Let’s Make Good Things Happen

Helping United Way connect with young, impassioned and socially savvy citizens.

United Way South Hampton Roads

I’m beginning to despise the term “Millennial.” Members of this generation have been cast as spoiled and self-centered.

In truth, the Millennial generation is a hardworking and passionate group, very committed to their personal causes and more than willing to participate and belong, if you communicate and engage in ways that are relevant to them. At the same time, this group is living with high student debt in a world of salary caps and escalating costs of things like health insurance. They want and need control over their time and treasure when it comes to charitable giving.

With roots dating back to 1923, the United Way of South Hampton Roads (UWSHR) has staying power. Its army of staff members, donors, and volunteers works with companies and agencies to “help solve problems too big for any of us to solve alone.” But, as with most non-profits, connecting with and engaging the younger (call it the future) generation of donors is a challenge.

For the past four months, my colleagues and I have been working with UWSHR to tackle the challenge of building a communication strategy that reaches this group and tells the United Way story through channels and in ways that connect.

A study conducted by Achieve and the Case Foundation and published by Stanford found four key insights about how this generation of Americans connects, gets involved, and gives.

  1. Millennial preferences are becoming more than just preferences; they’re becoming the norm for all donors. The Millennial style of communication involves authentic stories and visual presentations that are concise, mobile-friendly, and delivered online via social media and video platforms.
  2. Organizations must invest time and resources into helping Millennials feel and experience the cause. Millennials are consistent in their desire to see exactly how time, talent, and dollars translate into people helped. They want their contributions—no matter what type or amount—to achieve actual results for a cause.
  3. Organizations must inspire Millennials to work through and with their cause, rather than for their organization. Ultimately, they want to lend their knowledge, expertise, and time to help the people or issues the organization touches—not necessarily the organization itself.
  4. Millennials can be an organization’s secret weapon when it comes to spreading the word about a cause or issue. Tools such as social media and peer fundraising put cause-marketing departments in the hands of this group. Because they’re aggressively taking on this unofficial marketing role, they are contributing to grassroots-oriented movements.

Working through this initiative meant taking stock of current usage of social platforms. Three critical planning elements emerged here:

1) Be sure to utilize the platform or outlet to deliver the type of content (visual, connective, responsive) that is most relevant to that audience.

2) Deliberately plan outbound messaging to communicate events and successes, stay engaged, and encourage volunteers to engage during live events.

3) Monitor messaging to engage and reward those who spread the word of the organization’s initiatives.

To help all of this happen, UWSHR now has a social media strategy map and plan, an event plan to give its annual Day of Caring (#dayofcaring)

United Way Viral Video

Take look at the humorous side of giving.

a large social footprint, and, from the fun side, a series of tongue-in-check online-only (read “viral” here) videos that take its “Good Things Happen When You Give” campaign way over the top. All of this content gets shared and circulated via social channels to help connect and inform younger, more digitally savvy donors and volunteers, and you can find some of it on the UWSHR Facebook page, their YouTube Channel, or on their website at unitedwayshr.org.

The role of UWSHR is to “bring people and organizations together to solve problems too big for us to solve as individuals.” The challenge of connecting Hampton Roads’ passionate Millennial givers and volunteers with a mission as critical and impactful as that of United Way is a cause we can all engage in. Forward this note and like United Way wherever you are!

Read more about the United Way/Seventh Point partnership here.

 

Creating Demand

 How to gross people out and keep mattresses moving in Hampton Roads

I’ve often wondered just how many mattress stores a town needs. Seems more and more like mattress stores in Hampton Roads are competing with Starbucks and 7-Eleven for the title of “most stores per capita.”

Mattress Firm, which bought the locally owned Mattress Discounters stores in 2010, now lists 28 stores across the metro area and nearly 1,500 across the US. Sleepy’s took the market by storm starting in 2011 and now lists 21 stores across the DMA. The firm, which has over 900 stores, mostly in the northeast, purchased the Mattress Discounters chain (separate from the locally owned company) from RoomStore in 2012.Advertising with fear

Add to that a half-dozen Original Mattress Factory stores and large and small furniture retailers along with several other outlets and you’ve got a mattress dealer on every corner. So what drives all of this demand?

If you’re Mattress Firm, you don’t wait around until people are ready to buy. You create the demand. You tell them when and why they should buy their next mattress, even if the message gets a little scary, creepy or gross.

The execution of “Replace Every Eight” is the Mattress Firmperfect example of creating FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in the marketplace and stimulating sales. People who buy a mattress with a 10- or 15-year guarantee expect the mattress to last that long, but hit them with a message that says your mattress is soaked in “gallons of sweat, pounds of dead skin and millions of dust mites” and they might just replace their mattress sooner. Eeeww.

Most mattress advertising centers around getting a better night’s sleep, which is the top reason people replace their mattress, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Consumer Reports recommends changing every five to 10 years, and The Better Sleep Council (BSC) says every five to seven years. So replacing a mattress every eight years, as a benchmark, probably isn’t so far-fetched. But now I’m only worried about sleeping better (the number one reason the BSC says five to seven years). Mattress Firm’s creative team found the happy middle ground to capitalize on a great (no pun intended) alliteration opportunity. All that gross stuff will accumulate(8), so don’t procrastinate(8). Cute and clever.

But scary. Scary is motivation. It carries across media channels, it sticks in your brain: eight years’ worth of dust mites crawling around chewing on pounds of … well, you get the picture. FUD is a powerful, effective advertising tool (no product does this better than mouthwash). In many cases it’s based on fiction, not science or reality. So good for Mattress Firm in this case to at least have some real advocates to lean on.

TV Advertsing Postage Stamp

Hampton Roads–Is your TV advertising losing its edge(s)?

Make sure your spots are running as you expect.

Quick disclaimer: This is one of those posts with the true intention of helping all parties. High definition TVs have become mainstream, but merging all of the technologies involved means that sometimes commercials aren’t running as designed. Everyone involved wants the best result every time. More eyes, and more awareness will help.

Read on.

Here’s the quick math from Nielsen: 718,930 TV Households in Hampton Roads. Around 75% of those households have at least one TV that’s high-definition enabled (widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio), and 77% subscribe to some type of HD subscription service (cable, satellite, Netflix, Chromecast, etc.). So if you’re a TV advertiser, the vast majority of households are watching your commercials in HD on a widescreen format.

TV Advertising Full Screen

Here’s the view when your image fills the HD screen.

But are your spots always filling the screen? Are you using the full real estate your spot was produced to fill?

According to some of the market’s most prolific videographers and producers, nearly ALL the video produced for commercial TV for the past several years has been shot in HD and produced in widescreen format for HDTV. Yet I find it amazing the number of spots that appear on HD channels that are either “clipped” on both sides, reducing the image to the smaller, standard definition (SD, 4:3 aspect ratio) image, or reduced in all directions, creating a “postage stamp” impact with a black frame all the way around.

Why does it happen? How do you avoid it? How can you make sure it doesn’t happen to you? Well, the bottom line is the only practical way to really know it’s NOT happening is to keep a human eye on your spot schedule as it runs.

Because cable and satellite providers still carry some channels in SD at the old 4:3 aspect ratio, advertisers either need to provide a version of their commercials that have been edited down to the SD width, or allow the broadcaster/cable

TV Advertising Center Cut

Image “Center Cut” to fit the 4:3, standard definition screen.

system to shrink the entire image to fit, which results in the “letterbox” black bars at the top and bottom of the image. Since some programs, and even some ads, run intentionally this way, you may well be conditioned to not even notice.

According to Mark Johnson, Chief Engineer at WAVY-TV, the problem can happen a couple of different ways. 1) Since all

commercials are digital files, they must be uploaded, labeled and encoded properly by the advertiser, production house, or agency. Then the directions or “tags” need to be accurate as to which version of which spot runs where. 2) The proper spots must be loaded into the commercial insertion systems with the proper directions. When a system finds a mis-match it defaults to “fill” the screen, top or bottom, with those black bars that, to me, symbolize wasted screen space and wasted ad dollars. The other factor that can affect how spots (and programs) look on air is actually how the viewer has his/her own screen formatted, which none of us can really control.

“All of the spots are looked at before they go on air” said Johnson, “but we can’t always tell how the advertiser intended the spot to look.” Cutch Armstrong, Director of Marketing and Client Solutions at Cox Media Virginia, says that each spot is uploaded to the Cox system in Atlanta and viewed by technicians before airing. With both Cox and WAVY, as well as most video providers, the file upload process goes through servers located centrally (national or regional locations) and are added to the schedule through an automated process.

TV Advertsing Postage Stamp

“Postage Stamped.” Full 16:9 frame, but reduced to fit the 4:3 width.

The bottom line is, if a spot is running counter to how the advertiser expects, the first time anyone notices may be when the spot runs live.

Armstrong says it best, “Everyone wants the best possible result. They want their stuff to run perfectly every time.” But the systems can create difficulties. “Cable systems and broadcast networks require certain ‘codecs’ [file types] in order to be compliant with the diverse format standards set by the networks.” Most stations or outlets post the requirements and codecs on their websites and can tell when a file is uploaded improperly (Armstrong sent me an 11-page document, as well as a one-sheeter that Cox Media uses.)

So preventing it comes down, quite simply, to attention to detail. The computer systems do not malfunction; they respond to incorrect inputs and the result is painful. Spots have to be produced, labeled, trafficked, scheduled and inserted properly. I’ve resisted the temptation to add actual examples to this post, because this is not intended to be a finger-pointing exercise. It does happen often, and if you want examples email me at jdelatte@seventhpoint.com.

The only way you know it happens is if you see the spot run. I guarantee, if it happens the broadcaster or operator wants to know. Cox (who also handles commercial insertion for Verizon in Hampton Roads) has set up a specific inbox, VAStopClipping@cox.com, for customers to notify the operator of any problems. We’ve actually created systems to monitor and spot check schedules for clients. It is possible to receive actual air-checks of every spot that runs from third-party services such as Kantar Media or Media Monitors, but the cost could obliterate the ROI of your campaign. Instead, have someone set up spot checks of your schedule on various channels using a DVR, then scan the spot breaks and verify that the spots are running correctly.

Of course human error happens, and a spot that runs in the wrong aspect ratio is not a wasted spot. But until HD formats completely replace SD and until one universal codec becomes standard, the potential problem will exist, and as an advertiser you want to maximize every inch of the screen.

How Are Your Customers Shopping For You?

I touched on something recently during a Hampton Roads AMA panel that really bears repeating, clarifying and driving home for anyone responsible for running a business.

The concept of a purchase funnel is obsolete. Consumers search for information and make decisions based on what they find. Managing what they find, how they perceive your product and how they engage with you is what content marketing is all about.

The goal of content marketing is to facilitate the purchase decision. Over and over again. Your content must be aligned and keep your customer constantly  engaged or your customer will disconnect.

Search for “Purchase Funnel” and you’ll find millions of images and explanations dating back to the dawn of time showing how people move from awareness of a product to purchase. Almost all of them bear a strong resembMarketing Funnellance to the one at right. The consumer or target enters at the top and moves vertically–and in one direction—through the funnel to purchase. Greatly oversimplified of course, but still representative of how marketers viewed the marketing and sales process. In a world where a brand has strong control over the words and the impressions delivered to an audience, the funnel is fairly accurate. Keep delivering messages that build on each other and move the consumer through the funnel. But technology, the availability of big, real-time data and the consumer’s ever-increasing thirst for on-demand product information has made this thinking completely obsolete.

The Audience Has Shifted

No longer can we consider an audience to be a static force that we can “impress.” Even though we still count exposures to a brand or message in terms of “impressions,” the content of that message, the perspective from which it is delivered and the consumer’s ever-increasing lack of desire to “be sold to” have greatly shifted where and how we reach the audience.

Technology is the great enabler here, providing on-demand access through hand-held devices faster and more powerful than the computer systems in spaceships that went to the moon. Social media platforms, blogs, and comparative shopping platforms bombard the consumer with information and opinion (valid or not), that consumers find ten times more believable than “advertising.” The structure and strategy of how well a site is optimized to be found by search engines, or links to the information sources mentioned earlier, now are important to a marketing strategy as the overall brand position. All of these areas of influence affect the consumer in various ways, at various times. None of it happens in a single direction, and none of it happens vertically.

What once was a funnel is now a convoluted path through an almost endless list of information sources.

Information about…

  • You
  • Your product
  • Your competition
  • What your customers think about your product
  • Even what people who’ve never TRIED your product think about it

I describe this experience, rather than a funnel, as a sphere. Consumers enter the sphere through any kind of external influence, advertising exposure, need, life event; anything that could first cause interest in a product or service. But here’s where the behavior shifts. Once inside the sphere, the consumer embarks on a totally unpredictable path of information absorption. Consumers continue to experience the brand, gather information and form opinions based on information they either seek or are exposed to.

Once inside the sphere, the job of content marketing is to keep them inside the sphere and facilitate purchase. The content marketing platforms you manage to keep them inside your sphere, before during and after the purchase, include:

  • BlogsMarketing Sphere
  • Social Media Posts
  • Social Media Advertising
  • Product Ratings
  • White Papers
  • Infographics
  • SEO
  • Paid Advertising
  • Website Engagement
  • SMS Texting
  • Word of Mouth
  • Earned Media
  • Customer Experience

All of these are touch points, and the consumer can experience any of them at any time within the sphere. It’s a three-dimensional journey that requires a consistent, rewarding and aligned experience in order to stay engaged.

If you don’t already do it, you should audit the content you manage as well as the content your current and prospective customers are exposed to. Do you provide information about your product and your product experience? Is the information comparative? Fresh? Relevant? Do you engage your customers, provide insight and seek feedback? Most importantly, do you have multiple paths to capture contact information, and even more paths to use that information to keep them moving within your sphere? Look for all of these principle action points and you will be well on your way to a sound content marketing strategy.

What’s a Sponsorship Worth in Hampton Roads?

Five Key Elements to Valuing a Sponsorship.ODU

Of course the big question here is, “What’s a sponsorship worth ANYWHERE?” One of the hardest things to do in marketing is place a tangible, measurable value on a high-profile sponsorship opportunity. Whether you’re talking a single event, seasonal series, fixed venue, even spokesperson or celebrity visit, the variables and intangibles make pricing and measuring return on sponsorship extremely squishy.

“The fact that there is not one standard measuring stick across our industry nationally is very frustrating,” says Chuck Gray, general manager of ODU Sports Properties. Gray works with sponsors at every level for ODU Athletics opportunities. “You can find three or four models” used in various places he added. “We look for ways to create value multiples, as much as 2-1, for the dollars invested in a sponsorship.”

Velvet Marshall is sales director for IMG in Hampton Roads, handling sponsorships for the nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Portsmouth and Beachevents at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. “Every package we Virginia Beach Ball 2put together is customized based on the sponsor’s budget and needs,” she says. According to Marshall, ”We always meet and exceed what is required by the city of Va. Beach for the Beachevents program. And while a good portion of revenue generated does go back into the program, we always maintain the quality of the acts we have regardless of sponsorship revenue.”

Fine. But when you’re faced with the decision of committing six-or maybe even seven-figure line items in your marketing budget to a major sponsorship as opposed to increasing your online or offline media weight, how do you decide? Sarah Marshall Elliott, director of marketing and brand strategy for Virginia Farm Bureau, says the company looks for several kAmphitheaterey elements, including audience compatibility and fit, statewide reach, strong digital/social media aspects, and category exclusivity.

“When the Farm Bureau Live sponsorship was created four years ago”, Elliott says, “the company’s marketing strategy was largely built around raising general awareness for the bran  d.” It was important to capture the loud promotional voice and leverage digital as well as traditional reach and frequency to bolster Farm Bureau name recognition. “Today,” she says, “we develop consumer-facing promotions which drive prospects into our local county offices for an insurance quote. We have also ramped up our digital marketing efforts via our sponsorships which provide real-time data.”

A Little Structure, Please.

As a corporate marketer and as a consultant I’ve had to find ways to help make sponsorship investment decisions. The challenge led me to develop a model of my own that has proven successful over time. One major caveat; the key steps below assume that you have already done your homework and determined that the audience you will be positioning your brand or product in front of is a good “fit” for your brand and overall strategy. Here are the five key elements of the model:

1) Discovery. Put boots on the ground. You’ve got to attend the venue, see the audience, see how they move and act.

2) Measured Media Analysis. Calculate the real value of the impressions based on a valuation for your market. In my model I’ve created a valuation based on several local-market, multi-media CPM figures. Add in frequency based on number of events, attendance at events, media coverage, insertions and reach of paid spots inserted in broadcast or exposed on websites. After that, add a quality score to each component of the package; for instance, a :30 TV spot or feature position on a home page is a much more valuable impression than a static sign in a concourse. The grand total of this analysis gives you a real-dollar value.

3) Qualitative Analysis. What is the emotional value to your company or brand? Rarely will the quantitative, real-dollar value reach the actual cost of the package. In every case you will have to assign a value or multiple to your analysis that attaches a value for associating your brand with the promoter, event or product. Expect the real-dollar value to equal at least 50-75% of the asking price for the package. The subjective value has to get you the rest of the way.

4) Negotiation. Once you know the value to your marketing plan, you’re ready to negotiate a fair value price. Two choices here: Present the venue, promoter, or agent with your price based on the package as it exists, or (usually more successful) negotiate for additional value in either reach or frequency elements.

5) Activation. This may be the most critical element, and it cannot be an afterthought. The whole purpose here is to promote your brand and engage with the audience. Plan for and budget to leverage your sponsorship. Invest in creative concepts to make your signage stand out. Plan to staff events and make personal connections through creative promotions. Brainstorm and identify unique ways to present your brand to make you stand out from the sea of other sponsors.

ODU’s Gray says he values inventory and packages based on three key elements; attendance, location and availability. Scarcity and demand of particular inventory will drive the price up, as with any other product. The key is to understand the value, budget for it appropriately, and activate in unique and engaging ways.

Seem like a lot of work? Well it is. You can do most of it in your head if you’re talking a $2,000 golf tournament sponsorship. But when you’re looking at a six-figure naming-rights or premier sponsorship that may span 3-5 years, you need to know what to expect.

Elliott councils others to carefully consider the term of the contract, as strategies can shift over time. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if more ‘mature’ companies, those who already have relatively high brand awareness, are looking for a more traditional return on their investment these days,” she adds. Velvet Marshall is faced with that kind of big hole right now, filling the name and title slot for the American Music Festival at the beach, vacated when Verizon Wireless decided to pull all of its event sponsorships.

Bottom line on sponsorship evaluations? When the money is big, there’s no such thing as a no-brainer. Find a way to engage the quantitative structure and measure it against your primary business objectives. It can be done.

So Now What Do You Name Your Business Hampton Roads???

The latest salvo in the “Name Your Region” battle has been fired, and it’s game on. By constantly referring to our hometown region as “Coastal Virginia” during his recent State-of-The-City address, VirgiCoastal Virginia Signnia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms re-invigorated the name change initiative.

It wasn’t hard to spot; in fact I mentioned it to people as I walked out of the VB Convention Center following his speech. The only time we heard the words “Hampton Roads” was in reference to another bridge tunnel across “the Hampton Roads.” A good reference to the history of the name can be found here. The Pilot and Virginia Business were quick to pick up on the topic, and coverage spread across the state.

“Coastal Virginia” is a tourism-driven name. It’s born out of a desire to find something more easily identifiable to people outside of our region. To me, tourism does seem the right driver, considering the three economic pillars of our region: tourism, defense spending and the ports. I don’t believe either “Defense District” or “Port Place” are going to be very well received (I made those up.) The name change gained real steam when the Southeastern Tourism Alliance changed its name to The Coastal Virginia Tourism Alliance.

Rather than debate the name, let’s focus on the impact of changing the name at all. If you’re a marketer in Hampton Roads, and you’ve tooled your company or business to reflect the place where we live, the impact can be huge. Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Alliance, Naval Museum, Convention Center, United Way — the list is almost endless. And if you’re starting a new company, what name do you bet on?

David Mele, publisher of The Virginian Pilot, including responsibility for all of their specialty and online properties, acknowledges that his enterprise is heavily invested in the name Hampton Roads. “We actually raised the question from our editorial side when the name Coastal Virginia first surfaced and have had a lot of people weigh in,” he said.

Asked what it would take to truly consider changing the names of websites or sections of the paper, Mele said, “The region is heavily invested in the name ‘Hampton Roads.’ The prevailing thought right now seems to be that we should put more marketing support behind the current name before we consider a change. If we found that it was really the right thing to do,” he added, “if it truly improved our (market) competitiveness, we would get on board.”

But the degree to which local businesses are invested in the name is huge. From small businesses like Hampton Roads Termite and Pest Control, founded in Chesapeake in 1986, or Hampton Roads Harley Davidson, operating under that name on the Peninsula since the ’70s, to Hampton Road Transit, whose name symbolizes the creation of a truly regional transit authority, the impact would be huge.

My prediction is that the true coastline will embrace Coastal Virginia, which makes sense. The farther to the left you go on the map, the more it makes sense to stay the course. And if you’re starting or renaming your business today? “I’d stick with Hampton Roads,” Mele suggests. I agree. But I did just purchase a new URL: MarketingCoastalVirginia.com.Hampton Roads

CMO. The Best Job in Hampton Roads?

If you want a nice, stable job in marketing, run out and find yourself a position as chief marketing officer. The average tenure for folks in that position has nearly doubled since 2006, from 23.6 to 45 months, in a study released last year by executive search firm Spencer Stuart.

And if you’re lucky to find one in an industrial company, of which Hampton Roads has many, that average tenure shoots up to 111 months — a little over nine years! That’s double the average time a U.S. worker stays with his or her current employer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On average, CMOs in the healthcare, automotive, restaurant and communications/media sectors have the shortest tenures, at 28 to 32 months.

The role of the CMO, and its importance to an organization, continues to shift with evolving technology. Marco Pescara, CMO of Toano-based Lumber Liquidators, agrees. “Technology and changing consumer interaction makes it essential that a CMO not simply understand who they serve — but how the customer is interacting,” he tells me.

CMO Tenure

From CMOsurvey.org

Pescara has been in his role at Lumber Liquidators for a little over two years, although he has been with the company for almost eight. He says the number of “personal touch points” continues to increase, and feels the CMO must guide the organization in understanding how customers are interacting through those touches.

Spencer Stuart’s Tom Seclow says, “More and more, these are meaty and more satisfying roles, which in some cases may include general management responsibilities. As they gain credibility among their C-suite peers and find more challenges in their current role, many CMOs are staying in their positions longer.”

Let’s talk career path. The data would indicate that, on average, you can look to rise to the position of CMO in an organization, as Pescara did. CMOsurvey.org reports that the average length of time that today’s CMOs have in any position with their current employer is 8.8 years.

The report indicates several things are driving the importance of the CMO role, among them the continuance of emerging technologies along with the need to develop more intricate analytics and ways to leverage huge amounts of customer data.

Eric Lackey, CMO of Hampton Roads–based JES Foundation Repair echoes that sentiment. Lackey, who has an agency background as a co-founder of Meridian Group, now has six years under his belt as head of marketing. Technology is such a driver of business leads and success that the company has developed a cloud-based business planning and tracking platform, “Biz Wiz” used by over 100 network partners nationwide. “It helps us be much more efficient in planning and in tracking results,” he says. Like many long-term career marketers, he finds a big challenge now to be continuing to learn and adapt online and digital advertising tools to his lead-generation needs. An in-house staff helps keep Lackey and JES on a solid growth curve.

The downside — the tracking study says that as the tenure increases, the number of CMO positions is decreasing. So, as I tell my middle school son: math rules, technology is king. Stay ahead of both if you want to compete for a secure job in one of these key hometown roles.

Read the Spencer Stuart article

Read the CMO Survey

Could You Outlast Goliath? Here’s how to “do it” in Hampton Roads.

Hampton Roads Taylor's do it

Joe Taylor doesn’t need a sling to slay giants.  He’s got something a whole lot more important, and maybe more rare these days; he’s got customer loyalty.

Taylor is the third generation leader of Taylor’s do it centers, the local hardware store chain with 11 locations sprinkled across south Hampton Roads. Along with his brothers and his crew, Taylor does battle constantly with the tug that we locals feel from the big box stores. But customer loyalty brings a sense of staying power to Taylor’s that, at least in one case, has helped the company outlast a giant competitive threat.

I met Joe Taylor several weeks ago after one of those local business breakfasts that Cox and Inside Business put on. I just wanted to let him know what a loyal supporter and fan I have been of his store in the Haygood area of Virginia Beach for almost 30 years. We talked about the once-upon-a-time plan to shutter the store (it never happened), and we mused about the fact that Lowe’s, who bought a huge chunk of property about a half-mile down Independence Blvd, had decided not to build there. Taylor’s comment to me, “that’s great, but I won’t be happy until they actually sell that property.”

Well happy day, Joe. I read recently in Virginia Business Magazine that Divaris Realty’s Eric Bucklew took care of that problem for you.  The buyer is planning another shopping center or mixed-use development. Chalk one up for the little guys; the little guys with big brand loyalty and staying power.

I know what keeps me coming back to Taylor’s. I can find stuff that I need, and I can get in and out in five minutes.  But I wondered how Joe would define it.  I asked him what he see as the magic formula that has kept the family business going for 87 years.

He gave me four key focal points:

  • “Our stores are very clean, organized, and well lighted which is an important start in attracting customers, especially the female customer which is 55% of our customers.”
  • “Convenience.  Whether it is a big box or one of our stores, many customers are busy and choose the closest store.  We work hard to find locations in the neighborhoods in which our customers live.” Good strategy, I have to drive by at least one Taylor’s on my way to either of the big box stores.
  • Taylor feels customers expect good service at a big box, but likely won’t get it. “When a customer shops in a Taylor’s location, they expect good customer service, and they better get it,” he told me.
  • Niche products and services. Like those greenhouses that spring up every April, Stihl power tools and the whole line of Weber grills, not just one or two choices.

He went on to say that Taylor’s has been very careful to stay close to its local roots. Not just in giving back 10% of profits, but also in carefully executing its expansion strategies. According to Joe, “Taylor’s Do it centers is a familiar company to many in the Hampton Roads region.  However, should I venture more than 30 miles away in any direction to locate another store, I would have to work much harder to establish our brand and educate our customer about Taylor’s.”

Disciplined business, customer and marketing strategies pay off well for the long haul. And as for that female focus, I just remembered my wife wants some of those fancy rubber boots right by the cash register.

Hampton Roads: Is Traditional Media Dead?

How do you know that your marketing efforts are as efficient as they can be?  How do you or your marketers know how to allocate budgets and shift from traditional to emerging media?

Not a day goes by that I don’t engage in either an internal or an external conversation about how to properly allocate media budgets in today’s ever-fragmenting world.

  • Mass media outlets are losing eyes and ears to online and mobile sources.
  • Direct marketing efforts are under siege by regulatory and technical limitations.
  • Ad agencies are hell-bent on identifying and monetizing ways to connect clients and consumers in the digital world and to do so in a way that actually converts into sales.
  • At the same time, marketers in every business segment struggle with dividing their budgets into smaller and smaller pieces, managing them with fewer and fewer resources.

But where is the tipping point? Yes, it’s critical to maximize marketing dollars. Yes, accountability rules the day. But has the historical ruling class of advertising media weight lost its power? No. At least not yet. And that’s a very important perspective for marketers to maintain.

Even though online video viewership grew 40% from 2012 to 2013, traditional video is consumed at a rate more than 18 times greater, according to Nielsen. And that number has remained rather steady for the past five years.

Traditional broadcast and cable/satellite TV outlets still win the day in delivering the bulk of a brand’s message. Nielsen reports that adults 25-34 still spend an average of 3.7 hours every day watching traditional, linear television.Andy Fox

Throughout history, every disruptive technology and emerging media has created a sense of panic that it would supplant an existing mainstream medium. In reality these media become additive to the overall environment; new choices and sources for information or entertainment. It’s very easy to be distracted and affected by the amount of hum created by the shifting video landscape.

Every media plan needs to start with a critical evaluation of where the intersection points are between the target and the available media, but advertisers who have historically found TV to be the most productive medium will continue to do so, at least for the next few years. Any media planner will involve transitional elements of online video placement, properly researched, measured and priced, in all plans.

Hampton Roads: Lean on your agency to bring your vision to life.

I’m not an ad guy.  Pretty risky statement for an agency VP who’s supposed to be a strategy guru.

I’m not an ad guy.  I’m a marketing guy.  Marketing@HamptonRoads

A marketing guy raised on the client side of the business.  And after many years on board with the agency that was my primary resource as marketing director for some pretty big communications companies, I have to share my biggest learning.

Clients simply do not lean on their ad agencies enough.  At least not for the right things.  See, I’m not talking about overnight turn-around on email blasts or video spots.  I’m not even talking about “will you guys explain that SEO SEM PPC SMO BFF LMAO WTF thing to me.” I’m talking about marketing.  Ideas.  Innovative media strategies.  Competitive set analysis.  Brand differentiation.  As a corporate marketer, it’s the stuff that I figured could only be really well thought out inside the walls of my own department, by my own staff.  That’s the stuff that I was accountable for; how could I push it out to others?  But I was selling myself short, and putting way too much pressure on my staff. A CEO or business owner that is really willing to engage its agency SHOULD find a valuable experience base to leverage

Agencies are full of energy, fresh learning, initiative and yes, creativity.  Lean on them for new media strategies, completely zero-based thinking and budgeting.  Challenge them to develop your marketing plan.

You’ll be amazed at the depth of thinking, assuming of course that you’re talking to the right agencies.   Start your work with an agency by providing just one piece of information; your BUSINESS objectives.  Find out if your agency is built on marketing muscle or not.  Make the agency accountable for the marketing strategies and ideas that will achieve those objectives.  At least lean on them for fuel and energy to ignite marketing ideas within your company.

If your agency is not willing to play at that level, to start from that position, then you have the wrong partner.  I’m so much smarter now than I was on the client side.  If ever I find myself back there again, I know exactly where my marketing muscle will come from.