Archive | April, 2012

VIA Idea #22: How to Market to Gen Y (aka Millennials)

6 Apr

Gen Y GroupWhether you’re selling energy drinks, lumber or healthcare services, businesses can no longer just “push” their goods and services and expect results. This is especially true when targeting Gen Y.

Also referred to as Millennials, Eco Boomers and the Net Generation, this group defies pigeonholing in many other ways. Even their birth years aren’t agreed upon. Various sources list them as early as 1976 and as late as 2005. Most don’t remember phones with cords, typewriters or TVs without remotes. For them, a phone call is reserved for emergencies but they’ll send up to 3000 text messages a month.

They number nearly 100 million, are the largest generation in U.S. history and influence up to half of the buying decisions made. They’ve grown up with the Internet and its virtual world. Gaming and conversing with people they’ve never met who may live next door or halfway around the world is common. They’re comfortable shopping online but first do their homework regarding the quality of the product and the company.

Some factors to consider when marketing to this group: • They’re skeptical of what they see, read or hear (suspicious of mass media). • Hard sell doesn’t fly. For example, when communicating via Facebook, aim for 80 percent education/entertainment and 20 percent promotional. • They have a greater sense of immediacy—life moves faster and their expectations for services and relationships are higher. • They’re environmentally aware and committed to the planet. • They live in a multi-sensory world. For example, if they get lost while driving (unlikely since they’ve got GPS at their fingertips) they’ll pull over and look at a map with stereo still blasting. A boomer will turn down the radio first. • Peer influence is strong. Social media is where they learn about products and trends as well as catch up with friends and plan weekends. Speaking of social media, how much information your business shares and how often you share is critical. They’ll “like” your company on Facebook but if you post too often or push your products/services, they’ll “unlike” you or hide your feed. And timing is crucial: you’re viewed as overeager if you respond too quickly or frequently to a comment or post.

Even in personal relationships, Gen Y is aware of the time element. According to the recent Ad Age “Millennials, Decoded” study, half of the group who carry smartphones are “very concerned” that if they answer a text right away, they look like they have nothing better to do.

How can you connect with this group? iPhone • Gain their trust through more than one medium. • Invite them to experience your brand—offer information and include a link to your website.
• Give them the opportunity to interact—add a QR code to a direct mail piece. • Add an IM option on your website. • Create a buzz: share a video that can be uploaded to social media or forwarded via text.
Keep in mind that this group loves to communicate and will respond to the right message. Just don’t tell them what to think!

If you’d like more ideas or help with the plan, contact us.

VIA Idea #21: Marketing and Sales: Here’s Why Your Business Needs a Plan for Both

6 Apr

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This saying has been around for so long that it’s not known who first spoke it. But it still rings true, especially for a small business that wants to grow. Trust me; making marketing and sales plans a high priority this year will pay off.

Yes, you need TWO plans as marketing and sales are two distinct areas: a marketing plan is what a business does to make itself known to the public, while a sales plan focuses on getting one-on-one time with a customer or prospective customer. Marketing may be considered “pulling” while sales is the “push.”

1) Marketing Plan
I highly recommend you take a few hours and outline plans for marketing and for sales. For marketing, here’s a simplified set of instructions: start with a blank piece of paper (or excel spreadsheet) and make 12 rows. Label the columns, starting with January or the current month. Then start listing tasks in the appropriate months (see example). Make a third column, include the cost for each line item, and you’ve got a plan for the year.

Month Item/task Cost
Jan New mobile website Finish annual report, post to website Write & post blog entry Paid online search $3500 $1500 $0 $200
Feb First direct mail to prospects Write & post blog entry Run ad in professional directory Paid online search $1200 $0 $300 $200
Mar Sponsor little league team Write & post blog entry Paid online search $400 $0 $200
Apr Submit story to local paper Complete brochure, send to printer in time for expo Order give-away items for expo Write & post blog entry Paid online search $0 $700
$225 $0 $200
May Booth at chamber expo Write & post blog entry Paid online search $250 $0 $200
June Write & post blog entry Paid online search $0 $200

2) Sales Plan
Next, think about how you and your sales people will turn all that marketing exposure into ROI. Tools and tactics you’ll use to develop your sales efforts include:

  • • A defined, qualified prospect list
  • • A database application to track contacts (preferably cloud-based so you and your team can access it easily)
  • • One or more people at your company who are willing to make calls to prospects
  • • A research methodology for developing “touches” that will personalize and add interest to those prospect calls
  • • A method to document progress
  • • Regular, scheduled meetings to discuss progress

Having these plans and sharing them with the appropriate staff will help keep you and your team focused. But, like a road trip, your marketing and sales plans should be flexible. Pay attention when opportunities arise to pull or push to grow business!

If you’d like more ideas or help with the plan, contact us.

VIA Idea #20: Resolutions, Megatrends and Gourmet Sandwiches

6 Apr

It’s that time again—the season to make resolutions and to hear about trends. Like resolutions, some “trends” will disappear by March while others will become ingrained into our daily lives.

My resolution for the coming year is to stay away from the office candy jar. As for trends, there’s no doubt that mobile devices and their thousands of available apps will continue to play larger roles in our lives. Crain’s Chicago Business recently reported its number one megatrend: Companies embrace mobile apps for business use. Echoing the Crain’s article, the number two item on the Dex “Six must know trends for your 2012 ad budget” is “2012 looks like the year of mobile.”

All kinds of businesses, large and small, are finding innovative ways to be more efficient by using mobile apps:

  • I recently visited an antique fair and noticed some vendors were using mobile phones to take PayPal credit card payments from buyers.
  • One of our clients who services swimming pools has crews take before and after photos with their phones to document their work. They’ll soon take the next step by posting those photos to their website and giving customers access to them.
  • A free app named Bump lets users swap electronic business cards and other data by gently knocking their smart phones into one another.
  • The wait for a Jimmy John’s “gourmet” sandwich is now even shorter by ordering online for pickup or delivery. Some eateries allow patrons to order online while sitting inside the restaurant.

What can you do to make your business more mobile? A first step is to take a serious look at your website. Is it:

  • Mobile friendly? You may need a mini mobile site or just a few design tweaks to your existing site.
  • Coming up high when you search for your own products or services?
  • Built to be viewed on wider monitors?
  • Compatible with Apple products?

Mobile is here to stay. Ignore this megatrend and you’re missing the opportunity to connect with a growing share of your potential customers.


If you’re wondering what next year’s hot color will be…


P.S. Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly has begun gathering responses for its annual “Best of” survey. You may take the survey at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BestOfNWIBQ2012. Please consider voting for VIA in Best Ad Agency and Best Website Design categories.