of these names.

Google is a monster today. And like most monsters, it thinks it is invincible and not subject to the laws of marketing. But nothing could be further than the truth.

Google should study history. They don’t want to be the AOL or Yahoo of tomorrow. Google needs to surround its strong search brand with other brands and other brand names that dominate new emerging categories.

Toyota did that with Lexus, Prius and Scion. Google that Google.

QR Code Ideas

A couple months ago I received an issue of Fast Company magazine and decided to look for QR Codes.

I was surprised at how few there were, and even more surprised at what happened when I scanned them with my phone.

6 QR codes.

3 went to the companies regular website which was not mobile optimized.

1 went to a mobile version of a company website.

1 went to a special web page that was tied to the ad.

1 would not scan at all.

Only 1 out of 6 QR codes were worth scanning, and considering that less than 10% of the ads had a QR code means either:

  1. QR Codes are cutting edge and something that early adopters will latch onto and eventually become mainstream…..
  2. QR Codes will die off because no one knows what to do with them or how to make them relevant.

I hope it’s #1.

Drew offers some ideas:

Creating smart QR Codes

Screen shot 2011 06 14 at 11 04 38 AM
…An example of QR codes & my column

QR codes seem to be the media’s most recent marketing darling. You’ll find lots of articles talking about how to use them, including a couple I’ve written (read here and here). And in March, I shared Central Park’s incredible QR campaign to inspire you to give this technology a try.

Along with the various online places where you can find my marketing thoughts, I am a weekly columnist for Iowa’s business journal, the Business Record. A few months ago, we started adding a QR code feature to my columns — to share extra resources and to demonstrate how QR codes can work. (the screen capture is of one of my columns that has migrated from their print product to their website)

When we decided to add this feature, I decided I wanted a QR code creator that was a bit more robust than some of the free sites I’d been using. We weren’t ready for custom shapes (check out these designs) — but I did want to know how many scans each code had and if there was a pattern to when the scans were occurring.

After reviewing many options, I am down to two choices. The “must haves” for me were:

  • Could create a high resolution QR code (need it for the print publication and for some of our client’s work)
  • Reporting/tracking capabilities
  • Good customer support if we had questions

The first contender is QReate & Track by InterlinkONE. They do offer a free membership/option but I opted for the $19/month version so I could get the reporting. That reporting includes:

  • Number of scans
  • Scans by day, time and month, year etc.

Really, for most local businesses, that’s plenty unless you’re going to do some serious number crunching. In terms of easy access for support, they have a forum, a blog and you can e-mail them your question. They’re also here in the states so for me, that’s a time zone advantage.

The second contender is PushQR.com from the UK. They too offer a free option but I went for the 6.99 GBP($11 something/month) because I needed to create more than 3 campaigns a month. The big difference between the two is in the reporting. With pushqr.com, I can track:

  • Realtime # of scans
  • Bounce rate
  • Pageviews
  • Unique scans
  • Time on page
  • What barcode reader was used
  • What type of mobile device was used
  • The geography of the scanner (down to the city)

Clearly a more robust reporting menu. One of the other cool features to this site is the ability to set a goal. For example, my QR code could lead you to a landing page where I offered something for sale. The goal URL could be the thank you page that you’d go to after making a purchase. Now the reporting shows me not only how many hit the landing site and where else they went — but how many did what I wanted them to do — buy something.

As for support — they have a very simple online manual to answer the most basic of questions and I can open a ticket and submit a question/request to their team.

I haven’t quite landed on the best option for us at McLellan Marketing Group yet — but both of these providers have served our purposes for now but it’s hard to argue with PushQR’s in depth reporting and lower price.

How about you? Are you creating QR codes? How are you using them? Do you have a favorite tool?

Tiny Screens


Optimizing for Mobile.

Ever hear that?

There are a couple ways to do it…

Marketers Need Mobile Sites — But Make Them Truly Mobile Consumers who use smartphones to shop or visit brand Web sites are time-constrained, attention-compromised, and trying to engage a brand on a tiny screen. And there are lots of them, so ignore them at your own risk.

Kari Wilson, product marketing manager, Google Mobile Ads, and Sebastien Chalmeton, vice president, mobile strategy, Phonevalley, raised those points recently at the OMMA Mobile conference in New York.

Chalmeton said that advertisers without mobile sites might as well be closed one day per week.

Wilson said 30% of people who shop for consumer electronics, 15% of finance seekers, and over 15% of insurance queries, are via mobile, but “we did a study where we looked at (the) top 1,000 advertisers and found 79% didn’t have mobile optimized sites.”

She said that’s bad for business because 60% of consumers who have a bad mobile site experience will not go back to that site, 40% will go to a competitor’s site, and 19% will have a negative perception of the brand.

Chalmeton cited five keys to creating mobilized sites. Keep the layout simple; prioritize content; use uniquely mobile features; design for thumbs not mice; and make it easy to convert consumers who have little time.

Keeping mobile sites simple “is the most critical thing you need to do when you design a mobile site,” said Chalmeton, whose company has done mobile site optimization for companies like General Motors and LG.

“For Cadillac we tried to eliminate clutter as much as possible,” he said. “You can view content at arms’ length, and that’s a rule of thumb.” Also, he said, advertisers should make sure their mobile sites are focused on one piece of content at a time. “The consumer is on the go, so you can’t do one-minute videos; 30 seconds is about right, because mobile sites are still slow.”

Wilson said another simplification that aligns with behavior is making search easy and prominent: “For a lot of consumers, search is what they do with smartphones.”

Chalmeton said one way to think about prioritizing content is to think of the three to five most important things for a mobile consumer and make those easy to find and do. Also, given the short attention span of the mobile user, he said that marketers should make mobile experiences transaction-based, not about browsing. And they should do things like using simple coding to make their mobile sites load as fast as possible, he added.

Also, Chalmeton continued, marketers need to think about what makes mobile unique, such as GPS, cameras, notepads and other utilities — and that good mobile platforms drive consumers to retail and channel partners since the consumers are already likely to be out and about.

The final steps have to be smooth and simple, Chalmeton concluded, pointing to fairly easy mobile site features — such as forms, click-to-call, and logins — that can keep customers on track to purchase.

(Source: Marketing Daily, 06/07/11)

Online Moms

Check out this research from Mediapost:

Brand Loyalty, Moms And The Web


Has the Internet killed brand loyalty among moms? Recent research shows that when it comes to shopping, today’s consumers value research over loyalty. And since moms clearly exert the majority of influence when it comes to household purchasing decisions, it’s moms — and the very many products that they buy — who would be impacted by such a trend. According to the report, from AMP Agency, unlike in previous generations “very few consumers between the ages of 25 and 49 are moved to purchase by habit, or sentimental considerations for a brand.”

In fact, just 3% of those surveyed by that agency said they are loyal to a particular brand and never buy anything else — very different from past generations. A key reason is that it’s so easy for shoppers today to research a product before buying — even read reviews from other people about that exact same item or service. According to the company, “with more information, consumers have seized control and are more open to the wide choices in the marketplace.” Ninety-four percent of people said online research positively influenced their decision to make a purchase.

Some other findings:

  • 44% of those surveyed said they do research when buying baby products
  • 38% of the survey group said they do their research on social media sites

These findings relate to our own research, with the NPD Group, on how social media impacts moms’ purchasing decisions. We found that nearly a quarter of moms who are active in social media have made a purchase for their child based on a social media recommendation.

We talked to moms after reviewing the Consumer Insights results and found that while research was crucial and influential, there was still a degree of brand loyalty, more in certain product categories than others.

Liz Thompson, a mother of four who blogs at This Full House, said that there are “brands that I grew up with and now trust with helping me to raise my family.” In her case, this mostly applied to foods, clothing brands and department stores.

Yet, she continued, “I do, however, appreciate the opportunity to research new products and the ability to visit websites to see what my favorite brands are up to. For example, I look for how and where the product is manufactured, nutritional value, price comparisons, customer reviews and/or comments, along with any other information that helps me decide on whether or not to remain loyal to a particular brand.”

Added Thompson, “Raising two teens and two tweens, I have researched a wide variety of products, including appliances, books, cars, cell phones, computers, educational aides, food, health and medical supplies, air and hotel rates, and vacation venues, just to name a few. I will run a general blog search on the product or service and then visit the corporate website.”

Marketers: How has consumers’ access to research negatively impacted your sales — and what have you done about it?

Stephanie Azzarone is founder and president of Child’s Play Communications and editor and publisher of the newsletter “Marketing Communications:Moms” and the blog “Mom Market Trends.” Follow her on Twitter at ChildsPlayComm.

The Net isn’t Shiny

You may have heard that I am making a career change.

If not, click here for details: http://www.sclohosocialmediaadventure.com/2011/06/power-of-social-media-in-my-life.html

The company I am going to work for doesn’t sell risky, shiny new toys. Here’s why:

Beware of Shiny Marketing Toys

Many marketers can’t resist a shiny toy. Whether pay-per-click in the mid 1990s, Web 2.0 in the early 2000s or mobile marketing in the late 2000s, we want it—and we want it now. “But at what price?” asks Laura Patterson at MarketingProfs. “I’d suggest at the price of our credibility and the opportunity to be perceived as a strategic player.”

“When our enthusiasm (or that of our colleagues) convinces an organization to experiment with the next shiny toy without understanding the strategic implications,” she continues, “as marketers we are doing a disservice to the organizations we support and we’re presenting marketing as a primarily tactical function.”

To ensure a shiny toy also makes strategic sense, be sure to ask questions like these:

  • Has our target audience adopted this new channel, or will we get there before they do? “Being first on the block may be irrelevant if the markets you serve or want to serve aren’t ready,” explains Patterson.
  • Does our company have the wherewithal to exploit the new channel? “If a successful implementation requires complex new skills, and if it is too time-consuming or costly to acquire that level of competence, it may be too soon for your organization to tackle the new channel.”
  • Will we see a return on our investment? “The adoption of a new channel may require configuring systems, upgrading technology, or even adding new systems and training employees,” she notes. In other words, you need to be reasonably sure that it’s worth it.

The Po!nt: A shiny toy can quickly lose its luster if it fails to boost your bottom line—so refrain from what amount to impulse buys.

Source: MarketingProfs.