You sent the Email, but will they read it?

Ok, so a recent poll I looked at on Linked In estimated that most mid-to senior level executives get between 125-175 emails a day. That's just an average! So...when it comes down to it, you call and get voice mail. You write and have nothing but a Fed Ex delivery receipt to account for your message getting there, and you email and what have you got? You're in line...behind or among 174+ other emails DAILY! Sigh...So how are you supposed to set yourself apart from the competition, even when the other emails have nothing in common with yours? Face it, you are in competition with EVERY email...even those MailerDaemon emails because you are competing for TIME. Tick Tick Tick.

So how DO you make the cut?

Here are some Tips:

1. Get Personal. Image personalization is still a novelty on post cards, but is far beyond a novelty in emails. It can be used to spark an immediate emotional connection and has been known to result in a 10-15% return on response.

2. Have a strong subject line. you have about 54 characters to make this count! You know the old WIIFT (What's in it for them)? Tell them what's in it for them here! Tighter than twitter by half the size, you need to be pretty concise but comprehensive. The ultimate impossible task? I think not! Get creative!

3. Use the most familiar Sender Email you have. Your email prospect will open the emails he or she recognizes first. If you have a personal relationship, use a personal email address. Stay away from the impersonal info@ and news@ email sender addresses.

4. Create a Sense of Urgency. Catch their attention with your subject line and familiar sender address. Have a strong call to action in the first paragraph of your email.

5. Keep it brief. Don't use an email to oversell the virtues of a product or service. That's what the personal touchpoint is for. Be brief and give prospects a place where they can find more info, opt in to receive future communications from you, or a phone number to call you.

6. Branding!!! Every message you send must incorporate your brand in some way. It can range from the complex- like video and FLASH- to the utterly simple, like a logo, customized signature or slogan. The point is, you want each e-mail to be immediately associated with you.

Social Media is Word of Mouth on Steroids

A price averse prospect posts a miffed “review” on a ratings site, smacking a respected company with a public black eye. An architect writes in a Linked In Group that remodeling prices are way down, spurring a feeding frenzy of homeowners expecting deep discounts. An employee lists where he works on his obscenity-laced Facebook page, prompting prospective clients doing due diligence on the company to write it off in a hurry.

Whether or not you’ve embraced social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and/or blogs, it’s becoming essential to actively listen to them. Online conversations are windows into unfiltered opinions, experts say — insights that can help you improve, as well as to engage and build trust on a personal level. So, to get started...

Create automatic alerts. Free tools such as Google Alerts can reveal when your name (or other search term, including your competitor) appears in a variety of public online media.

Surf and increase cross postings. At least weekly, search for your name on consumer-driven ratings sites, from Yelp! to the Better Business Bureau.

Join community listservs; when relevant, respond to queries in your groups with helpful, non-salesy advice and insights.

Promote glowing reviews. Encourage strong clients and trade partners to visit the sites and share their perspectives on your company.

Keep a level head. For negative comments, if you know the poster, politely call and ask if there is anything you can do to change their impression. If a review is flagrantly untrue or is posted by someone you believe is not a client, you might be able to contact the site and challenge the post’s legitimacy. Otherwise, just use the opportunity as a way to prove the excess of your customer service and grace by responding with a “higher road” reply offering to make right whatever the poster seems to have had a problem with. Be careful; rebuttals can sometimes sound like a dogfight and only put you in a defensive position. This is the opposite of the goal you should have.

Younger employees help senior executives unlock social media mystery

Both groups benefit in reverse-mentoring programs

From 10/25/09 Chicago Tribune Online
By Barbara Brotman

Janet Cabot couldn't wait to show Ashley Spohn her latest accomplishment.

"I am so all over this Delish thing," Cabot bubbled, punching up on her computer in her office at Edelman, a Chicago-based public relations firm.

"Oh, you're doing so well!" Spohn said delightedly, counting the recipes Cabot had collected on the food lovers' Web site. "Look, you've got so much!"

Her pride was as evident as the exchange was notable. Though Cabot, 56, is Edelman's central region president with more than 30 years in the business, she is the student. Spohn, a 23-year-old account executive on the firm's digital team, is the teacher.

Many organizations eager to strengthen their presence in the online world have discovered that they have the perfect consultants on their staffs: 20-somethings who live in that world.

"We grew up with social media," said Matthew Clay, 23, a media executive at Edelman. "We spent eight hours every day on AOL IM." For more of this article, click here!

How to reach moms in the marketplace!

Great post on by Stacy DeBroff who is founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting (, about how to target moms.

• Moms increasingly go online to connect with like-minded Moms, actively seeking out friendships online to fill the void of a lack of best friend or strong inner circle. Brands now have an opportunity to pull them together in forums with others who share their interests. The result? Increasing loyalty to brands that facilitate Mom-to-Mom connectivity.

Key Take-Away: More than ever, brands should focus on providing Moms with opportunities for connectivity, both online and offline, rather than just information, expertise or coupons. Tactics such as forming Mom Ambassador programs offer them significant opportunities to build relationships and leads them to effusively thank the brand for bringing them together.

• Geo-Targeted Local Gatherings: With the frenzied pace of today's Moms, many women find that friendships and relationships often fall to the wayside. With just 19% living in the community where they grew up, Moms desperately seek new connections and they struggle: 58% report experiencing loneliness in the past month, and 4 out of 5 need more friends in their lives. Offline events give them the opportunity to meet fellow Moms they know from online communities.

Key Take-Away: In developing Mom-focused consumer campaigns, brands have to think locally while reaching globally. Robust geo-targeted programs with both online and offline components enable Moms to relate brands to their daily lives, and offline events help them build local relationships and connections with fellow Moms in their communities.

• Rise in Social Network Participation Due to Friendship Seeking: Millions of Moms turn to sites like (Mom groups), along with Twitter (shared passions), Facebook (reconnections with family and friends) and Linked-In (business-related) for connectivity.

Key Take-Away: By facilitating connectivity and community on these platforms, brands can build tremendous and lasting loyalty among their Mom brand enthusiasts.

For a copy of this research study, please contact Tracey Hope-Ross, VP Social Media and Research: or 617-244-3002. Freakin' Genius Marketing can help you leverage relationships with this integral target market- from list development to social network participation, we have you covered.

The Very Important

Yesterday, I met with an entrepreneur who owns a healthy IT business. He contacted me to network a bit. He shared some wonderful leads with me and then we brainstormed as he discussed some growth opportunities and ancillary business ideas he is exploring.

When our meeting ended, and we walked towards the door, for a moment my balance was askew. It was then that I realized there was something that just felt different. It took me a few moments, but as I shook his hand and looked into his eyes, I got it! I realized WHY this meeting had been so different.

For 10 months, perhaps even longer, 90% of my meetings with clients have been to discuss and offer strategic support for their struggling and sometimes desperately faltering businesses. Their product repackaging, their lead generation reinvention, their reinvestment of greatly reduced marketing dollars, and their downsized staff restructuring. Here, was a meeting in which the topic of the “truly urgent” was not at hand. He wasn’t looking for strategic insight on his day-to-day marketing, his customer profile, or his changing channels of distribution, he was looking to brainstorm his strategic plans for growth in the next 3-5 years and beyond. It was a paradigm shift for me. He was, indeed, addressing the “very important” of his professional life.

Perhaps this is a sign that the economic downturn is waning?

I am excited to work with this new client on his “future scope” of potentially exciting new opportunities and am grateful for the recognition that I can be a strong resource for him.

I have hopes that in the next few months more people will approach Freakin’ Genius Marketing with longer-term matters, shifting from their “truly urgent” hats to their “very important” suits! The difference is really about making the choice of not letting their businesses run their lives, and instead building the business of their dreams. Addressing the “very important” means preparing for the future, and that future is looking better and better every day.

The Freakin' Word: Spotlight on Genius in Action

The Freakin’ Word's Lori Gertz
Lynne Jankovec, owner of Olivias Past, www.located in Long Grove IL

FG: What is the secret to your sauce Lynne? 17+ years in a historic town that is off the beaten path with minimal shopping hours, and a shrinking retail base? How do you do it?

LJ: My store has a cozy feeling and is merchandised to make the shopping experience both relaxing and exciting at the same time. Many people have described it as a “treasure hunt” through the small space that is packed with interesting clothing, jewelry, art and gifts. My customers are loyal and come to shop frequently because the size of the shop enables me to turn over the merchandise and feature new lines regularly. The secret to my sauce is a combination of people who enjoy shopping the quaint shops and the historic ambience of Long Grove plus those who know I have my finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s stylin’ for my demographic market.

FG: You are a rock solid buyer and have a real nose for clothing trends, how did you define your market? Did your merchandise self define or did you decide who you would buy for?

LJ: I buy from my heart using instinct. I love creating a versatile merchandise base of fun and interesting options for non-cookie cutter shoppers. My demographic is wide, so I have to be cautious to vary the merchandise for an array of shoppers.

FG: What have been the greatest customer acquisition methods you have used to build your loyal base of customers?

LJ: Word of Mouth! Yep, word of mouth and repeat business from my loyal customers is the biggest part of my success.

FG: What would you say is your greatest point of difference?

LJ: I’d like to think it’s my merchandise mix and my bubbly personality that differentiates me from other small boutiques. There is definitely a cache to my location in a tourist driven town though.

FG: Your store’s eclectic interior, like the cottagy exterior, is so unusual. What part of the customer’s experience in your store is sensory and what part is driven by a clothes shopping expedition?

LJ: I hear a lot of comments all the time about how much people love the “feel” of the store. I use a particular air essence and it has its very own sensory trademark, but honestly, it’s hard to say what “makes” any shopping experience…it’s a very personal thing.

FG: Tell me about what the general sense of business owners in Long Grove is as it relates to weathering the downturn in the economy.

LJ: As it relates to the national average, the empty storefront rate is below the average. Meaning, Long Grove is doing better than the average downtown shopping areas around the country. Of course, there’s a lot more creativity in marketing the town through the merchants association, of which I am a part. It’s a great group of committed business owners dedicating themselves to keeping the spirit of this historic place alive.

FG: Given that Long Grove has gone to event marketing, do you find yourself creating marketing tactics in line with those events, or are yours rather, in spite, of the events. Some events would include the annual Long Grove Strawberry Festival, Apple Festival, Chocolate Festival, etc.

LJ: The creative events sponsored by the town of Long Grove are great for driving traffic but we also plan many of our own events that we think appeal to our customers. Trunk shows of up and coming jewelry artists, fashion shows, private parties, have all helped us to create traffic for ourselves.

FG: What is the best tactic for getting your existing customers to visit?

LJ: Personal relationships are key. When I get a new item in, I CALL, yes, the old fashioned way of reaching out, I pick up the phone and call my customers to tell them when something arrives that I know they will love. I enjoy the direct contact with customers and am utilizing email to reach them with news of new and interesting items, promotions in the store, etc.

FG: Tell me, what would you advise if someone just starting out in the specialty women’s clothing business came to you and asked for advice?

LJ: Retail, especially women’s clothing, is a very difficult business to break into. It is most important to set your goals, be aware of your market, monitor expenses, and most importantly, follow your instincts. This is not a business whose success can be defined by a spreadsheet. It is one of passion, determination, and a LOT OF LUCK!

How to Best Measure Your ROI Using Google Analytics

by Jeremy LaDuque

Google Analytics is a free service that produces statistics about the visitors to a website. It can track visitors from which search engine or website they were referred by, email marketing, online PDF documents, and pay-per-click networks.

1. Understanding Traffic Building Behaviors through Statistics
If you know which online campaigns, keywords, and adwords are working and which ones are not, you can focus on the tactics that have been proven successful and change the ones that are not producing sales.

2. How to Build Meaningful Reports
Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) help you track what matters. Every industry is different, therefore goals are different. The best way to track KPI’s is to come up the ones that are useful in reaching your goal.

Here are some examples of formulas used with these goals in mind:

Have more people visit the website: Visitors > Visitor Trending > Absolute Unique Visitors
Ensure there’s a return on marketing efforts: Traffic Sources > AdWords > AdWords Campaigns Have more people buy products and/or services from the website: E-commerce > Conversion Rate
Have more people register to be a user on the site: Goals > Conversion Rate
Determine your newsletters’ effectiveness: Goals > Conversion Rate
Increase the percentage of returning visitors: Visitors > New Vs Returning
Increase the number of “branded visits”: Visitors > Visitor Trending > Visits

3. Establish KPI’s that measure ROI
Albert Einstein brilliantly said, “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result”. The same concept applies to your online marketing efforts. How much return on your investments are you actually getting from your online marketing strategies?
You need to determine what matters most to you (your conversion matrix) in order to decide what to track.

Here are some examples:

For Brand awareness, things to track include:
• traffic
• new visitors
• time on site

For Building leads, things to track include:
• landing page success rates
• website signups
• newsletter click throughs

For Sales, things to track include:
• conversions to sales
• abandoned cart percent

4. What is your Return On Investment for each web initiative?
• How much is email list acquisition?
• How much did the newsletter cost to design?
• How much did it cost to send out?

Twitterati Unite! Makin' Twitter Work for your Business!

Twitter.....It's getting a lot of buzz, but few know how to truly make money from this site...

You may already have a Twitter account. But there's a good chance you've missed one or more of the critical steps I'm about to explain on how to set up a Twitter profile to bring you clients.

If you don't have a Twitter account, this is your chance to jump in and start profiting within the next few minutes! Let's get started...

STEP 1: How To Sign-Up For Twitter In Under 5 Minutes
Go To (click “Sign Up Now”)
COMPLETE BASIC INFORMATION (name, username password, email)
SPECIAL INSIGHT: make your username “human/personal” NOT corporate or weird. And even though you are allowed up to 15 characters for your username, make it as short as you possibly can (10 characters or less is optimal). More on this in step 2...
DOCUMENT and SAVE your username / password.
SKIP the FRIENDS part for now...(select “Skip this step” at the bottom.You can return to SETTINGS later if you wish to do this).
SKIP the NEXT STEP (“Look who else is here...” Don't do this unless you are a celebrity's not going to bring you business in your local market).
CONGRATULATIONS (your account is tweet ready - but needs tweaking).

Don't Tweet yet, it's time to set a few things up so that you don't look like a Twidiot!

Click SETTINGS at top of your profile. (

STEP 2: How To Set Up Your Account Like a “Twitter Twenius”
That's Twitter-speak for “Genius”!
You need to optimize FIVE areas of your profile on Twitter...

A. Real Name and User NameInvest some forethought into your Twitter username. I needs to be 15 characters or less; so make it short, memorable, relevant, personable, and easy to spell. You will also be able to associate a 20 character (max) REAL NAME with your username. If you are a local business or if you use a 800 hotline, it may be possible to incorporate that phone number in the real name. You could also categorize what you do as part of your real name. This is a very visible part of the Twitter system...choose wisely.

EXAMPLE, I could use the following:
Real name = Lori G (800) 555-5555 -or- Lori (BiZStrategy) SPECIAL INSIGHT: Keep in mind that your REAL NAME is used in search results, thus it has SEO value (so think about your “keywords”).
User name = lgertz

HINT: Your USERNAME steals away character spaces when others want to “reTweet” you (re-post your Twitter message), thus a 10 character or less username is better, even though you are allowed a 15 characters max.

B. Location: Make sure you add your LOCATION, in other words, where on earth are you located? Unless you are intentionally hiding-out from the FBI or debt collectors, a Twitter location is highly recommended. If you are using your account for a local business, adding a very specific location can be extremely beneficial. People seek local connections...make it easy for them to find and follow you.

HINT: You can also search and add people in your local area who are on Twitter by using the Advanced feature of Twitter Search.

C. “One Line Bio”: Definitely optimize your 160 character BIO which appears on the upper right of your Twitter profile page. It does not have to be a typical bio, it can be an interesting message or statement if you prefer. In most cases the goal of the bio line is to get the reader to think you are “follow worthy.” Make it real, make it fun, make it interesting, make it YOU. Literally make your bio in to Twitter “follow bait.” If you are fishing for followers, the better the bait, the more followers you'll catch.

HINT: Many savvy followers find the people they want to follow by searching Twitter BIOs. With this in mind, it makes sense to pepper your Twitter BIO with keywords and keyword phrases that will attract the type followers you seek. After all, it's not followers you seek, it is “targeted followers” that want to hear what you are tweeting.

D. Picture: Make your personal picture (icon) a good one - in fact, make it great! Twitter is driven by personalities, so use a picture that expresses the “personality message” you want to get across. Logo's, text, and images without humans or animals are often too business-like and restrain the driving social force that propels Twitter.

E. Background: Upload a really interesting BACKGROUND (Twitter wallpaper image) under the “Design” tab of your Twitter set-up admin area. Here are 2 great places to look for backgrounds:

A quick search on Google Images for “Twitter Backgrounds”, “Twitter Wallpaper”, or “Twitter Templates” will likely help.
You can also check out TweetBacks for several great Twitter background templates that are easily customized.

STEP 3: How To Create a “Twitter Convincer Page” To Get Followers
Do not think that just because Twitter asks for your web address in the settings account area with the silly question, “Have a homepage or a blog?”, that this means you must put in your current web site or blog URL? In fact, in many cases that is NOT a good idea.

To get started you can link to your web site or blog. But what's even better is to enter a URL to a dedicated page made specifically to greet, excite, or manifest interest from the people that will be investigating that link. It's literally like a landing page (what I call a “Twitter Convincer Page”) and in should be designed to get people to follow you.

HINT: Your “Twitter Convincer Page” can be a simple blog post (where you create a post specifically for this purpose and link to that single blog post page), it can be a dedicated page on your web site, or it can be a profile page like a Google profile page.

STEP 4: How To “Tweet” : Interesting Topics To Get Listeners and LeadsWhat do you tweet about (post to Twitter)? Ah, that's the magical part. Now granted, what you post depends largely on your goals and purpose with Twitter, but in general this is easy... post: interesting stuff, preferably related in some way to what you do, who you are, and what you (and your followers) are interested in.

HINT: It pays to be interesting to your followers, but it pays more to be interested in your followers. Twitter is NOT a micro-advertising billboard. However, you can let your followers know if you have a new listing or an upcoming seminar for first-time long as it's interesting to the followers you attract.

Spend some time exploring other Twitter tweets and personalities. Listen to the conversations. Observe and take notes. What do you like, what don't you like? Try to ferment in your mind (and yes, a beer or glass of wine might actually help here) a “style” of Twittering that you like. Maybe you find someone's style you can mimic or perhaps you create a “mash-up” style that's all you.

Congratulations! Your Twitter account is set-up like a true Twitter “Twenius!” Here's an example of what your profile might look like...

Set up your Twitter account today to get involved in the social media “cocktail party” going on right now in your local area to maximize your exposure and grow your income.

What's in a name?

On Friday I attempted to choreograph my way through a product launch press release in which the new company, which is web based sans brick and mortar entirely, sports a domain name that is the same as the company name. The product or tool, however, a portal of sorts, didn’t really have a name. Well, I guess it had a name, the same name as the company, but I was struck with the quandary of how to distinguish between the company, the domain name and the actual product in a way that just didn't sound like gobble-de-gook in the launch release that was announcing both the new company and the new product.

It was clear that the name of the company reflects its mission. While that makes perfect sense as a company name, it’s not intuitive at all for search effectiveness, which of course, when you are a web-based tool, needs to work for you, not against you.

Anecdotally, I did a google search for the name of the company, which of course is also the domain name. I had results pages long of completely unrelated topics because the mission of this company, while being a goal, is not at all what its product is about. Using the product itself leads to the goal of the mission, but the search terms or keywords a potential customer would use would not be intuitive.

So, while the brand is effectively named…the product name was not optimized for search, which is key to driving sales on the internet.

One must always remember, a potential customer will search for what they need in terms of a description. Sometimes, if they already know a product, they will search by its name, or the domain name, but better yet, if the domain name is reflective of the product name, then the search will be that much more successful at finding the product.

So….what’s in a name? A name has as much importance as unlocking the door on the front of your brick and mortar business. You don’t want the customers peering into the window but not be able to open the door.

What do you want to achieve in 2010?

It's been a tough year....and a revolutionary decade with the evolution of Social Media and web-based solutions for nearly everything one needs.

Imagine taking control, establishing a return for every minute you invest in your company, and feeling that passion in your work again!

Freakin' Genius Marketing can faciliate your growth into the business of your dreams!

Do you want to gain awareness for your business?
Do you want to increase leads?
Do you want to nurture your current leads?
Do you want to keep in contact with current customers?
Do you want to take your business to the next level?

Email us for a free consultation!

We will help YOU make it happen in 2010!

Boost your Business with Effective Testimonials

Some of the most effective marketing doesn’t come from you at all. It comes from your past customers.

Given the insurgence of Social Media Marketing a lot of us are fast becoming word-of-mouth businesses! One way to give your marketing efforts a push up the ladder is to encourage satisfied clients to sing your praises to people they know. To achieve results, remember these two key factors:

1. You must ask them for the favor. Don’t assume that satisfied clients will automatically mention you to others with similar needs.
2. You need to make it easy for them to act on your request. If it’s a testimonial you are looking for, give them the questions you’d like them to address in it, give them a print or online form, and make it so concise an activity they can do it in 5 minutes or less.

Web Worker Daily has a short, excellent primer on the features of an effective testimonial, how to ask for them, and how to use them most effectively. Here's a few of their insights:
  • What makes a great testimonial? They give details, cut out the sugar and help answer prospects’ objections.
  • Be specific. Good testimonials don’t stop at “They did a great job” or “The product made a difference in my life.” They explain why the service did a good job or how the product made a difference.
  • Be believable. Sugary and fake-sounding testimonials tend to lead to mistrust. To make a testimonial sound as credible as possible, include details like full name, business name, web address of the business and a photo. Video testimonials add more credibility. After all, would you give a fake video testimonial?
  • Make sure the testimonial answers common concerns. When prospects consider your product or service, what barriers stand in the way of their buying from you? Testimonials that erase potential objections are incredibly useful.

Read more about what makes for good testimonials at

Heck, I hope we don't freakin' offend!

I'm laughing out loud today at all the hoo hah about the use of the word "frikkin" in a SNL skit that went awry when one of the actors accidentally said the authentic "F" word by mistake. I especially like the Chicago Tribune Daywatch email I received this morning, the subject line of which read "I'm not a Fan of Frikkin". The article, by Eric Zorn in his Change of Subject Column made me smile, as he admitted while he's not a fan of other "f-isms" he IS a fan of the F-Word in general, unless it is around children or on the airwaves. The article is here. I respect his point of view and would like to bring about some conversation from you, our loyal Freakin' Genius Marketing fans. Please tweet as you see fit, FB the question to friends...and DO Freakin' comment below! :)

The Freakin' Word: Spotlight on Genius in Action

The Freakin’ Word's Lori Gertz interviews Doug Hein, Co-Owner located in Lakemoor IL

BK specializes in all powersport parts and accessories, both new and used, from winter sports to summer boating.

FGM: Doug, you are quite a web saavy marketer. Can you tell us what came first, your brick and mortar business or your dot com? If it was your dot com, have your distribution channels changed any since moving into a fancy new and improved location? (yes, I read your blog!) If it was your brick and mortar, when did you start your accompanying web “business”?

DH: Our dot com came first. I had been selling on eBay for a few years before my partner, Mike Missak, and I started Bk Boat n Ebay was the easiest and quickest way to get a hold of customers. With eBay, you don't have to go searching for customers, millions of them search for you. It was the perfect venue for us to try our new powersports parts business idea. Once we knew that we had something and parts were selling very well, we decided to expand the business and go full time.

We started the business with $2000 ($1000 from each of us) and were VERY careful with how we spent our money. We let the business grow at its own pace rather than forcing it. We worked with what we had, which included our personal garages and some borrowed space at a friend's marina. When it made sense to get a retail location to increase our storage space, we made the move into brick and mortar.

Ebay was our bread and butter and we knew that. Anything we could sell through our brick and mortar would be gravy. The brick and mortar actually made us more reputable. There are deals that we land now that we would have NEVER been able to do in my driveway.

With a brick and mortar, we are able to be part of the community and have become a destination for people. We still sell 90% of our items on eBay and have a quick moving, fast paced attitude, that comes along with selling on eBay, but we also have a local side that is very appealing to our customers.

FGM: Tell us how you use your blog to drive traffic to your site. On that note, tell us how you utilize social media (twitter, facebook, Linkedin and YouTube) to market your business. Do you find that conversations by your customers are started there about you and your products and services?

DH: We have always been a part of social media. We each had personal pages on Myspace and started a Bk page on that site to begin with. When Facebook came out of the smoke it blew Myspace out of the water I made the move to the largest Social media site out there. Mike had already beat me and made the move earlier than I had, but once we both took the Facebook stage.....we owned it!

Word of mouth has gotten so out of hand it's outrageous! It used to be that one farmer would tell another farmer who would tell some old man who would tell his wife who would tell her friend....then the whole town would know. Now, I can update my Twitter and 400 people will know. My Twitter updates my Facebook where another 300 people see it. Those people comment, I comment back and THEIR 500 friends see it. If I post that I am having a grilled cheese for lunch, hundreds of people could know that before I am even done with my sandwich.

The internet is a great place to spread the word. I have a lot of customers that are friends of mine on facebook. I do a lot of business on Craigslist and exchange a lot of emails. I dumped all my gmail contacts into my facebook to see if any of the people that I had contacted about parts were on facebook. There were quite a few! I asked them all to be my friend and most of them replied with, "Who are you?"LOL. Fair enough. Once I explained that we exchanged emails about a certain snowmobile or part, many of them accepted my Facebook friendship.

With the use of my Blackberry, I can upload a picture of a boat or snowmobile as soon as it hits the shop. I usually have someone asking for parts from it within 10 minutes of that picture hitting Facebook.

Now, not all of those comments or connections land a dollar, but it builds a relationship. I am not "selling" this stuff to people, this is stuff that people "buy" from us. If you don't need it, I am not forcing you! We have become "the guy" in the statement....."I got a guy". That is the basis of our Social Media plan. We show what we do here, we share it with people, and we have fun doing so. All of these sites make you more accessable too. If you can't get a hold of me on the phone, you can get me in email, a forum, AIM, Facebook, Twitter, or a YouTube comment.

FGM: I met you through a link a mutual business associate and friend posted on Facebook, but I found a sassy viral blog you have created. Can you tell us about it?

DH: AAAhhh yes......the couch. is brought to you by The Couch is a 8 foot blue couch that I take on little adventures and then blog about it. I started the couch site as just a fun way to spend my spare time. It started at the doors of the Bk Boat n Sleds shop, then went around to other businesses that I knew the owners of. I was going to use that as a base so I could get some attention and those owners would share it with their friends...

FGM: Ah, sort of like the old Flex Shampoo commercial...

DH: YES. and then their friend’s friends would share it, etc etc, building more traffic for the site. Well, more and more business owners wanted the couch to come by because it was getting so much attention. I was happy to do so because A) I was able to network as we sat on the couch for the pic, and B) it is an 8 foot rolling billboard for yah, I will bring it over.

FGM: I love this concept. It’s up there with the Travelocity traveling gnome. Can you share with readers how the traveling couch got to be so viral? Was it purely word of mouth? Does word of mouth also correlate to your business success as well?

DH: Word of mouth is HUGE with both the couch and The couch is unique in that it allows us to share and experience some “down home fun” with other people. The couch is almost it's own entity. And, trust me, I am just as suprised and thrilled about the couch as everyone else is.

The feelings that you have when you see the couch are the same that I have. "What the heck? Why is that couch here? That's a great idea! This is so much fun!" I have all of those thoughts too when we are out with the couch. The only difference is that it is my couch.

The cool thing with the couch is that the place or business that we are visiting promotes that the couch is coming too. So now we are not the only ones spreading the word, the business or event that we are featuring on the blog is also promoting themselves....ON the couch!

When we got to Camp Bow Wow in Mchenry, Il we learned that the owner, had made fliers and sent hundreds of emails out on her mailing list about the couch's arrival. We went to the Thirsty Troll Brew Fest in Mt. Horeb Wisconsin and learned that we had been mentioned in 2 newspaper articles the week before! It just goes to show you how very powerful word of mouth is!

FGM: As you mentioned, I love that you post where the couch will be, with dates and locations for those “groupies” that follow you/it. Do you have followers on your blog that attend events just to be photographed on Doug’s Couch?

DH: I have some real "serious" fans of the couch. I take it to a lot of local events that a lot of my friends attend also and one of the first questions is.."Did you bring the couch?" I can't say that the couch has attained the status of having Groupies just Someday maybe, but not yet. has become a cool viral marketing tool. People wouldn't give a hoot if I was tweeting or posting “ went to the fish market today”. If instead, that blog entry or tweet was about me taking this ratty couch to the market and the guy that guts the fish sat with me ON DOUGSCOUCH.....thats a little more interesting!

The couch allows us to get your attention with something and in the meantime get the name "" out there. If you look at the couch, you can't miss the 'Bk Boats' written across the backrest. A very common question is..."What's Bk Boats?" and BAM....captive audience. You don't get that attention with a shirt or bumper sticker.

FGM: Do you have any hints for readers who want to tackle becoming “authentic” through the use of a blog and/or social media but just don’t know where to start?

DH: As dumb as it sounds, and we have all heard it before, just be yourself. That’s the best part of the internet. You can be as creative, serious, funny, or boring as you want AND THERE IS AN AUDIENCE!

I mean, I just got interviewed by YOU, FREAKIN' GENIUS MARKETING about an ugly old couch with spray paint on it that I drag around and take pictures with.

If you take it for what it is, it is a stupid idea. But it has become so much more than that. It is all about attention and doing something different. If you have an idea or a passion that you want to try....TRY IT! When I started the couch blog, I thought that no one would read it....and I was right. I dropped a link to it on a couple forums that I was a part of, I linked it on Craigslist, I added it in my email signatures and now I get about 45-100 hits a day. If you sit there and try to 'think' of a great idea, you will never have one. You need to just DO it and go with it.

If you have the passion and love for something, others will feel that and be drawn to that vibe. There will always be those people that don't understand why you do what you do or think that you are doing it wrong. Don't focus on those people. The people that DO get what you are doing and LOVE being a part of your blog or site are the ones that will give you the confidence to continue. Bottom line is to just start with something you like and the rest will follow. Blogspot is free and easy to use. When I first started.... I didn't know how to "Blog"....but now I guess I am a Blogger....go figure! lol

Social Media 101: Whose Program Comes First? The Franchisor or the Franchisee?

Note to reader: Freakin’ Genius Marketing and its sister company have multiple franchise clients weighing the social media marketing decision at this very minute. Social media marketing changes the whole game for multi-location, diverse ownership businesses. This is an article reprinted from this month’s (September ’09) Franchise Times addressing just this struggle.

By Gini Dietrich

Managing the differences between corporate and franchisee branding has been a struggle in the franchise industry. Ensuring each business owner maintains individuality and local appeal, while representing the greater whole, is a full-time job for any franchisor.

Now enter social media. The battle to achieve consistency still exists—only now the messages are pushed onto Facebook walls, Twitter streams and LinkedIn updates for everyone to read and interpret for themselves. Because the level of attention placed on companies and their business models has increased exponentially during the past year, it’s important to prepare for social media early and develop a plan.

In a survey conducted in July 2009 by Franchise Business Review, 72 percent of franchisors stated they are using social media and that 70 percent of their franchisees are, as well. But only 20 percent of those folks use social media for professional use.

Saving Face

There are many reasons to introduce your company to social media before your franchisees beat you to it. You may even be a franchisee trying to convince your franchisor to participate. By getting a head start on the game, you have the opportunity to develop consistent messaging, user names, and support groups that represent your company as a whole, not the individual franchisees. You also get to educate reluctant franchisees about the strong business possibilities social media offers and help them implement strategies into their current business model. Most importantly, you position your franchise as an industry thought leader, bringing new ideas and innovation to your business.

Below are some tactical steps you can take to bring your franchise on board with social media before franchisees do it themselves:

• Develop a set of standards franchisees should follow when starting their social media participation. For example, they should all use the same logos and colors, be involved in relevant groups and post appropriate pictures.
• Build a social media toolkit, featuring strategies on how franchisees can connect and engage with current customers and foster relationships with new customers through specific social networking sites.
• Create daily content on behalf of the corporate brand to engage all networks connected to both the corporate and individual Web sites.
• Build initial profiles and pages for every franchisee and create accounts, allowing the corporate page to automatically populate franchisee pages with company social media campaigns, including promotions, contests, and discounts.
• Remember when KFC offered its new chicken for free on one day? Local franchisees didn’t know about the offer and weren’t prepared for the masses of customers on that day. Most had to turn people away, which makes for angry customers and upset franchisees. If you have a “free” day your communication firm is promoting via traditional PR and social media, your franchisees need to know about it and be prepared for it so let them know via the traditional channels, as well as by updating their social networks.
• Make it clear you aren’t policing: The focus is on ways to use social media to promote the individual locations, rather than ways to avoid embarrassment. Make that clear to new franchisees by helping them create their networks and stress you won’t be policing.
• Provide a list of blogs they need to read. Have them subscribe via RSS for efficiency’s sake.

Finally, encourage them to subscribe to other blogs and explore their interests.
Impress upon them the importance of social media: Consistently discuss the value of social media. Use case studies of success at the franchisor level and use the Intranet and franchisee calls to share best practices and case studies with one another.

This may seem like a lot of work—you may even worry franchisees won’t be willing to jump on the bandwagon—but your efforts will pay off as your branding illustrates the same concepts, your consumer messages remain consistent, and new customers start running to your door.

Branding existing franchisees

Now you may be thinking, “But my franchisees are already on social networks, representing individual units and regions, and creating inconsistent messages. It’s too late for a corporate plan. What do I do now?”

It’s never too late for a corporate communication plan—especially when it comes to social media. You just have to change your focus. Instead of walking franchisees through the beginning stages of social media, such as creating a Facebook page, and signing on to Twitter, you can direct more of your efforts toward creating strategic messages and illustrating direct businesses successes.
One situation you should not take lightly is working with your franchisees to transform their personal social media pages to incorporated company-wide information and branding. As Paul Segreto, president and CEO, FranchisEssentials says, “It’s always best to convince rather than demand.”

If you convince franchisees that consistent branding and messaging are the best ways for everyone to succeed as a whole, instead of demand they follow new corporate policy, you will find much more success, while keeping motivation high.

Another option is to offer a financial contribution, aiming to motivate franchisees into adopting new social media strategies. While the price to activate and maintain social media accounts is very cheap, the monetary incentive helps ease franchisee tensions as they agree to relinquish their personal pages. This option also ensures the parent company owns and operates one brand identity.

Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. Use the technology to develop new relationships with potential franchisees, foster relationships with customers, recruit talent, and create brand loyalty through engagement. It’s about finding new ways to connect and communicate with people. And it’s fun. So have fun doing it!

Sustainable Marketing!

Nearly seven in 10 Americans (67%) agree that "even in tough economic times, it is important to purchase products with social and environmental benefits", and half(51%) say they are "willing to pay more" for them.* Source- BBMB Conscious Consumer Report

That's a pretty compelling reason to pump up your green efforts, especially in the face of the current economy. Going green could actually be the catalyst to finding a whole new target market you may not have been reaching with your existing marketing tactics.

Going green can create efficiencies you never dreamed of, downsized line items as they pertain to energy costs, overhead and the like. There is no question that green efforts can also be positioned to differentiate you from your competitor who may not be practicing such earth-friendly ideologies in their business.

As for attracting new customers, it's got a big hook! Just look at the numbers. 67% of Americans recognize sustainability as being an important factor in their reason behind purchases. Also, as you seek to increase loyalty in a tough market, a lot of big brands have found that there is a huge WIN factor in showing customers that green is good for them. (Examples include SunChips new 100% compostable packaging, Walmart's initiative for Roll backs on Eco-friendly products,as well as their private label brands).

Saving the planet and producing results while weathering a most challenging economy can be what green marketing is all about to your company. Take a look at what you can do to be green and then tell everyone about your commitment to the planet. You will be amazed at the response!

E-maily Post: Do's and Don'ts of Email Design

So, you've decided it's time! Whether you are undertaking an email campaign to drive traffic to your website and generate leads, build brand loyalty or obtain new customers, I say, good for you! Email Marketing is an incredibly effective medium to be successful at all of these goals.

Freakin' Genius Marketing is regularly retained to develop email campaigns from design to execution, but if you are a DIY'er or just trying it on for size, here are a few important tips to avoid the "water" hazards on the course to reaching and making an impression on your recipients.

1. Let your Brand Shine Through!

When your readers open your email, your brand should be clearly visible at first glance. Make sure your template includes your logo and tagline if you have one. If you don't, consider creating one. Brand recognition will make your email subscribers more apt to open and read your emails going forward. Synchronize the colors and fonts with your website, too. Keep it all consistent so your readers get used to seeing what comes from you looking a certain way. It fosters a relationship which is the foundation of all successful sales efforts.

2. Let them jump ship if they want to!

Opting out must be clear and easy. Losing subscribers isn't a warm fuzzy, but giving them the option to opt-out is one key to fostering that relationship I talked about in the last paragraph. It also reduces the risk of having them report you as SPAM (You definitely don’t want to get blacklisted, as a newbie or otherwise). Other alternatives such as an opt-out page, giving your subscriber the opportunity to receive your mailings 1X a month or quarterly instead of more often. Now, instead of losing your subscriber completely, you can still relay a message to them at their preferred frequency.

3. Write it right!

Don't waste time on fluff. Don't bury the lead. Get to the good stuff right away. Include a call to action or a link to a call to action. Don't send out communication that doesn't go anywhere. Your frequency and length should have an inverse relationship. Short and often! Or, if you are sending a monthly email, like a newsletter, make sure it is chock full of value-added information as opposed to having a goal of multiple lengthy articles to keep them engaged.

4. Don't leave anyone out!

An often overlooked aspect when designing an email is making sure there is an option of reading the email in basic HTML or alternative formats. This is imperative because if the email is unreadable (as is often the case on a mobile device) you risk losing them as a subscriber. Additionally, they won't be able to click on links or buy anything from your website. On that note, links are also important as they help to engage the audience, drive traffic to your website, and promote click-throughs (which is most often the analytic you will follow to estimate success of the campaign).

5. Be Consistent!

This sets expectations for the future and allows your reader to easily navigate your emails out of familiarity. They will know where to look to be able to find promotions, articles or favorite sections they've come to expect. Keep your emails clean and easy to read. This can be done by using white spaces between paragraphs, table borders, graphics, columns and sections to compartmentalize materials. No reverse type either. Maintaining a high contrast between font and background colors allows your words to pop from the screen, but reverse type doesn't translate well to screen viewing and certainly not to printing.

A good email design goes a long way! Test Test Test until you have something that you get the results from. The more you test, the easier it will become to create an email that represents you and your company in the best possible way.

If you follow these simple techniques, you will find that it will help optimize your open and click-through rates, reduce SPAM reports, and help you build your customer base. If you would like more help in designing or executing your email campaigns, contact Freakin’ Genius Marketing by emailing us at info@freakingeniusmarketing.

Just Skip It!

My 4 year old skips everywhere. It confounds me how in one moment she can be screaming bloody murder with the water works on full steam and the next moment she can be bounding for the next activity, at the height of a joyful prance. I guess this is the definition of true resilience.

It’s not as if it’s harnessed in any way….it’s so natural that it just sort of falls out of her. So, when I, like the smarty pants that I am, try to mimic it, subscribing to the fact that it will manifest the same resilience in my world, well….I just look like damn foolish.

I guess the whole thing has me looking at resistance a little bit differently. This came to me as I was running this morning, as I’m dedicated to do 3 times a week no matter what! Don’t think that commitment to running wasn’t initially met without resistance either, because it was. It’s not easy finding that time for myself in a busy day, but what I’ve found is that the hour I dedicate to running, thinking without interruption, praying, and writing in my brain makes me about 100X more productive the other 18 hours of my generally non-stop work-filled days.

So, I was running today, which I do with no Ipod, no Iphone, no distraction or friend to chat with, and no expectations and suddenly I found myself attuned to the smell of the late season clover, sound of the secadas, the wind in the leaves as it swept over the miles I could see, the birds chirping, the geese wings flapping above, the bees buzzing to my right, my sneakers as they hit the gravel at an even pace, my breath- all was synergistic. Like a puzzle, it all fit into a nice neat package of a fully realized moment in time.

Then, from out of nowhere a motor revved, a plane flew overhead, and it was an assault to that moment. I couldn’t help to think, because this is what this hour for, about how analogous this was to my business day. All that noise, but such important messages in each succinct piece. Competition of individual messages to be heard in a noisy world, that when listened to, in an attuned moment make complete sense. As a runner, in that moment I could hear it all, including the assault. But in the same moment, I was able to assess the assault, tune it out, and continue my momentum. Of course, just when I thought I had it all under control, I rounded the corner of a steepened hill and I was nearly rendered breathless when met with a wind that would barrel me full force for what would be another mile

It was in this resistance that my mind took me to my work. Ah, I thought, this wind is the negative self speak my clients have when they come to me with viable ideas and no self confidence to implement them. This wind bespeaks of naysayers and competitors trying to knock pricing into a commodity mode. This wind is trying to slow me down until my momentum merely becomes a race in time for a motionless end to my success at mental clarity. But then it came to me, my daughter…prancing along like a pony. Just Skip, the little voice inside my head prodded!

So I did.

And as I skipped, the wind that had been rushing against me fueled my prance and I found I was moving faster instead of slower. As I skipped, I began to giggle and then laugh forgetting entirely that I had been out of breath from the previous 4 miles. What a fool I must have looked like, I mused, at which point I decided to pull out all the stops and put my arms out like an airplane and zoom my way through the last half mile of the trail. When I skipped and zoomed into the parking lot, where I generally show up looking haggard albeit with an unparalleled mental clarity, I arrived joyful…feeling like I could take on another 5 miles. Well, almost. Most importantly I had this revelation about resistance, and how if you take it on like a wrestler in the ring, it can be USED as a piece of the puzzle to get you to your goal. So the next time you feel like you just can’t go that last mile, just approach it differently. What’s there to lose? And man oh man, there’s way too much to gain not to try. So, when you are next faced with resistance either from a colleague or a prospect, just skip!

Note to reader: As a practice, my business is fueled by experience. The anecdotes I often share with clients and seminar attendees have often been the moment of revelation for me or someone I work with. Associative learning is a wonderful strategy to understand new concepts in a rapidly changing world. Learning by anecdote and metaphor enables a level of understanding one might otherwise never get if forced to learn a new language and skill set.

Jumpin' on the Email Marketing Bandwagon

Ok, so you’ve decided to jump on the email marketing bandwagon. Where do you begin? With design and content quandaries, deliverability, recipient overload, bounce rates, and consumer distaste there are so many choices that if made wrong, will negatively impact click-throughs, read rates and unsubscribes.

Marketing services agencies like Freakin’ Genius Marketing can handle all aspects of your email efforts from design to execution, all while providing analytics to help increase your lead and success rate, however, if you choose to go the DIY route, you will be deluged in options and resource providers.

Below is a great 3rd party list of turnkey email providers that will not only serve as the foundation for your email campaigns, but will also house your databases safely.

Evaluate your needs and assess a number of them before making a choice. If you are html saavy or have a programmer on staff you may not have to utilize a resource like this. However, if you are looking for a bevy of templates for newsletters, e-post cards, announcements, emails, vmails, etc. then you should make sure that the templates offered by the service provider in question meets your needs. If the providers offer a free trial, give it a test spin…upload a test list and experiment with the design tools. Make sure there is a spam test and run it against your design to make sure you will be cleared.

Using a top notch service provider is imperative to your emails getting through and not ending up on a recipient ISP’s blacklist. This takes some undoing and will seriously affect your delivery rates.

Questions? Overwhelmed? Call Freakin’ Genius Marketing and we can help you create an annual campaign effort from design to implementation.

Top 50 Email Marketing Service Providers and Resources

Source: Website Magazine’s 50 Top rankings are a measure of a website’s popularity. Ranks are calculated using a proprietary statistical methodology of average daily unique visitors and page views over a specified period of time. The site with the highest combination of factors and variables is ranked in the first position.

23. M,

ROI darn it! It's all about your Return on Investment when it comes to marketing!

So...your budgets are shrinking and so is your lead generation. How do you stay visible affordably? How do you know what trigger will work to get customers shopping you again? How do you direct any money towards marketing when you have no idea how it will fare for you?

The key to knowing the answers to all of these questions is to establish a goal ROI (Return on Investment) and identify (in advance!) what your results need to be in order to make the marketing pay for itself. Direct mail is a fantastic tool to accomplish this because it is affordable, scaleable, testable, and measurable with the right foundation in place. Here are a few tips on how to make sure you build your marketing on the right foundation.

  • Know your Budget! Don’t invest a red cent until you know what you have to spend and what you need to make from it.

  • Hit the Bullseye! Mail out a highly targeted and personalized Call to Action to a known database of predetermined target prospects.

  • Try different messages and TEST TEST TEST! Divide your mailings into manageable sizes so you can assess the variables including format, offer and message. Once you find a winner based on conversion, use it as your control mailing in your next cycle of marketing.

  • Change the Channel! Integrating your message and offering it through multiple channels will enable you to reach a larger share of your marketplace. Cross market your direct mail through your website and send your mail recipient a special offer when they visit your website.

  • More More More! Increase your frequency of mailing. The magic number is 17 times a year…every 21 days you want to be in the mailbox. Studies show it can take up to 8 attempts to encourage interest in your product.

  • It’s so Clear, you can see it from the North Pole! Don’t bury your lead! Make sure your message and call to action are CLEAR!

  • Eeeny Meeny Miney Moe! Should it go in an envelope, is it a natural self mailer, or should it be in a flat package? Refer back to your budget and your goals when considering this. Think of your target market too…is it going to an office or a residence? TEST TEST TEST.
  • Stamp out overspending! Minimize postage expenses by choosing the most efficient size for your mailer- including weight (paper stock), number of pages, dimensions, etc. Ask your mailer or local post office for advice in this area.

  • Think your design through! Brand and corporate awareness are key in being memorable and making that repetitive impression. By giving all your materials the same look and feel, you quickly build a sense of familiarity with your audience! Variable print technology gives you the opportunity to deliver a branded message with a fully customized feel to the recipient.

  • No Fall Through the Crack Leads! Ok, so you got your piece out and now the leads are coming in. It’s critical to have an automated follow-up system to convert those leads into customers. Make sure you know what your plan is before you execute the campaign.

  • Measure it up! Set concrete goals of measurable success expectations before you execute the campaign. You can measure the number of responses, you can measure the number of sales, you can measure the number of visits to your website or the number of inquiries. Your measure of success is up to you and the options are enless. You set the criteria, but make sure you evaluate the success of the campaign based on a consistent measure.

When you figure out what works, you can repeat the techniques multiple times during the year against multiple target lists. The lead generation will be year round and the ROI rewards you reap will be bankable!

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Direct Marketing is Alive and Well!

How to Give em' a Hand (shake)!

After a few wimpy introductions, I've decided to take you to the very basics of social skills and perhaps give you a few laughs at the same time. How to Give a Great Handshake and How to Fist Bump are two humorous and engaging videos that do a fantastic job showing all the variations as well as the do's and don'ts of a strong handshake.

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What is Freakin' Genius Marketing?

Freakin' Genius Marketing is a strategic marketing services agency focused on teaching our clients how to use the appropriate combination of our marketing solutions to get the "who" and the "how" right. All that done, our clients can then focus on their core competence to get the "what" right. It's freakin' genius! Don't you agree?

What can Freakin' Genius Marketing do for me?

Provocative thought leadership helps businesses grow in an unstable economy. Freakin' Genius Marketing unravels the mystery to our clients’ business success complete with an in-depth plan of exactly how it will be executed. We don't just talk about it, we do it - with our clients, for our clients. As translators and excavators of human genius, we unleash the genius deep inside every client. Using these findings we develop a complete plan and solution(s) that will deliver the needed results by combining the appropriate mix of our direct marketing solutions. Brilliant, perhaps...Freakin' Genius most certainly!

Can Freakin' Genius Marketing help me with my social media quandaries?

Definitely! Whether you are confused about business applications for twitter, or curious about how to integrate your blog into your website, Freakin' Genius Marketing provides support and training and will help you integrate social media marketing into your marketing plan.

What is your "gut" potential?

Does it ever occur to you as you are about to make a business decision, or a statement to a customer or a non-sequitor remark on a phone call, that perhaps you shouldn’t? Some call it gut instinct, some call it intuition…but either way, it’s as if there’s someone sitting on your shoulder saying, “uh uh, wouldn’t do that….don’t think it’s prudent (if I can steal a Bush-ism of the HW variety)”. Often times, it’s really not so much about making the statement, but the value of not making the statement that your gut so naturally pulls at you about.

Saying too much in a meeting can often leave a potential customer or even a longtime customer feeling like your interaction was more of an opportunity for you to perform for them and not so much like you even cared to listen to them.

Those poignant moments when there are definitely things to be said, but the noise of your voice in the back of your brain says, “noooooooo” are often times of enlightenment in your professional relationships. That pause, or rethinking of how you want to position a thought or action shifts the whole dynamic often placing you in a very different position of strength and humility for that matter.

These growth opportunities are aplenty if you give your intuitive nature a chance to show you, and often times what results of them is a sense of control you would have lost had you gone in an alternative direction.

I love this zen-like approach to relating with oneself and others, whether professionally or personally. It also gives you the opportunity to really think out your second best response- which often times, is so much more valuable than the first.

Here are 8 great strategies to help you sharpen up your intuitive abilities:

1. Self-Appreciation
Intuition is your own higher perspective. Most everyone already knows that when you ignore intuition, the situation does not generally turn out so well. Allowing yourself to invite more of your intuition into your life is a powerful act of self-love. By embracing your intuition, you show compassion for yourself and make the choice to bring more positive outcomes into your life.

2. Listen To Your Body
Your intuitive messages can come in a number of forms. You may hear actual words, see a clear image, or have a deep inner knowingness. Your intuition may communicate with you in the form of hunches, insights, Aha! moments, a feeling, a sixth sense, or various types of body sensations. Set your intention to notice the many individual ways your intuition communicates with you.

3. Embrace Quietude
Intuition is initially often a quiet, gentle nudge. It generally does not shout loud enough to be heard over your stress, upset, frustration, anger, or judgement. Spending some quiet contemplative time each day is good way to strengthen your intuitive voice. Simply sit in a quiet place every day for about 1 to 20 minutes. Take a deep breath, and ask, "What is it I need to know?" or, "What will move me one step closer to a more fulfilling and meaningful life. Then be open. Release your need to think, analyze, and know everything. The best information comes from the quiet guidance of your own intuition.

4. Sit With Your Problem
Try this experiment. When something is deeply troubling you, just sit with it. Don't do anything to logically fix or solve the problem. Instead, just sit, place your intention on allowing the best possible outcome, and breathe. See if you can step away from the negative thoughts circling with frenzy within your head. Your intuition sees many creative ways to bring about a goal or bring about a positive outcome to your situation. Your job is to stop fretting and stressing with the problem, and instead place your focus on being open to amazing new potentials. Make the decision to allow your intuition to get involved in your life.

5. Play Games With Your Intuition
Play fun little games with yourself that allow intuition to expand. For example, when standing in front of a bank of elevators, ask your intuition to "tell" you which elevator will reach your floor first. If you guess correctly, make a big deal of it. Notice how good you feel and breathe into that feeling. Let yourself know that you want more of this type of intuition that feels good. It doesn't matter if your correct guess was just a fluke or actually intuition. Your purpose is not to second guess, but to build up more of what you want. If you guessed incorrectly, just shrug it off. Let your intuition know that you may have ignored it in the past, but you are now ready to begin listening and taking action on its wisdom. Have some patience with yourself. Once you decide that you want more intuitive information in your life, it will begin showing up. Allow yourself to turn those initial little successes into avenues of greater intuition.

6. Ask Intuition Based Questions
Questioning is one of the best ways to develop stronger intuition and gain clarity and insight. When getting in touch with your intuitive self, ask questions that would lead you forward into positive solutions. Ask clearly formed questions that allow clear answers. For example, you might ask, "What is the next step I could take that would bring new energy and new passion?" Intuition can bring you down paths you hadn't considered. Intuition can show you new paths to try and new possibilities. Your intuition is infinitely inventive. When listening for your intuitive answers, remember that you may get your answers from a variety of sources including hunches, coincidences, feelings, words, or even physical sensations.

7. Follow Your Hunches
Once you get an intuitive idea, decide to take action. It doesn't have to be a huge life changing action, but you can take one small, comfortable step in the direction of your intuitive guidance. On a day-to-day basis, allow your intuition to play a bigger role in your life. If you have a sense to take a left turn instead of a right turn, follow through and go left. Your goal is to create a bond of trust between your logical self and your intuitive self.

8. Journal
Writing is a gateway to your intuition. Exploring with pen and paper allows a process to unfold of reconnecting with hidden aspects of your self. It helps you speak out, allowing ideas to become tangible words. It allows vague concepts to take shape in the safety of a journal. Writing is a power tool that allows what is often locked away inside to have access into the world. It allows you to feel into your physical body and connect with intuition, creativity, and imagination. Writing allows the time to find precisely the right words or the most powerful images to express your self. It takes fuzzy or confusing images and brings them into sharp focus. Writing is an easy way to gain insight from your intuition.

Intuition is your higher perspective and guidance. Since it is an aspect of you, it holds your best interests for creating a fulfilling and meaningful life both personally AND professionally. So what’s your quiet little voice been telling you lately? Listen, learn and find that your untapped gut potential is unlimited!

Agility Training for Entrepreneurs

Today’s business section of the local Suburb paper I have delivered daily had me shaking my head.

The two main articles on the front of the Business Section spouted that Motorola executives think the “Worst (of the recession) is over”. The article under that was titled,
“Wall Street basks in glow of good reports”… But the “Biz beyond” column which saddled both articles to their left read like an obituary of big business.

The retailer Officemax reports a drop in sales, Brunswick (world’s largest recreational boat maker known for its bowling, billiard and fitness products) reported a 52% decrease in sales, Aon, (touted as the world’s largest insurance brokerage) saw an 11% profit decline, Tenneco (auto parts maker) reported a $33 million dollar loss (attributable to reduced vehicle production) and Caterpillar, who has laid off more than 30,000 workers during the recession laid off another 75 in it’s central Illinois foundry and is considering a two month shutdown.

If things are really looking up, why are so many huge companies finding it hard to stay in the positive column? All of you who jumped ship on a big corporate job to go out and become the master of your own domain know why…and the recession is only one part of the reason.

I just finished a book called Battling Big Box: How Nimble Niche Companies Can Outmaneuver Giant Competitors which succinctly explained the woe of the huge company- the behemoths that seem to loom large on streets globally and in the WSJ daily.

As small to mid size companies become “at one (ommmmm) ” with their agility and ability to be change agents, adaptability, customer service, and credibility without the trailer hitch loaded with executives and board members behind them, they can definitely win the battle against Big Box.

Whether the arena is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, retailing, manufacturing, or services, it's a battle of David vs. Goliath on steroids. The mega-sized competition has deep pockets, massive advertising budgets, and suppliers that court them every step of the way, while small companies operate on shoestrings and have to struggle every day just to survive. These same competitors are headlining in papers across the globe with reports of their losses, their cuts, their downsizing, their every attempt at being a shade of “agile” in response to the current downturned economy.

By empowering your people, building a powerful brand, managing your cash flow, innovating relentlessly with a vision for your business’s future in mind, and listening to the pulse of your strategic marketing and business plans, I dare say your agile small to mid-size business will not be another victim of the downturn obits. Be cautiously optimistic when you read the paper but rest in knowing if you employ these four key tactics to building and sustaining a successful niche company, you will be nimble enough to avoid the pitfalls of your largest (and I do mean largest) competitors.

Check out the Competition

How does your company’s customer service stack up to your competition’s? You’d better have a handle on it, then you better one-up it by a yardstick!

How do you find out how you stack up against them? Call your own customer service department with an issue and find out how they treat you. Call your competitors with a similar issue and see how they treat you and whether you are satisfied with the resolution. If you don’t yet have a serious point of differentiation, make the way you will now reflect resolution in YOUR customer service department the top differentiating benefit when you position yourself and your “brand” to potential customers who are “shopping around”.

You Are What You Eat!

The interesting thing about food is that we all eat it.

I’ve had cause recently to assess the grocery store aisles and the brands that line them a little more closely. My daughter has some special needs and so I have been trying a wheat and dairy free diet for her with impressive results. The challenge of course, is in finding convenient and comparable food items that will replace her previous noshing on all things dairy and wheat. Think Pizza replacements, cereal replacements, milk, cheese, cream cheese, butter…and you see the challenge.

Though the major grocery chains often carry many organic and restrictive diet foods, I have spent much of my “free” time over the last few weeks ducking in and out of smaller specialty stores. Dominicks, for example, used to have a special Organic/Natural Foods area which enabled a shopper to find all things natural and organic in one area of the store. In recent months, however, they have incorporated this specialty foods area into the general aisles which has increased a shopper’s time in the aisles three fold.

The No Bull Docs, a client of Freakin’ Genius Marketing, say, “shop the outer perimeter of the store, ignoring all processed foods entirely. Keeping heart healthy means staying off the foods that offer no nutritional value.” But there I stand in the cereal aisle looking for the one or two simple wheat-free cereals I can choose from among hundreds of wheat and sugar laden boxes.

As I look now, more closely than ever, I see 4-6 different incarnations of Corn Flakes by the same manufacturer. I see 4-5 different brands of Corn Flakes side by side, and that doesn’t include the bulk brand sold sans the box. That means, and I actually counted one day, in a revelation of sorts, nearly 20 varieties of Corn Flakes to choose from. Add to the variety the variance in pricing which is sometimes as much as 30% different among different incarnations of the same brand. Talk about complicated! I see repetition of the same marketing strategy by the makers of Mini Wheats, Cheerios, and even the store brands have knock-offs. The cereal aisle in most grocery chains is on average 25 feet long and 8 feet tall. This is no aberration to the cereal aisle either. History repeats itself throughout the store as I learned passing the yogurt section of the dairy case. There, I see fat free, sugar free, organic, and regular versions of the same brand, with another 8-10 brands in direct competition.

So, my question is, isn’t a recession a time of simplicity? Isn’t the strategy failing these manufacturers in that all they are doing is eroding their own marketshare. I know, I know, they are trying to keep their once regular corn flake eating customer now that they are a little older and perhaps looking for a calcium enriched corn flake, or a sugar free frosted flake – but really, are they accomplishing anything but increasing the shopper's time in the aisle and sending them and their cart out the front door of the store exasperated at both the time and the money blown in the store?

I say, simpler is better. While my grocery bills are no smaller, my frustration level is lessened by shopping smaller stores with fewer but basic varieties of choices. Fresh, organic foods, corn fed free range chicken, and grass fed beef help to keep heart disease away in more ways than one. I know that the less stress I have staring at an 8 foot tall, 25 foot wide cereal aisle for 8 minutes trying to find the one item I am looking for, the healthier I will be for it!

How I spent my June evenings or what I’ve been reading while you have been sleeping?

Being the forward thinker I like to consider myself, my bedside night table is littered with a number of books, written by academics abound, about 2012 as it relates to the future for all of us. I found The Mystery of 2012 the most captivating.

For those of you who are less in the know, 2012 marks the end of the Mayan Calendar, and some say that it could also mark the end of the world as we know it. Now before all of you go clicking to get off this page, let me tell you, this is not an Armageddon rant, though many academics go on and on about those possibilities and in fact, probabilities if things don’t change between now and 2012.

What was of most interest to me was the stance of a total shift in the general consciousness of all of the earth’s inhabitants. Now, this book was 450+ pages and this article is only bound to be 750 words, but so much of what I read led me to think about core values, core consciousness and core ideology…as it relates to self, business, community, politics, government and global issues. It got me thinking about Freakin’ Genius Marketing and our ideology and it should get you thinking about your company’s ideology too!

Does your business have a core ideology that you were instrumental in developing?

A core ideology is a shared understanding of an organization's “reason for being.” Why was it created in the first place? Of course, organizations are started to make a profit and provide a living for its founders and employees. But, there is so much more… there is something that each company does to contribute meaningful value to its customers, community, employees and, even society as a whole.

How is the world better because your business exists?

Clarifying a core ideology gets at your greater contribution to the world. Whose lives will be enriched because of your products and services? What global resources might be saved or worse, tapped? What are you adding to the eco-concern? Have you increased your personal carbon footprint at work today? Have you asked everyone on your staff to do the same without realizing it?

How would the world be worse if your business didn’t exist?

How does your very existence make a difference to the communities or society of which you’re a part and what if, in like the Scrooge film of yesteryear, you could envision a world without your business in it. What would be missed?

What are the driving principles on which you make day to day decisions?

A core ideology also has to do with the “character” of your organization. What are the most important guiding principles or values by which you want people to conduct themselves? In this sense, your core ideology is like a founding document, your “constitution” that teaches people what you believe and how you want to behave.

Do you have people working with you who align and think this way?

Your ideology is the foundation that helps you build your culture. A good ideology, well-executed, should shape attitudes, habits and behaviors of everyone within your company. Culture check on register 5? When was the last time you thought to consider the corporate culture as the essence of how the community sees you from the outside looking in?

Awareness: Once you have worked on documenting your core ideology, make the statement known to all employees and clients. Publish it on your website, in your newsletters, and communicate it multiple ways to your staff. Become more aware of your business' core ideology yourself. Make a commitment, take a stand, keep your word.

Discovering the core ideology of your business if you haven’t already done it

It's not novel and there is no rocket science here. There is no right or wrong way to discover your business' vision - it's a unique journey. You discover core ideology by looking inside. You can't fake it - it has to be authentic. It's not an intellectual exercise.

It is in discovering the core values we hold as individuals that provides unwavering guidance in our lives. It's equally as meaningful to your business and the people inside your business. The quest for the answer and what it stands for in your business is like the yellow brick road to greatness.

I am personally going to devote quite a bit of time to the effort of documenting the Freakin’ Genius Marketing core ideology over the next few months. I think it will help both me, my staff, and my business stand the test of time, most especially if that time involves a shift in consciousness to the greater global good on December 21, 2012.

Loyal Customers in Good Times and Bad

Loyalty. Something most businesses would give their bottom line for! Loyal customers are the best investment and asset a business can have and will help you weather the proverbial storm during the mean times. In the end, it’s your loyalist’s experience with your company, products, and employees that will keep them faithful and encourage them to spread the word to others also. So what strategies do you have in place to not only keep your faithful customers happy but perhaps even increase their spending with you?

Consider what the impact on sales would be if you could motivate your top customers to purchase one more item per visit. Executing a cross-sell promotion to drive the purchase of an additional item or a bounce-back offer to motivate the customer to come back for an additional visit can have a significant impact on your sales. Make your loyal customers feel special and the results will speak volumes.

Not all ambassadors of your brand will need a specific reason to tell someone else how much they love you, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to empower them with new exclusive benefits that they’ll be so excited about they’ll tell everyone. With new customers getting harder to acquire, word-of-mouth marketing through your tried and true loyal customers may be the most attractive. Give them something fun or valuable to share, or create a “refer-a-friend” program.

Creating conversation with your most loyal customers is easy. They are already loyal to you and have a lot to say to you. You have earned their respect. You can get their feedback on your product line, customer service, or e-mail campaign by using a satisfaction survey or an exit interview at your register or door. Enhance any customer touchpoint with product review options, testimonial forms, and acts of sincere thanks for their business. Asking for your customer’s feedback and advice is the greatest form of flattery, and the last time I looked, there was no itemized budget for flattery, so use it generously.

One word of caution, when you collect your loyal customer’s feedback, don’t ignore it. The act of collecting it is not the endgame. It is imperative that you react to the feedback you receive from your best, most loyal customers. Be ready to respond to concerns that could lead a loyal customer to jump overboard. Lastly, don't let once-loyal customers slip away. Reach out with an incentive-laden “lifeboat” at the first sign of activity drop off.

Tweeting for Profit

Smart entrepreneurs are now doing deals in 140 characters or less on Twitter

(Source: Fortune Magazine)
A year ago Kris Drey couldn't care less about Twitter.

With 13 years of Web site experience, Drey is no technophobe. He serves as vice president of product marketing at Fliqz, an online video-hosting service with 20 employees in Emeryville, Calif. But when he first skimmed Twitter, the popular micromessaging service launched in 2007, Drey saw a lot of mindless chatter and very little that seemed useful to a video business.

Still, with the economy taking a dive, Drey persisted. He was looking for ways to spread the word about Fliqz without spending any more of his maxed-out $15,000 marketing budget. Not only was Twitter the fastest-growing social media service around -- its user base grew by a whopping 1,841% in 2008, to 14 million -- but it also wouldn't cost him a dime.

"The only overhead is your time," says Drey, 40. "You need to pay attention."

He did just that. Drey started posting three or four updates a day as @Fliqz (all Twitter IDs start with "@") and subscribed to (or "followed") the 140-character updates (or "tweets") of anyone he could find who seemed interested in the online video industry, even if the person was just posting links to stories on blogs. One Saturday afternoon Drey spotted a Twitter post from a Fliqz customer who was having trouble encoding video. After exchanging a couple of tweets with him, Drey called the customer on the phone, figured out that the guy had a corrupted file and fixed the problem. The customer posted a tweet of happy surprise.

Talk back: Are you on Twitter yet?
Fast-forward a few months, and @Fliqz now boasts 1,358 followers. Thanks to Twitter, Drey snagged 21 new sales leads, and Twitter also helped him seal one $6,000-a-year contract. Fliqz signs or renews up to 30 deals a month, so the company is hardly tweeting its way to massive growth. But it's not too shabby a return for a free tool. Drey estimates that he spends eight hours a week on Twitter, or the equivalent of 2% of his marketing budget every year.

Call this the year business invaded Twitter. The service -- which can be used on any cell phone or computer -- has been a hit almost since its inception, with celebrities as diverse as Richard Branson and Britney Spears using it to tout their appearances and correspond with fans. But in the past year, @Comcast has set up what has effectively become a help desk on Twitter, while @JetBlue (JBLU), @Zappos, @WholeFoods (WFMI, Fortune 500) and @Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) interact with hundreds of thousands of their followers. (Source: Fortune Small Business)