Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Marketing Mecca

So, I'm traveling back to Disney World soon for the 2nd time in the last year and a half. Vacationing at Disney World is like no other experience. For a marketer, all the details completely blow you away. From the moment you arrive in Orlando, there is buzz and activity encouraging purchases. As a parent you feel obligated to ensure your children truly remember Disney World being the happiest place on earth, but it doesn't take much work to accomplish that. At every turn the hotels, the parks, the rides, and the employees are always selling. They are selling you more while you are there, and they are selling you for the return visit. Everything seems so calculated and predetermined that it truly amazes me how well orchestrated the entire experience is.

As I look forward to this trip I wanted to propose some questions. If you have been to Disney World yourself, what was the most memorable part of your experience (from a marketing perspective)? Also, even if you have not been, do you have a special research project you'd like to send me on?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How Do You Prefer Your Budget Hat: Fitted or Adjustable?

As a marketing director I wear a number of hats. The one that seems to fit best is the creative, brainstorming, idea hat. However, I also get to wear a customer service hat every now and then that's pretty comfy. There are times when my personnel/HR hat gets pulled down off the shelf, and there are a number of others for development, education, and PR to name a few.

The one I am most challenged with is the budget hat. That hat would probably be a visor or something else I don't enjoy wearing like a beanie with a propeller. Anywho, this post isn't about wearing a gazillion hats, as most of us do that and do it to the best of our abilities. What I want to talk about is the challenge of budgeting for marketing.

While a great marketing plan starts with a budget, it seems that economics, the unknown, and poor performance can all influence changes in the marketing budget. Each industry has different benchmarks for budgeting their marketing dollars. In the apartment industry the National Apartment Association actually takes a survey across the nation to measure average income and expenses. While this is an average and somewhat of a benchmark for economics in our industry, I have to ask what people are really spending and how they justify their expenses? How many of you set a marketing budget for the year and stick to it? Do you even have a budget or a plan?

We're all trying to save money, but how do you and your company wrap your arms around what is spent on marketing? I'm not asking this for my industry specific, but I'm curious what analytics marketers are using. I'd love to hear feedback for you and your industry as many are finalizing budgets for 2009 and cringing at the outlook of the economy. What drives your marketing budget decisions and sets the expectations for ROI?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


This week I had an opportunity to attend the Midwest Multifamily Education Conference and Exposition. Wow, that's a mouthful. The conference is an annual event put on by the Indiana Apartment Association bringing together vendors and industry professionals to learn and share information regarding the multifamily industry.

This is the 5th year I have been able to attend, and each year I have always looked to walk away with just one idea or concept. As the title of this post suggests, my one thing from this year's convention is "Passion." As I sat through presentations from industry experts like Lisa Trosien and Lori Snider, I began to see what they had in common. They did not share the same information, they did not sound the same, and their slide shows were not cookie cutter, but they were extremely passionate about their topic. They were not hired with the intention to be motivational speakers, but that's the big piece I took away from them. They share their ideas and knowledge with conviction. Regardless of the tidbits of knowledge I extracted from their presentations, I'm so glad I was able to attend their presentations just to see the passion they put into their work.

While it should be expected for professional speakers to demonstrated great passion, they were not the only people to do so. The trade show floor was the ulitmate example to compare the passionate vs. not-so-much-so-passionate. I love walking up and down the aisles of a trade show. As a marketing director and creative type I feel obligated to critique each booth. For some reason this year as I wandered around I found myself not even giving the time of day to companies with booths that did not show me some PASSION. It's almost as if I didn't even care about a company this year unless they we're standing out from the crowd. Unfortunately there were only a handful of booths that really stood out to me. How sad is that? How many years have companies been doing trade shows? If you're not going to stand out from the crowd why bother? For those companies that did stand out I could tell they were passionate about their business. I wonder what motivates those other companies to even show up?

So, if you're still reading at this point (all 3 of you that read this regularly), the one final story on passion comes from someone that wasn't even part of the convention. He did, however, make himself a memorable part of the action. The shoe-shine guy at the Marriott (while questionably looney-tunes), had more passion for shining shoes than anyone I've ever seen. For two days straight I heard more stories about this (now semi-famous) shoe-shine guy following people into the hotel bar, following them into the convention, offering to go get someone's shoes from their room for them, and constantly harassing people that would walk by multiple times that had yet to get their shoes shined. While I'm not sure if Mr. Shoe-Shine was the best example of what a Marriott was going for with customer service, I have to give credit to the guy for his passion and dedication to shining shoes. In the end, people told the stories and seemed a bit annoyed, but they still had their shoes shined and now I'm blogging about it.

In summary, show some passion in 2009 folks. Lead some others to find their passion. Get excited about what you do, and share that excitement. There is so much negative news going on right now it can be easy to get caught up in all that. Don't do it. Be a part of a positive revolution. OK, enough now, go be passionate about something!!! Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Social Media & Music Story of the Year

Within the last year I stumbled upon a friend I knew back during my days at Indiana University. Randy Stine had lived just a few doors down from me in the dorms our freshman year and we'd chat every now and then about Dave Matthews, music, etc. Randy was quite the musician and during his freshman year at IU he joined a group of guys that formed an a cappella group naming themselves Straight No Chaser.

Straight No Chaser was a hit on campus with all the sororities, many other lovely ladies, and the student body in general. These guys had a great four year run at IU signing at many University sponsored events, parties, and their own concerts. Then in 1999 the original members passed the SNC torch to a new group of gents to carry during their years as Hoosiers.

Fast forward to 2008. I get a friend request from Randy on Facebook. I had bumped into him over five years ago when living in Chicago, but it sure had been awhile. The next message I get from Randy blew me away. He sent me the link to this:

I couldn't believe it. What an amazing YouTube story. I remembered my Mom sending me the "12 Days of Christmas" video just last year asking me if I knew any of the guys. So funny that I do, and that I am so excited to share this story.

SNC just released their first record with Atlantic titled "Holiday Spirits." Buy it HERE or on iTunes. Also, click HERE for free give-aways and tickets to upcoming shows.

I will close by saying that I share this story as I think it is one about the power of social media. While I know Randy, in no way has he influenced me to write this. I'm just really excited to see how a viral video, a passion for music, and 10 guys that just enjoy what they do can come together for an online success story. I wish the best of luck to the guys of Straight No Chaser. Great job!

Now, a question for the marketing gurus. What are you doing to be the social media story of the year in 2009?

Friday, November 7, 2008

OK, I just found this as shared by @bridgetZtalk on Twitter. Have I mentioned I love Twitter! Anyway, I haven't checked this out fully, but from what I have seen so far it's a free online tool. Here's what their homepage says:

Sprout is the quick and easy way for anyone to build, publish, and manage widgets, mini-sites, mashups, banners and more. Any size, any number of pages. Include video, audio, images and newsfeeds and choose from dozens of pre-built components and web services.

Check it out at!

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Just Love This Stuff

I love Zappos for shoes, but the live customer service that is offered by Nordstrom is awesome. Thanks for another great experience and the reminder for why you are so successful.

What's Your Message?

I received an email blast from an "industry expert" yesterday. While she is an acquaintance of mine and I have attended a few of her seminars, the email felt so generic and blah. Now, this post is not a means to bash her, as she is very well respected in apartment marketing and presents great information & ideas at her seminars. This post is about improving your message and deciding that maybe email blasts are not a good idea.

Let me summarize what her message included.

Subject Line: Still Undecided? Vote for [her name]!
Email Letter Content: Large picture of her, letter summarizing why you should hire her to present her latest seminar and a summary of new website features and a link to her website. She also mentions a $500 discount coupon at the bottom of the email.
Additional Info: a brief history about her, quick summaries of the 4 seminars she is currently presenting, and, of course, the coupon.

At first glance I was curious to open up the email and peruse, but after doing so I realized there wasn't anything really there. Nothing grabbed me, nothing was newsworthy, and her picture (while very nice) was actually a distraction. A lot of copy and very generic.

Below is my response to her with some recommendations on how to improve her message.

“Don’t send me an email just telling me who you are why you are so cool with some generic descriptions of your seminars and your background. I’ll be honest, it’s not interesting as I already know you (as most people do that get these emails). What would be interesting is if you shared pieces of your seminars with me. Give me a taste of the good stuff! Here’s an analogy. Let’s say you’ve just emailed me a picture of McDonald’s French fries. I’m a sucker for McDonald’s French fries, but a picture doesn’t really motivate me to actually go buy some. What if you just gave me 1, just to try it, just to get that taste. If you did that, then I’d probably want the whole box. So, maybe ask yourself the next time you send out a SPAM email, are you sending out just a picture or are you giving us a taste. Send me one of your PodCasts, or your latest blog post (which doesn’t appear to be working), or maybe one or two graphs or slides that have some of your great statistics. And one final note, you don’t need a coupon!!! Coupons are for commodities. You are not a commodity!"

I share this with you because I know that she knows all this. But if she knows, then why does she do it? Here's her response back.

"I agree with your marketing thoughts. That was a blanket email that went to over 12,000 people and I need to introduce myself. The next emails we have planned have content in them that will be valuable to the reader. This is what I have been doing for some other marketing and I know those emails get read. With my new Web site, we are set up to put a lot of free content there and that will link in my

As for the spam, I got a call to work on a project in Atlanta as well as two managers retreats where I will keynote. Not too bad."

The excuse for a bad email is because it went to 12,000 people that she needed to introduce herself to??? In my opinion it was a very boring introduction, and while I didn't ask her if the jobs she booked from it were from previous customers my gut is telling me that is the case.

So, what's my point? My point is that you're only as good as your last email, or last podcast, or last blog post. The content you put into these represents you and what you do best. If what you do best is make excuses for average work and justify it with a couple success stories fine, but I can tell you that things are getting more and more competitive and average will only get you so far. Just because someone has opted-in shouldn't give you an excuse to send an average message. Provide compelling content as your last message is what you will be remembered for.

Until the next. Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Zazzle Me This

In searching for my funny Halloween t-shirt (as I'm not much of a costume guy), I stumbled upon an interesting website.

Have you ever wanted to create, on demand, any shirt? Always wanted that shirt with the name of your favorite obscure polka band? Ever want to customize a skateboard, coffee mug, tie, or sticker and just order 1? You can do all that on Zazzle. Whether you have a logo, or just want to create something using their design tools it's all at your fingertips right online. How great! No longer do you have to order a minimum of 10 or have a company of people that can justify 10+ shirts or hats. Order just 1 of whatever you want.

So, wow, that's pretty cool. Zazzle takes it to the next level in that if you create your own designs you now have your own store page. It's interactive!!! It's social! Create a cool shirt and share it with your friends on Facebook. Guess what, they don't even have to recreate it they can just buy the same one. And get this, if you're the creator you get a percentage of the profits off your design! You set the rate. Ten, fifteen, twenty percent or more, it's your call.

I really love what Zazzle has done here. What a great tool to open up the creativity of small groups and friends. Create that custom t-shirt for your family reunion or bachelor party. If you have a small company you can create a logo store front with your brand that you would have never done before. It will be interesting to see if this concept catches on, and what Zazzle does to help promote it.

I just created my own fun brand of t-shirts What?Wear. Check them out at the bottom of the blog, and if you like one help support the marketing nerd. ;-) Until next time. Enjoy your day!