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Content is King, But be Aware of the Jury…

I have written about the concept of content marketing several times over the years, and have made my point along with so many others, that this concept of sharing your ...


Springtime On The Deck…

One of the neat things about writing your own blog is that you can pretty much write about whatever you want – you don’t really answer to anyone! And while ...


It Takes A Concentrated Effort…

You often hear that one of the true benefits of being in business for yourself is that you get to be “your own boss.”Well those of us that actually do ...



Marketing and Politics – It will be an Interesting Show…

  With the first big debate finished up this past week, it ...

Direct Mail Resurrected…

This is a thought I have had stewing in my mind for ...
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Spring is More Than a Season…

For almost all of us around the country, this has been a ...

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Take Time To Talk…

Couple meeting with businessman

I have often mentioned within my blog posts the concept that “the more you give, the more you get.”  In fact I had once referenced a great book called “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann, and I would recommend it to everyone in business today. This concept once again came to mind over the past few weeks, as I have had the opportunity to have a meeting with several clients with regard to their year-end projects. It was truly inspirational to me when 4 of these talks lasted two or more hours!

Obviously there was some good discussion throughout these meetings, and it was very much two-sided. Both the clients and myself shared thoughts on not only the specific project they had scheduled, but just as importantly, on current trends, new ideas, and strategies that could be utilized within the campaign. In some cases, this initial discussion also prompted me to put together even more ideas to share and options that we will be meeting to discuss again!

What I always find neat about this type of conversation, is that while I am giving my expertise and ideas to the client, in return I definitely also get back some valuable insight and feedback from them. In fact, over the years, I personally have developed a very strong understanding of the nonprofit market all based on learning from the various clients I work with. This knowledge has then allowed me to gain more clients and referrals – which has helped grow our business over time.

Another thought that has come out of these meetings, is that truly our best relationships are those in which we are able to not only share our knowledge and expertise, but also when the client looks to engage us in the planning stages. They are actively looking for new strategies or ways to improve what they have done in the past. Some are wanting to see what other similar organizations are doing… and why. Others need to find ways to reduce their overall budget. Whatever the reason, often times your vendors can be a tremendous resource for you, but we don’t always take the time to talk with them. At this point, the product or service you are buying becomes nothing more than a commodity – and the discussion then narrows down to who has the lowest price. Of course saving money is a good thing… but sometimes taking the time to talk can prompt an even more meaningful outcome to your project or campaign.

When was the last time you had a good talk with a vendor? Was it valuable?


It never fails…

Close up of a chalkboard with back to school written on it

Labor Day weekend is typically referred to as the end of summer. And while technically it is not the official end, back when I was just a kid, it also coincided with the start of school for many of us. Now days that seems to have blurred somewhat with many schools starting by mid-August even. But no matter when your local school district begins, it also beckons the start of getting back to work!

The mindset of everyone it seems, begins to change. No longer is the thought of a summer break or vacation the most important thing – now it is time to start thinking of planning out the final quarter, to initiate the year-end projects that will help close out a good year. It is the time to push hard for making your sales goals come true, and to complete the spending that was approved in the budget, or to start planning out the year-end appeal. No holding back, but rather full speed ahead!

Even  though I have been in business for nearly 35 years now, it never fails to amaze me that the lights get turned on almost immediately when the school year begins and summer winds down. Of course this is a good thing and something that we all rely on to help close out the year. It also means that businesses need to get all hands on deck,  and make sure that they are working well as a team to handle the inevitable rush jobs that will come in, or the crucial deadlines that must be met. Instead of helping to cover for someone who may be on vacation, now you are covering for each other to help solve the production bottlenecks that inevitably appear. It is also an important time to meet with clients to plan out the projects they have – to discuss realistic timeframes and potential roadblocks before they develop.

In many ways, this time of year is actually quite energizing! It gets us all back into a “can do” mindset and even gets us prepared for a seemingly even more hectic time – the holidays.

Have the lights turned on for you yet?

It Takes A Village, Plus One…





As I have written about in the past, the concept that “it takes a village to raise a child” is so true within the business world as well. Especially in the realm of the small business arena, the owner must build around themselves a team of people that they can rely on – regularly! This can be in the form of specific responsibilities that are delegated to other employees, consulting services and insight received from industry organizations, and or direct business services that might be engaged through outside vendors.

In addition, almost all successful business owners will also admit to having a group of confidants – individuals who they have known over time and that they can rely on for advice and support. It is these individuals that often times become the true sounding board for the business. In larger organizations they might actually have a Board of Directors to provide this support, and there are even several groups that are available for small business owners to join for this service as well.

In all cases though, it is this additional set of eyes and ears that can help keep us focused. Especially in the rapidly changing business climate that we are in now, it can be easy to get off track of what is truly important, or to get wrapped up in the latest and greatest new fad. We must lean on our support team for this.

There are also the ups and downs of almost every business day that we need to deal with – often times we find ourselves celebrating the news of a brand new prospect that just signed on as a customer after 6 months of effort, only to then find out that there is a big problem on a project in-house with one of your top clients! This part of business was never really shared with us too much in school – rather we have all experienced it and learned from others – including “our own village,” on how to deal with it.

Over time (34 years now), I have leaned on others to be my support group – and yet, I also know that I can always use more! We always need to be open to those who know more than us – who have differing experiences or insight. This may well come from employees, friends, neighbors, membership organizations, vendors, social media, industry consultants and even your own family. I know that for sure, my greatest source of support is my wife! Julie is someone who I can share everything with and rely on to get a second opinion. She is my rock, and for that I am thankful!

By the way, did I happen to mention that we just celebrated our wedding anniversary this weekend? Perhaps that is what inspired me to write this today!

Who is part of your village?


Out of Your Comfort Zone…

ThinkstockPhotos-92850428  There is a terrific quote from Albert Einstein that suggests that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” While many of us have heard this and even acknowledge the logic behind it, it is amazing how often we fall right back into the same routine over and over! Then there is another great quote from Heraclitus that reads… “the only thing that is constant is change” – which very much reinforces the idea that we should be looking to adapt… to alter the behavior of our routines.

In the world of sales and marketing, it is especially important to be willing to try something new! Especially with how technology has brought new media options to our disposal, and how each of our clients react differently to the messages we are sending. In addition, perhaps as compared to any other point in time, we have significant differences in generational trends. Add in the fact that we are more of a global society now than ever before, suggests that we also need to embrace different cultures within our messaging. All together, this makes for very interesting times!

So what is it that keeps us from trying something new within our marketing efforts? I would suggest that it is the reluctance to get out of your comfort zone. We can all get a little too complacent at times and not willing to “rock the boat.” Or, we don’t really understand some of the newer technology, so we prefer to let somebody else try it out first. I understand that it is not always wise to be on the “bleeding edge” of technology, but too often businesses can be overly slow to embrace the new trends – and then all of a sudden you find yourself behind the competition.

Perhaps the best way to fight the comfort zone is to push yourself to do some research – to read industry publications, attend conferences, seminars or online webinars. Seek out a group of your peers and find out what they are doing. Listen to your vendors, and even potential new vendors who are calling on you – to find out what they are suggesting. Visit your client’s websites to see what they are involved in doing and how they engage their own clients – or their social media sites – what are they talking about? Try assembling a focus group of select clients and ask them how they prefer being engaged – how do they seek out new resources? What social media sites do they prefer and why? What publications to they regularly read, or associations do they belong to? How do their customers/donors want to be engaged? After all, it really is not about ourselves when it comes to marketing, but rather our clients and even their clients. If we can find ways to solve our client’s challenges, then we will be of interest to them. Take it one step further and find ways for them to build stronger relationships with their clients and you will truly get the results you are looking for!

Are you open to new ideas? Looking for change? Tell me what has worked for you…

Gaining Inspiration From Sports…

Image credit to Wikipedia

Image credit to Wikipedia

For many of us the enthusiasm and loyalty that we share on behalf of our local professional sports teams can be a big part of who we are, and how we socialize with others. While I personally have never been a “super fan” – one that watches every game or attends multiple games per year, I do very much enjoy watching our Chicago teams and rooting for them to win. I especially like football – and the Bears, although admittedly it has been painful the last few years! I enjoy watching the Bulls, and both the Cubs and White Sox too.

And then there are the Blackhawks! This past year was pretty inspiring, on many levels. While I have never been a real strong  hockey fan, I would periodically watch games and definitely keep track of how the home team was doing. Over the last several years this became even more exciting to do, considering they had won the Stanley Cup twice since 2010, and they were projected to win again this year. Over the course of the year I found myself watching more hockey than I had in probably the past 10 years – and actually got to understand what was happening most of the time.

What also made this year so interesting, was the enthusiasm that spread throughout our company. We have a few very loyal fans and the talk about the team throughout the year became a good way for all of us to bond – a reason for us to socialize on a personal basis, and not just talk about work! When the playoffs began this discussion increased more, and it was genuinely fun to not only share highlights of the past games, but to project ahead for the next ones. When the Hawks did finally put away Tampa Bay in game six of the finals and won the Cup again, it was especially exciting and a reason for all of us to celebrate.

What I also came to appreciate throughout the success of the Hawks this year, is an appreciation of how they were genuinely a focused team. There was very little about the individual stars, and more about how they all supported each other, even after one of them might not have had such a good game. There was no doubt, that the end goal was to win the Cup! And speaking of the Stanley Cup, I find it very interesting about all of the history associated with this trophy and how each team gets to embrace the honor of winning it by being able to take the Cup to events and even travel with it to their home towns over the course of the offseason. I am not aware of any other sport that has this tradition, and it truly is a fantastic way for teams to engage with all of their fans and supporters.

Another huge inspiration from this victory was the celebration that took place within Chicago after the victory. It was estimated that 2 million people attended the parade and rally – with people lining up at Soldier Field for the presentation as early as 5 am! Compare this to the 400,000 that showed up for the Golden State Warriors parade after winning the NBA championship, and you can see what it means to be a Blackhawks fan. The loyalty and support were fantastic, and this was duly noted by all of the players, coaches and team owner, Rocky Wirtz, who went out of their way to  express thanks to all of their fans – many times over even.

I found all of this to be very refreshing and genuine, which is not often found now days in professional sports. All too often it is about the superstars and all the money that they make, or the individual records that they set. To truly get inspired and learn from our sports heroes, it takes teamwork and the right attitude. I tip my hat to the Chicago Blackhawks and hope that they can do it again next year!

What sports teams are you a fan of, and why is it that they inspire you?

Paying Attention to the Generational Trends…

portrait of grandparents with their family

As a small business owner I am continually looking at and reading about trends that affect my business, and just as importantly that affect my clients as well – especially when it comes to marketing. One area that I have found very interesting to look at is information with regard to generational trends. Recently I was reading a report on “The Next Generation of American Giving” published by Blackbaud – a major technology and software firm serving the nonprofit and education markets, and this provided the inspiration for this blog post along with some other sources. While the report was specific to fundraising, I believe that some of the information I am highlighting today can apply to pretty much any business.

As a printer by trade, I was very interested to read with regard to the effect that direct mail had amongst the various generations. Admittedly the trend is for more online giving, even for the Boomers (born 1946 – 1964), and yet both Gen X (born 1960-1980) and Gen Y (born 1981-1995) say that direct mail is a perfectly acceptable medium of communication. I had also read recently that the Millennial generation actually finds mail to be preferred over other media forms (Valassis Shopper marketing report).

The report also found that multichannel marketing is the “new normal.” While the ideal mix varies between generations, even the Matures (born 1945 and earlier) give online (27%), view videos (22%) and read or post to  blogs (9%). Important ways to stay in touch for the Gen Y’s is to visit an organization’s website (44%) and receive e-mails or e-newsletters (34%), while all of these percentages drop in importance for the Gen X’s and even more so for the Boomers and Matures. An interesting note was that while receiving a text message was pretty low on everyone’s interest, both the Gen X and Matures ranked this media format the same, at 4%!

Social Media is definitely growing as a way to communicate and share information, and as you might expect, the Gen Y group places the most importance on this at 29%, then 20% for Gen X and only about 5% for Boomers. This will likely change in the future and become even more prevalent amongst all generations, and as the report highlighted, while then number of Boomers might not be that great right now, the ones who are connecting will matter a lot in the future. Word of Mouth sharing of information also seems to be much more comfortable for the younger generations as compared to both the Boomers and Matures.

When it comes specifically to giving, both the Boomers (43%) and Matures (26%) are by far the strongest generations. And while the Gen X outpace the Gen Y’s, it is not as much as you may think. It is interesting to note that the Gen Y’s would plan to increase their giving at a higher level than all other generations, and would also be more inclined to give to more different charities than the other groups!

There is so much more to look at when it comes to how different generations react within the marketplace, and I suspect for each business it might vary as well. We should all be very conscious of not only how generations react to marketing trends, but how our own employees look to engage with our clients and prospects. For sure we need to make sure we are communicating in the ways that our clients best react, and at the same time make sure we recognize that all of our future clients will likely be those from the younger generations!

How do you interact with the different age groups?


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