Feature Articles: Business Sense

This time last year I told you about my adventures as a buyer (or more accurately, the plus-one to the actual buyer) at a national trade show. In “Putting Relationships at the Heart of Your Sales Strategy”, I nailed a few exhibitors to the wall for failing to remember that we buy from people we like. Well, a few weeks ago it was my turn on the other side of that scenario. So as we approach the Spring ’13 shows, I hope you find my observations constructive for your business.

Free is good. Who doesn’t agree with that? Publicity is often perceived as free advertising, and as such is highly sought after by anyone looking to get their brand name out there. Those attempting to get media coverage, however, soon learn that it’s anything but free. Instead of paying directly for placement, as is the case with advertising, costs related to Public Relations (PR) are indirect, such as a publicist’s fee. In addition, even the best publicist can’t guarantee placement, because there are a myriad of factors that come into play when a company gets mentioned in the media.

When King Solomon was posed with an opportunity to receive anything he wanted, instead of riches or power, he chose wisdom. The King realized that wisdom was far more valuable than anything else he could have chosen. Ultimately he attained both power and riches, likely as a result of his wisdom, affording him the ability to make better decisions. Market research yields wisdom. That said, it is often overlooked either because it’s believed to be too costly or not truly necessary. Truth is, market research is one of the most important activities a company can pursue.

If you’ve been reading my columns, you already know I watch too much TV. I’ve confessed my addiction to “Shark Tank” and “All on the Line” here before. And now, I’m on a new trip: “The Pitch.” In this one, viewers travel along as two advertising agencies vie for the same client. The show isn’t perfect, but it’s a nice bit of escapism grounded in reality. During each episode, the client introduces its company and ad dilemma — like how to create one campaign to suit multiple brands or how to build excitement around a new product launch. Then it’s up to the agencies to pitch a winning idea.

We assume those who are quite persuasive are those who can “sell umbrellas in the desert.” When we think about an umbrella, we think of rain and then jump to the conclusion that if someone is able to sell something that is useless to a group of people, as with the umbrellas for desert dwellers, they must be good — right? Wrong! People who manage to convince us to buy items we don’t need may be persuasive, but they won’t hold our trust for long. On the other hand, those truly persuasive individuals who are able to sell umbrellas in the desert are people who can see our true wants and needs and either offer or repurpose a product to satisfy those desires.

It has long been said that imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. But in business, unauthorized “imitations” cost companies immeasurable sums in lost sales and damage to their reputations. Most companies likely will not find it particularly flattering when a counterfeiter imitates or incorporates a valuable brand name or trademark in a domain name with the goal of misdirecting consumers to its ersatz website. Like in a Whack-A-Mole game, cybersquatters keep popping up.

Recently style watchers have been preoccupied with Coachella, the music and art festival that wrapped up last weekend. These days the event is almost as well known for its see-and-be-seen street style snaps as it is for mashing up different genres from hip hop to electronica. But while everyone was preoccupied with what starlets like Kate Bosworth were wearing, I took note of the cross-promotional opportunities these events afford artists.

In sales, the end goal is to close the deal and write that order. Sadly, many sales professionals and novices alike are so fixated on the order that they overlook the process and are often shut down mid spiel. If you’re looking to get to the close, you have some homework to do before you approach the retailer. There will be some thoughtfulness to consider before and as you talk to the retailer, as well as some hustling to do after you leave the retailer. To help remember this process, I’ve broken down the word C.L.O.S.E.

It’s that time of year again. March Madness. No, I’m not talking about college hoops. I’m referring to the high-stakes arena of fashion magazines. Second only to the September issues, March scores the most advertising revenue each year, as design houses drop huge sums for the chance to showcase their spring lineups. In the ad game, money doesn’t decide the winner. Your publicity machine — be it print ads, paid blogger sponsorships or television spots — can only put points on the board if it reinforces your brand and pre-sells your goods. In advertising, ROI, or return on investment — both the tangible and intangible kind — is the ultimate goal.