Small Business- How We Doin’?

Well, according to The State of Small Business Report by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland, not so hot.

C-. Not so hot at all.

The researchers compiled information from 500 small businesses, and compared the change of the small business environment since 2009 to now using an index they created that is meant to measure small business success.

As one goes through the report, the findings are not very surprising. Disheartening? Sure, but it is no shock that small businesses are still struggling.

Quick Tidbits:
– According to the index, 53% of all small businesses are either Marginally Failing or Failing.
-Businesses noted that they are having a tougher time competing with the big companies than ever before
-But the future is bright. Small businesses are continuing to embrace social media, mobile marketing, and are planning to hire in order to compete

So it is not a totally bleak picture.

The report notes what key factors are most important when it comes to success as a small business. They placed the areas on four quadrants, the graph is below:

As you can see, Capital Access (cash-on-hand, investment, operations) is the most important factor. But what is the second?

You guessed it- marketing and innovation.

Small businesses are having trouble:

-Coming up with advertising and marketing activities to show their competencies
-Translating their marketing and advertising dollars into sales
-Finding platforms where new audiences are going to be

If you are a small business owner, you are not alone. According to this report, many small business- more than you think- are going through the same struggles.

This is why JDW: The Charlotte Agency started. Our goal is to help small business eradicate these issues.

We want to help small businesses survive, and grow. But we can’t do it unless you are willing to focus on your business, and let us worry about reaching your customers.

Help us make the next State of Small Business Report conclude with a happier ending.

Brian Solis Answered My Question

Cover of "Engage: The Complete Guide for ...

Cover via Amazon

As part of an incentive to sign up early for this year’s Pivot Conference, the organizers offered a chance for pre-registrants to ask a question for Brian Solis, the author of “Engage!” to answer.

Naturally, because I love hearing from smart people, I pre-registered and asked a question.

So why am I writing a blog about this?

Because it was a really good answer.

As many of you know, I am quite critical when it comes to the “thought leaders” that be in our society.

They say the same crap. In the same venue. To the same crowd.

It’s insulting, and boring.

So instead of whining about the same-old answers I hear, I really want to highlight the great answers. Below is the question I asked him (in bold), followed by his answer in italics.

Q:
With ‘Choice’, comes large amounts of pressure for brands to form a connection with its customers, in order to “rise above the clutter.” When forming the relationship, what is one key element the brand should remember?

A:
Not to sound overly complicated, but because social media is inherently social, people are in control of their own online experiences. Thus, everything must be reverse engineered starting with two things: the people you are trying to reach, and what it is they value. Choice is the key word as you said, you have it, I have it, and in many ways, we are the people we are trying to reach. I recommend ‘a less is more’ approach rooted in user-defined intelligence before engagement. What people want and how you connect the gap between that want and our value proposition is yours to define.

Now you may ask me why I thought that was a really good answer. Let’s pick it apart.

First, he didn’t try to throw in a bunch of jargon, faux-scientific words or made up phrases.

Second, he mentioned the act of ‘reverse engineering’, meaning that you are starting with the end in mind. Targeting what people value means that you are focusing on incentive. As a communicator in the social realm, you have to figure out why these consumer should connect with you rather than someone else, or not connect at all.

He did mention ‘less is more approach’, which is a little played out, but I’ll let it slide. Every marketing guy throws at least one out-played phrase.

Third, he said the phrase “user-defined intelligence before engagement“. That phrase, Brian, won me over. What does that phrase mean?

Research, research, research…strategy, then implementation (engagement).

All we hear these days is “it’s all about engagement”, or “joining the conversation“, and “being relevant”.

But all of that doesn’t mean crap if you don’t know your audience or the conversations already being had.

Thank you Brian, for re-newing my faith in marketing “stars”.

Brian will be at the Pivot Conference, October 17-18, in NYC. If you got a few hundred dollars laying around, I’d suggest you go.

People Like Advertising, so Why All the Hate?

“Contrary to popular belief, Americans don’t hate advertising.”
-Roy H. Williams

Americans love watching the Super Bowl for the commercials. People who don’t even watch football watch the game so they don’t miss the ads.

Magazines and trade publications have seen a rise in advertising, and there seems to be no real complaint.

Yet, when you talk with people- especially in a large setting- there seems to be a negative light shone on advertising. Why?

I believe that there are several reasons why people may say they don’t like advertising, but aren’t sure why.

-Misleading ads
-Advertising done poorly or done by non-advertisers
-The lack of advertising/marketing advocates in the foreground
-The abundance of popular advertising “haters”
-The popular Adpeople that make everyone look bad

I am not alone in saying that there are a few professionals in advertising that aren’t exactly ethical. But I would also say that the ethical professionals in advertising and communications far outnumber the bad ones.

But unfortunately, society only hears about the bad ones.

Oh, irony.

The media and government love to run with the news when the FCC cracks down on a misleading advertising campaign. On one occasion, I could have swore I saw Al Franken frothing at the mouth during one such instance.

A story of how an AdPerson kept to their ethics, and pioneered truth in advertising would never hit the headlines.

A story about the Ad Council, and how many of those campaigns are given thousands of dollars from advertising agencies, would never be highlighted during a congressional campaign. Why?

The Ad World knows why. It’s not a sexy story.

Someone told the truth? Who cares.

But then the US gets all up in arms when brands have to correct themselves.

But that isn’t the part that bothers me. What bothers me are people like Frank Luntz. Or maybe his visibility.  He is the marketing researcher who helped coined the phrases ‘death tax’ (versus ‘estate tax’) and ‘War on Terror’ (instead of ‘US Global Man Hunt’, I guess).

Genius? Sure, he has the amazing talent to use words and phrases that resonate.

Ethical? Now that is an interesting question. Perhaps it is my political bias that I simply cannot stand the man and every time he opens his mouth I get angry.

Or perhaps he is his own worst enemy. People categorize what he does for the GoP with what advertising and communications people do for brands- create words, images and phrases that force them to act the way they want.

Are people in the wrong for thinking so? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.

Perhaps it’s his method; using fear and scary words to manipulate the populace. (I’m trying to figure out my displeasure of them, so please bear with me).

Fear is an emotion that is extremely powerful. Fear is our anxiety for what we don’t know. Uncertainty. Tying policies to “death” and “terror” then, would (and did) prove to be extremely impacting. Dare I say, Luntz was impressive.

So communicators have Luntz, the media, and the government against them. That’s fine. But I also see professionals against the profession.

For example, making up words that are against the industry (see ‘unmarketing’, and ‘change agents’). And I find it funny because those words get so popular because those professionals are really really good at marketing.

So what is the point of this post?

1. People like good advertising and communications.
2. Media and government like to point out the bad in advertising to make themselves look like they’re doing something important.
3. Advertising professionals must do a better job highlighting the good folks. Not separate themselves from the industry altogether.
4. Luntz, and people like him, are jerks.

Let’s get our act together, Ad-Brethren. The US is a consumption-based society, so as long as that’s the case, we’ll be around. I don’t care if we’re not liked, but some appreciation couldn’t hurt.

So We Finally Got Some Hardware

Welcome home, Hermes

Aww yea.

JDW: The Charlotte Agency won a 2011 Gold Hermes Creative Award.

We entered under the category web video with the work we did for the WingzzaTruck’s YouTube page.

According to the award site, out of 4,400 entries around the world, only 19 percent were awarded Gold.

So we are 1 out of 836 companies. In the world. That’ll do friends, that’ll do.

Now the big question: is this really a big deal?

Well, sort of.

Will most of our clients know what a Hermes Creative Award is? Probably not. Will our peers? Quite a few of them, yes.

You see, an award like this adds credibility. The Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals said that 4,400 organizations entered. Fifteen percent of them won a Platinum award, and 19 percent won Gold.

See the math? Sixty-six percent received either an honorable mention award or nothing at all.

That’s 2,904 organizations.

So yes, I’m pretty happy.

We plan on continuing pushing out the good work.

We plan on adding to the hardware.

Charlotte community, thanks for giving us a shot!

As you can see, it’s worth it.