Product placement, does it work?

Does product placement really work?

Last night I went to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I couldn’t help but notice the strategic product placement from various companies (and bands) strewn throughout the movie.

The bad-ass, tech-savvy computer hacker used her Macbook Pro to help solve the murder mystery. The writer in charge of finding the killer printed high quality photos throughout his research using his Epson printer. Even Nine Inch Nails made an appearance both on screen and on the T-shirt of one of the characters.

And this doesn’t just happen in the movies. Reality shows like Top Chef use product placement in their programming and don’t do it inconspicuously.

During most of the cooking contests on Top Chef, the chefs are seen picking out their food at Whole Foods and driving there in whatever car is being featured on that episode. And of course the $100,000 they win at the end is always “furnished by”…

But as we are inundated with commercials, brands and the next best thing you should buy, does product placement really help us to make decisions when purchasing our next computer, car, or picking out which grocery store to go to?

Some say product placement has minimal impact of viewers. Research from YouGov suggests that 70% of respondents interviewed said their perceptions of a brand would not change if they saw it on a TV show or film.

Though I can’t argue with numbers, I can say that as I watched this film last night sitting next to my friend who is a PC person, it took all I had not to elbow him and say “see, she’s using a Mac.”

Though it is difficult to track the sale of a product back to a product placement in a film or TV show, it is another way to connect with your consumer, promote your brand and keep your business top of mind.

As annoying as you might think it to be, I do think it can help bridge the gap between consumer and brand. The fact that this strong, tech-savvy woman was using a Mac computer to find missing pieces of a murder makes a certain implication about Mac computers and the people who use them, don’t you think?

By using product placement it also gives a business the opportunity to show its consumers what their product does instead of telling them what it does. Epson can tell you their printers print great quality photos but doesn’t it make more of an impact when you see it for yourself?

Though some believe it has minimal impact on the buying cycle of a consumer, I tend to lean towards the fact that product placement can help a business promote their brand. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we are influenced by what our peers, and the people we look up to, do. And when we see them using certain products, we can’t help but be intrigued and want to try these products ourselves.

What do you think? Does product placement have an impact on you?

8 Reasons to Write Your Own Blog Posts

I know, I know. You’re not a writer. You’re busy. You just don’t have the time. It’s easier and more efficient to hire a freelance writer to write blog posts for your business.

Look, we all have busy lives. If your inbox looks anything like mine it is inundated with emails of things that needed to be done yesterday. And each time you complete a task two more come in. I get it. You’re busy.

Studies show that a blog increases website traffic and lead flow. This could be one of the most important pages on your website. So my question to you is: why trust anyone else with it?

Here are 8 reasons you should take the time to write your own blog posts:

  1. No one knows your business better than you. You live, eat and breathe your business. There is just no one outside your company that knows your brand, knows your product or knows your business better than you. So who better to write about it?
  2. It saves money. By writing your own posts, you save money on hiring a freelance writer (said the freelance writer – doh).
  3. It saves time. I know that sounds counter intuitive seeing as most business owners or managers claim they “don’t have time” to be writing blog posts. But your posts don’t have to be long. They shouldn’t take you more than ½ hour or so to write. Which is the time it might take to walk to Starbucks for a latte on a busy morning. And if you’re writing them yourself, you’re saving time in iterations going back and forth with someone else.
  4. It’s fun. Once you start, I think you’ll find that it’s a great creative outlet for you and can be fun to explore. Plus its a great place to offer your opinions and share insights with your peers.
  5. You don’t actually even have to write. It’s as easy as using your iPhone to take a video of yourself, or someone from your business, speaking about a certain topic or discussion. C’mon you know you want to.
  6. You might learn something. Writing inspires inquiry.
  7. Your visitors are savvy. People know when they are being fooled. They know what is authentic and what isn’t. If you know your business and industry as well as I think you do, no one can talk about it better than you and your visitors will read that.
  8. Your competitors are doing it. Need I say more?

Here are some great sites to help start the creative juices flowing:

Copyblogger – blogging tips
The Daily Post – blog post ideas

Working social media both on and offline

Towing companies are a necessity in Vermont. From mud season to winter and everything in between, at some point or another you’re going to need a tow.

Each day on my way to work I pass by a towing company on Route 2 in Richmond. They have a small billboard on the side of the road which usually has some sort of creative message promoting their business. This week they went with the Avatar theme and wrote “We tow in 3D, no special glasses needed.” (I know, the picture is a bit fuzzy – but I was taking a picture while my husband was driving).

Though I have no idea how much business they get from that billboard, I have to imagine that this gives them some exposure to a good percentage of our  bedroom community (4,000+) who pass that sign everyday on their way to work.

After a little research I found out that the company has a website and a pretty active Facebook page and oddly enough, most of the time the messages they display on their billboard can fit right into the status bar of Facebook or Twitter.  They’ve completely integrated their billboard with their website and Facebook page. Nice job!

This is a great example of what social media is all about. Their billboard is viral (I took a picture and am currently writing a blog post about it), its humorous and timely, and it shows a personality behind their brand. Let’s face it needing a tow sucks but this company has creatively made it okay with their lighthearted updates, speaking directly to their consumers.

It’s good to see local companies embracing social media and integrating it with their offline marketing strategy. The sign may be the first point of contact and it’s fun and catchy and may prompt people to visit them online. Then all of a sudden visitors become fans and fans become part of their community. And guess what, when they need a tow or their friend needs a tow, who do you think they’ll call?

I’m not saying you have to make jokes to promote your brand successfully but what I like most about this company is that clearly they know their customer. That’s really the most important thing to know before you dip into any marketing strategy. Know your customer, find out where they live and play both on and offline and then don’t be afraid to have a conversation with them.

How to efficiently use coupons to market your business

I recently took advantage of a company discount at a local dry-cleaning business. And though I am not going to complain about how inefficient their discount process was because they didn’t have to give me a discount, I can’t help but offer a suggestion for a more efficient way to reward customers.

Here’s how it went down. Usually at my company we get a 10% discount at surrounding businesses. I decided to use my discount at a local dry-cleaning company. But when I went to pay and redeem my discount, the clerk said I couldn’t redeem it right then, and that they would give me a gift card with the amount of the discount on it. Figuring it was only 10% I wasn’t going to argue. So I paid and left the store.

A few days later I received an envelope in the mail. Inside the envelope was a gift card made out to me in the amount of $7.43, 10% of what I spent. And though I appreciate the clerk’s follow-through I can’t help but wonder if there was a more efficient way to reward their customers.

There are many reasons to offer discounts. You may want to get people into your store and introduce your product, you may want to reward your loyal customers or you may want to promote a particular product or service that you’re offering. Whatever the reason, redeeming the discount should be easy and efficient for you and your customer.

Here are some suggestions to streamline the process:

  1. Create a paper coupon redeemable at time of purchase – include details like expiration date, whether or not it is valid with other offers, company name, address and contact info.
  2. Create an online coupon redeemable at time of purchase – include a code for the customer to submit for redemption for tracking purposes.
  3. Create an ongoing discount card for frequent shoppers to redeem each time they purchase something at your business.

I really do appreciate the 10% discount and regardless of the discount I will frequent their store again. However, the envelope, the card, the stamp and the labor to coordinate it all seems like a bit of a waste for $7, don’t yout think?

Using Google’s Local Business Center to promote your business online

One of my retail clients recently had a customer come in to her Massachusetts consignment shop and redeem a Google coupon that we created for her business! First off, the fact that a customer printed, cut and redeemed a paper coupon is a miracle in itself but also this customer found the coupon in the Google business listing while searching for one of our targeted keyword terms and that just tickles me pink.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about you should probably read on.

Like most businesses these days, my client has a limited marketing budget and wanted to spend all her resources online (smart woman!). And there is so much you can do online that is absolutely free. Yup, that’s what I said folks, FREE. Aside from social media, which is a whole different blog post (if not book), there is a ton of marketing you can do online that doesn’t cost a dime.

But where to start you ask? Google, of course.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to list your business in the Google Local Business Center. Aside from the possibility to show up at the top of the fold on some pretty competitive keyword terms, you have the opportunity to further promote your business with coupons,  photos, videos and product reviews. And all for the low, low price of…wait for it…nothing!

Once you have listed your site in the local business center you can enhance your listing with photos, videos and coupons. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Create a coupon to get people into your store
  • Link to the coupon from your site or other sites, blogs, etc.
  • Retrieve data on how many people viewed your listing and took action (# of impressions, # of actions, top search terms, where driving directions queries come from)
  • Upload up to 10 photos
  • Upload videos
  • Include store hours and contact info
  • Utilize tags (words that people might use to find your business)
  • Display customer reviews

Here’s what it looks like from a visitors point of view:

If you have not yet listed your business in Google’s business listings. Stop reading this now and go do it.

For tips to creating a great listing visit Google’s business center support page

Just remember all listings are ranked on relevance to the search terms entered so, as always, make sure you write relevant content pertaining to your business.

This is just one of the many free opportunities out there to further promote your business online.  It’s just a matter of getting creative and utilizing all the tools out there effectively.

Good luck.

Get listed locally in the search engines

If you haven’t yet listed your site with all the search engines, you could be missing key placement in the local search results. An easy way to find out if your site is listed in the major search engines is to use the Get Listed tool and type in your business name and zip code. The tool will come up with a score and let you know which search engines you have listed in. Here are the major players and where you should get listed:

Beware of Facebook Page Poachers

securityRecently, I set up a Facebook page for a client of mine who owns a consignment shop called Fabulous Findz. We have been doing a ton of online marketing including pay per click advertising on Facebook, Bing, Google and using various other tools that have increased traffic to both the website and the store’s Facebook page. When I went into the Facebook page today to see if there had been any more traffic, I noticed that a competitor became a “fan” of the page. At first I thought it quite neighborly that a competing store owner should join our fan page and make a contribution to our site. But then a few minutes later, I had a friend request in my own inbox from that very same competitor. Apparently, this competitor (and I won’t mention who) sent friend requests to all our fans.

Now, I’m a marketer and I know the only way to survive these days is to get creative and push the envelope, so I do applaud this competitor’s creativity and determination. However, I wasn’t very happy with them trying to poach our fans. So I deleted the competitor from our page, banned them from ever returning and asked our fans to ignore the friend request (unless of course they knew this person).

I guess the moral of the story is twofold,  make sure that you are really friends with someone before you accept a friend request and, most importantly, be kind to your neighbors.

Using social media for the good of the people

Social Networking
Social Networking

In past posts I have discussed ways to apply social media to gain visibility online, connect with consumers and build customer relationships.  Recently, I came across someone who is utilizing this space for a very different reason; to help others.

Joe Mescher, is a social media enthusiast in the Burlington, Vermont area. If you haven’t read Joe’s blog, responded to his tweets or viewed his videos, then you’re just not in the know. Trust me when I say this, this guy lives, eats and breaths, social media.  Recently, Joe decided to take his passion for this space to help unemployed Vermonters find work.

video guyThe project is called the Vermont Video Resume Project and offers free video resumes to those searching for a job. The concept is to utilize new media technology to let job seekers show a little bit of who they are to potential employers. Employers can then view the resume as a real person instead of some words on a page. It’s a great way to utilize web 2.0 to connect businesses to potential employees and to help the unemployed land a job.

After coming up with the idea,  Joe got the word out through Twitter which has sparked a flurry of attention. Seven Days, an independent weekly,  is partnering with the project and offered blog space enabling job seekers to post their video resumes and allowing  local businesses and human resources departments to view them.

If you are interested in helping connect job seekers to those looking for quality employees, here are some ways you can help:

  • Tweet about the project and link to the website: VideoResumeVT.com for all your followers to see
  • Blog about it to offer information to your readers
  • Go to the website and fill out a form offering tips, insights, suggestions on how to further the project
  • Tell your friends and family about it
  • Talk about it at parties
  • Or contact Joe at joe.mescher@gmail.com.

If you’re a job seeker and looking to take advantage of this opportunity visit VideoResumeVT.com and fill out the form.

There are many ways to utilize social media but I haven’t found one yet that beats helping other people.

Social media, join the conversation

socialIt was a packed house in Alumni Auditorium at Champlain College on Monday when various social media guru’s spoke on the importance of integrating social media into a marketing plan at Burlington’s Social Media Breakfast. Basically the message was; stop focusing on the tools and start engaging in the conversation.

It was a sold out show which leads me to believe that people are actually beginning to catch on that social media is an integral part in building a brand. But with the plethora of tools out there where does one start? Here are some of the take away points from yesterday’s presentation:

Make a plan – What are your goals with this space and how will you measure success? Think about where your audience is and “fish where the fish are.”

Don’t push, gather – New media is about building a relationship and listening to your customers. “Its not push, its gather,” said C.C. Chapman, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of The Advance Guard. Old media talks at you, new media talks with you.

Start with a good brand – Offer a quality product and give them something to talk about. You can’t control your message online. People are already talking about your product, embrace it. And most importantly, listen to your customers.

Be found – It’s all about findability said Todd Defren, principal at Shift Communications. “Our job is to make sure we are found,” he said, “through content- blogs, SEO, Flikr, YouTube, etc. If social media is a pot luck, content is what you’re bringing to the party.”

Act on user feedback – Social media is digital word of mouth, its your online reputation. Create compelling content and act on user feedback. Give the people what they want.

The most important thing to remember about social media, is that it is all about building relationships with your customers. Be a part of the conversation people are having about your brand. Listen to your customers and give them what they want. This takes time, so be patient and remember to have fun.

Note: the above photo came from the Library of Congress. You can find many other these photos at www.flikr.com/commons.