By k | September 20, 2011 - 6:00 am - Posted in New Business Development

Recently, Jim Sinegal,
founder and CEO of Costco stepped down.

I’ve talked about Costco before
and there’s a reason why.

According to Jena McGregor
“Despite the poor economy,
customers kept paying
the $50 to $100 annual fees
for the privilege of shopping at Costco:
87 percent renewed
their memberships in 2010.
He laid no one off during the recession,
other than short-term staff
for holidays and store openings.”

I renewed my Costco membership this year.
I didn’t renew my Sam’s Club membership.

Why?

Because I feel good shopping at Costco.
I know I’ll get a fair price
(Costco’s policy is to mark up products
less than 15% of the cost
- which is DARN low)
and I’m buying from a company
that treats its employees well.

Costco don’t have
any public relations people on staff
but then
when you treat people fairly,
you don’t need a big PR department.

There IS a benefit
to treating people fairly.

By k | September 19, 2011 - 6:00 am - Posted in Marketing

The Open Forum
has a great post on
5 Things You Should Never Do In Social Media.

One thing not to do
is buying friends and followers
and by buying,
we don’t always mean money.

“Advertising to build an audience is one thing,
but there are plenty of unscrupulous offers
to buy friends, fans or followers
by the thousand.
As tempting as they may be,
in most cases
they are a waste of your time.
Sure, you may be able to boast
some extra followers,
but usually they will be unqualified
and relatively useless.”

I found this out the hard way
with one of my pen names.
I offered freebies
to my mailing list ALL the time.

Did my sales go up?
Nope.
But my mailing list sure did.
It was filled with freebie hunters
and contest hounds,
not book buying readers.

Customers you have to buy
are unlikely to buy anything from you.

By k | September 18, 2011 - 6:00 am - Posted in New Business Development

One of the banes of a
non-U.S. based author
is getting a blasted
ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number).
The process appears easy
EXCEPT
that the odds of an application
being accepted
is low.

I’ve been rejected twice
and the IRS gave me different reasons
both times.

This is a number used to help track
the flow of money
out of the U.S.

Not having a number does not stop
the flow of money.
I’m still getting paid.
All it stops is the tracking.

So creating this hurdle
is only hurting the IRS.

Look at the hurdles you’ve created
for vendors, employees, customers.
If they refused to climb over these barriers,
who is hurt?
If the answer is you,
consider making these hurdles lower
or eliminate them completely.

By k | September 17, 2011 - 6:00 am - Posted in Sales

A couple of weekends ago,
I was at a Ferrari dealership in Florida.
I asked the salesman
how business was.

I expected to hear “slow”
or “okay.”
The recession is deep.
Hurricanes are causing worry.
That’s not usually a great mix for luxury sales.

I heard “terrific!”
The dealership sold 8 cars last month.
That’s 8 cars priced at $200k plus each.

Then I went to a high end department store.
It was empty.
So I asked how business was.
The saleswoman responded
“Not great. The recession, you know.”

No, I don’t know.

What I did know
was they carried many of the same brands
as other department stores
and they had no sales
or other excitement.

If folks are buying Ferraris,
the luxury market is in good shape.
If that’s your target customer,
and your sales are slow,
look for another reason
other than the recession and weather.

By k | September 16, 2011 - 6:00 am - Posted in New Business Development

“I would never work for XYZ.
They’re destroying the environment.”

But that’s EXACTLY why
you SHOULD work for XYZ.
It is easier to steer the ship
from inside the vessel.

Like the environmentally conscious folks
at Coca-Cola have done.
PET bottles have been a concern
for many employees
since they were first rolled out.

They’ve tried different things
to make PET bottles more environmentally friendly.
Their latest invention
is the plantbottle
which is up to 30% plant based
and is 100% recyclable.

Will it be the last environmentally conscious change
within the Coca-Cola company?
Nope.
The employees responsible for the plantbottle
are still working for Coca-Cola.

If you want to make a change,
it is easier to do
from INSIDE the company.

By k | September 15, 2011 - 6:00 am - Posted in New Business Development

I recently sold a western romance.
Last year,
there wasn’t a market for western romances.
But a couple of months ago,
I saw publishers had added that category to their websites.
I wrote the story.
I sold the story.

Before Christmas,
I watch the toy aisles at Target.
When I see an entire section
set aside for a particular type of toy,
I know that toy will be popular.
It may not be the hot toy of the season
but sales will be respectable.
These are normally the toys
I purchase for the holiday toy drives.

The folks running
publishing houses, grocery stores,
department stores,
aren’t dumb people.
Shelf space is valuable.
Focus is valuable.

So when a new category is added,
we all should pay attention.

By k | September 14, 2011 - 6:00 am - Posted in Marketing

In the romance world,
we know there are some trademarks you can use
as long as you portray them
in a positive, happy light,
and there are some trademarks
you never ever touch.

One trademark not to touch is Disney.
Disney will sue publishers to the ground.

The other is Hells Angels.
They’re even scarier than Disney
and AS aggressive about trademark protection.
(Ironically, Hells Angels has sued Disney
in the past
for trademark infringement)

Ask Amazon.
Recently they were sued
for selling a “My Boyfriend’s a Hells Angel” shirt.

As their lawyer states
“Hells Angels is a membership mark,
and it denotes membership
in the organization.”
“Even the Hells Angels do not put it
on T-shirts they sell to the public.”

Respect the trademark of others
as you’d want them
to respect your trademark.

By k | September 13, 2011 - 6:00 am - Posted in Marketing

In September/October’s edition
of The Costco Connection,
Arlene Dickinson,
CEO of Venture Communications
talks about her company
and what marketing TRULY is.

“We created a niche
and identified an opportunity
to talk about marketing
as a business endeavor
- it’s art for the sake of commerce,
not art for art’s sake.

We were one of the first agencies
in Canada
to say
this is what marketing really is.
It’s not just about winning awards
for your creative.
It’s about delivering results
for your client.”

BTW… for all the single moms out there
thinking about going into business,
Arlene Dickinson first got into selling advertising
because a family court ruled
that until she could support
her four children financially,
she couldn’t have full custody of them.

She hustled.
She got a job selling advertising
at a TV station.
She landed a partnership
in a start-up marketing firm,
and the result was
Venture Communications.

She did it.
You can too.

By k | September 12, 2011 - 6:00 am - Posted in New Business Development

Jane Pitt has a great article
on historic entrepreneur
Martha Matilda Harper.

On of Harper’s lessons?

“Capitalize on your Assets
— Don’t assume your assets are money.
Women rarely have enough.
For Harper, it was her floor-length hair.
She hung a photograph of herself
in front of her pioneering hair and skincare salon
so that women might be attracted to come in.”

I often say that money
is the least important asset.
It is the output
of putting your other assets
to work.

If the only asset you have
is money,
odds are…
you don’t have much of a business.

By k | September 11, 2011 - 6:00 am - Posted in Marketing

Black Dog Strategy has a great post
on narrativity
and why it is important.

“Narrativity is the
voice, tone, and verbiage
you use to tell that
vivid, appealing, authentic story.
Narrativity is like
a person’s distinct vocabulary
and speech pattern.
It’s the words and phrases you own,
and it’s what makes you sound like you,
instead of just like everybody else.”

(It also is a made up word
but then at one point,
every word was a made up word)

How to achieve this voice consistency
in a large company?

In the large beverage company
I worked at,
each product had ONE brand manager.
The brand manager put her touch
on all the communications for her product.

James Patterson does the same thing
with his books.
He takes a book one of his people has written,
and puts the James Patterson touch on it
before slapping his name on the cover.

Hey, it works.

Another way to achieve this
is to have a brand bible.
This is a database of words the brand uses
images associated with the brand,
and things the brand would or would not do.

When writers participate in
a multi-author series,
a brand or series bible is a must.
It ensures that all writers
are playing in the same world
with the same characters.
It is added to
as the brand/series matures.

Consistency is a must
when growing a brand,
but so is being original.
Figure out a method
to balance the two.