Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To Discount or Not To Discount?

If one word ruled 2011 marketing, it would be "discounts". From Groupon to LivingSocial to a dozen-plus other options, business owners had the chance to draw in new customers...but at deeply discounted rates.

Discounts are a fine-edged sword. Many business owners worry that discounts and/or participating in a program like Groupon bring in "low quality" customers: customers who might come once (at the deeply discounted rate), and then never come back again. What's more, these "low quality" customers often suck up time, energy, and effort the business could be spending on "high quality" customers.

So are these programs worth it? The answer, of course, is "it depends."

Here's one business's success story with a low-rate program, one that produced unexpected positive consequences.

The Wine Country Inn is a high-end Napa Valley boutique hotel. It has 24 rooms and five luxury cottages. Guests come from all over the world to stay at the Inn and experience all that the Napa Valley has to offer. The Wine Country Inn had great occupancy during its "high season" -- during the harvest months of September and October, and during holiday weekends. But as with almost all businesses these days, it is continually seeking ways to book business during the off-season and during weekdays.

After much consideration, the Innkeeper, Jim Smith, partnered with LivingSocial to create and then offer to LivingSocial members a Wine Country Inn-specific offer for December 2011 - March 2012. Here are the good things that have happened to date from this LivingSocial program:

* The Inn sold more than 100 of the LivingSocial special offers, driving business to the Inn during the very-quiet months of December and January and beyond.

* Yes, the LivingSocial guests have been younger than the Inn's traditional guests. But this has led to several benefits:

~ These younger clients, having loved their stay at the Inn, are highly likely to return at later dates, when they are more financially well off (and at regular rates).

~ These younger clients are much more social media-oriented. The Inn's Facebook "Likes" have jumped dramatically, as has the number of people who have "checked in" via Facebook. This offers the Inn a great opportunity to expand its Social Media marketing efforts over time.

~ These younger clients are promising to tell their friends about the Inn...and also their parents, who ARE the Inn's primary demographic market.

Utilizing a discount program must be done carefully -- you don't want to de-value your offerings, or attract only "discount seekers". But as seen with the Wine Country Inn, partnering with the appropriate partner can generate new revenue and new customers, and lead to positive unanticipated results.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Notes from a Google Conference

I recently attended a three-day marketing conference focused on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) in general, and the 800-lb gorilla in this field, Google. Here are some of my key marketing-related takeaways from this event:
* Every business that wants to build an online reputation/following MUST understand and utilize Google.
* Bing will become a bigger and bigger SEM player.
* Facebook offers a plethora of marketing opportunities, including very targeted advertising.
* People LOVE testimonials. These should be placed on a company's web site home page.
* People REALLY LOVE video testimonials.
* Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a combination of: SEO (organic searches, driven by high-quality content/keywords), links, and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.
* Google still places a high priority on links, both having links on your web site and, even more importantly, having links to your web site on other web sites relevant to your business.
* The highest marketing return-on-investment (ROI) still comes from email marketing done to existing customers.
* What is the second largest search engine behind Google? YouTube. Be there or be...lost.
To learn more about Google and online marketing, please contact me at (707) 568-7322.
To online success!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Winning in Your Niche

Here is a link to a recent article I wrote for the Riches in Niches blog, talking about web content and Search Engine Marketing:


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Element of Surprise

I've been drawn to Chef Eric Ripert (see pic) of Le Bernardin in New York City for the simple fact that Le Bernardin has, in my opinion, a KILLER web site. (I've been researching web sites for a client, who is in the process of re-designing their own site.) The Le Bernardin site features fantastic photography, great navigation, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the "background sounds" on the cuisine page. Killer, killer, killer.

And then last night I happened to see Chef Ripert on a food/travel show, and he said something during a meal that really struck home with me: He said (and I'm paraphrasing a bit), that during a special meal, people "...want to be surprised, and to have an experience." Yes and yes!

One of the great delights I have when dining out is to see something new/different on the menu. And then when I try this new "thing" and its fantastic, yes! (I had this experience recently at the French Garden Restaurant in Sebastopol. I tried, for the first time, their Salmon Rillette, and WOW -- fantastic!...to the point where I have now sought out the perfect glass of wine to go with it, for my next visit.)

Chef Ripert's comments go beyond food and restaurants. EVERY BUSINESS could benefit by focusing on "surprise" and "an experience." All consumers WANT to be (pleasantly) surprised (at the quality of customer service) and have a great (buying) experience.

Want your restaurant -- or business -- to grow? Create surprise and a great experience for your customers, and it will.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One New Idea

Here's one idea from Tim Polk Communications to help jump-start your marketing efforts:

People Still Read (Really?) Newspapers

Yes, they do. For local marketing efforts, don't neglect the power of your local newspaper. With staff and budget cuts, and the addition of online blogs, newspapers and reporters are LOOKING FOR CONTENT. This is particularly true for restaurants, as most papers have a food and wine section. One of my clients recently ran a week-long special, and tracked (via a customer survey) where people heard about the special. A few said our radio ads, a few were regulars...but the vast majority of customers said that they saw the short (three paragraph) note in the local newspaper's Food & Wine section.

To get short notices -- or, perhaps, an actual article -- in your local newspaper, consider the following:
1. Send short, concise, fact-based information in an email.

2. Send the email to a specific person (most newspapers and blogs now list email addresses, either in the paper itself or on their web site).

3. Include your information in the body of the email, NOT as an attachment (too many concerns about viruses, causes extra steps, etc.).

4. Send information regularly.

5. Don't take it personally if a mention about your news-worthy event did not make the paper; keep sending news notes.

Good luck with your PR efforts!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Site for Authors Launches

I'm excited to be a part of a new web site/service created to assist authors with writing/editing, publishing, and marketing. Check it out!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

P + F = Success

Three weeks from today, my client, Silverado Brewing Company, begins their biggest week-long celebration of the year: their annual Oktoberfest celebration. (That's our head brewer, Ken Mee, in the pic to the right. Funny hats are a part of our Oktoberfest tradition.) Not only do we feature daily German food specials (all of which go great with our special Oktoberfest lager), but we put on two big special events: a Community Dinner (where we turn the restaurant into a giant beer hall) and a Brewer’s Dinner (where we pair five courses with a different Silverado beer).

As the Marketing Guy, I should be SLAMMED, right? I should be CRAZY.

No, I’m not. It’s all good. In fact, the focus of our marketing meeting tomorrow will be to begin discussing the components of a new customer loyalty (locals) program we want to implement soon.

So why am I NOT c-r-a-z-y? Preparation. We began planning Oktoberfest six weeks ago. During that time, we created the various flyers, email blasts, press releases, and Facebook/blog posts that we will use to publicize this event. We also work off of a checklist complete with due-by dates. As a date comes up…boom—the marketing element, already created, is simply implemented. The only outstanding Oktoberfest item at this time is a postcard, and that is due to go to the printer by Monday.

Want more bang for your events? Prepare. Use a checklist. Meet regularly to review goals, timelines, and resolve any issues. Get the word out in as many different ways and formats as possible.

If you do these things, not only will your event be more successful, it will be much less stressful.

Preparation + Fun = Success