Posts Tagged ‘good-advice’

Marketing advice from the big-wigs

Friday, May 7th, 2010

A few weeks ago I was able to attend this year’s Global Marketing Summit, an annual event presented by the International Advertising Association‘s NY Chapter and sponsored by Bloomberg Business Week, CNN International and Google. Big thanks go out to marketing diva Ciara Pressler for the ticket.

We spent the day listening to some serious VIPS in the marketing world address the thorny topic of “The New Normal”. I believe the title was in reference to an article written last year by Ian David, worldwide Managing Director at McKinsey & Co (free registration required). Mr. David expounded on what he called “not merely another turn of the business cycle, but a restructuring of the economic order.”

So what is the new normal?

In this context, the “new normal” refers to a shift in consumption patterns by the U.S. consumer. The experts agreed that value(s) and trust are twin forces to be reckoned with during this period of adjustment. They sense a growing distrust from consumers towards big business, big media and the government (which interestingly, the PEW Research Center just echoed and quantified in this scary report). Gee…I wonder why?

Consumer behavior has changed in response to the information technology revolution we are living through. Increased access to information has helped give rise to virtual communities, independent journalism, consumer research, self-produced media and so on. Marketers have to back up their claims now, which means some massive message restructuring.

The New Normal also refers to a rise in consumer frugality and saving in response to the financial crisis. Consumers are scarred and scared, many of them much poorer than they were a few years ago either due to real estate deflation or high debt levels. Between wage stagnation and high unemployment, many are pessimistic about their future earning prospects. People are looking for high quality in tandem with low prices and we are much more reticent to part with our hard earned cash for non-essentials than in the recent past.

All this spells disaster for people who market products that aren’t necessary for survival.

Here are a few things I took away with me.

Value + Values: Consumers want something of high quality that ALSO reflects their personal values whenever possible now that they can do a ton of research prior to purchase. There is increased consumer scrutiny when money is tight and information is everywhere.

Constant Change: The info tech revolution is still underway with more futuristic technology right around the bend. Marketers who want to do things the old way or the “way we do them” will be in for a bumpy ride. The possibilities are endless but resources are finite, so building flexibility into all communications planning and organizational strategy is key. In addition to creating products & services that present a smarter solution, we need to work smarter to get the message out effectively and when something isn’t working, change it.

Intrusion vs. Engagement (aka Push vs. Pull): The old way is to push your product to large groups of people as often as you can afford to using traditional mass media like radio, newspaper, television. The new way is to create a feeling – of excitement or intrigue or reliability or respect or trust – about your brand/product/service in a consumer who has been specifically targeted using technology and existing data.

As we should all know by now, things on the media landscape are changing rapidly (some not for the better). People are spending lots of their time on the internet and marketers want to be there. But the old way isn’t working well in the brave new wild west and very few have worked out the etiquette of the sale yet. Privacy concerns are huge and consumers are more media savvy than they’ve ever been.

Best case scenario is when people come to you via referral from an existing customer. Relationship building through reputation and personal connection is the engagement marketers seek. What they are experimenting with now is: how do they become your trusted friend?

Other thoughts from my notes:

  1. Brand is about what you do, not what you say. Since it is difficult to differentiate yourself by what you do when others do the same thing, what truly differentiates you is WHO you are and HOW you do what you do.
  2. Understand your customers and build the customer experience around them.
  3. Advertisers need to be content creators for the brands they represent rather than messaging architects (ok artists, we should EXCEL at this one).
  4. A free white paper titled “The Authentic Enterprise” was mentioned as an excellent resource. I look forward to reading it.
  5. Word of mouth info sharing is possibly the most powerful force in the universe.

What do you think?

Writing an effective appeal

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I promised the participants of my recent appeal letter workshop that I’d share two great resources we discussed.

First, we have an academic examination of the typical language included in appeals. I found this fantastic linguistic analysis last autumn and was surprised it didn’t get more notice in the arts blogosphere (the intrepid Artful Manager covered it). Written by Frank C. Dickerson, Ph.D., the work is based on doctoral research he conducted while attending Claremont Graduate University’s Peter F. Drucker School of Management. Mr. Dickerson has an extensive resume and decades of experience working in fund raising, so we would do well to heed his warning.

What is he saying exactly? Well, the title says it all when it comes to the direct appeal (also known as an “ask” or solicitation letter): “The Way We Write is All Wrong“. He argues that most appeals are written in the style of an academic treatise or worse yet official government documents, which creates distance and alienates the reader. He proposes that we write with personal passion and infuse our appeals with stories that connect emotionally to the reader instead. As a measure of his commitment to public service, he has made several important documents available for free on his website. For that, I’d like to say “Thank you, Frank!” on behalf of independent artists everywhere.

The other important resource is a recent market research report called “The Next Generation of American Giving“.

A landmark research study into the charitable giving behaviors and attitudes of Gen Y, Gen X, Boomer and Mature donors from Convio, Edge Research and Sea Change Strategies. The art and science of fundraising, as we know it, is undergoing rapid and permanent change driven by technology, the imperative to attract new donors, and by the evolving traits of different generations of supporters. This report is a contribution to understanding this change and offers some strategic guidance for fundraisers who are struggling to keep up with it.

This is huge to anyone undertaking an individual campaign – especially given the rapid evolution of fund raising trends & techniques as we now straddle the worlds of the old school (unsolicited direct mail form letter) and the new school (online & email appeals, donating via text messages, Facebook causes etc). You have to provide your contact info to download the report, but in my opinion it is WELL worth it. Nonprofit marketing expert Nancy E. Schwartz agrees and offers a quick summary of the findings.

When looking at these resources together, I think two big takeaways are:

1. when asking for money, effective writing for individuals is completely DIFFERENT than effective writing for grants, so do your homework and figure out how to tell a compelling story (as opposed to demonstrating your capacity for program success via measurable criteria);

and

2. appeal letter writing/campaigning might require just as much work as writing a grant if you want to do it right, given technological advances in digital media and the range of generational preferences relating to communication channels.

What do you think about these reports? Any additional appeal letter resources we should add into the mix?

A quick guide to online publicity

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

I found this some time ago – it was a guest post on one of the finance blogs I follow – and I meant to write about it, but somehow forgot. So, here it is, better late than never.

The author provides a great list of Do’s and Don’ts when trying to cultivate online press contacts and woo the blogosphere into covering your product/service/show/album/whatever.

It is specifically written for people who work in PR & publicity, but I think Lindsay outlines some great principles that independent artists can adapt and apply in cases where the PR/pub duties fall to us.

My favorite tips are these two:

2. Pick Eight Blogs

While the rest of the publicists in her company were sending out mass emails to everyone, hoping to get bites from Perez Hilton, Gawker, HuffPo, or wherever, this publicist focused on a lower traffic tier with the (correct) understanding that these days, content filters up as much as it filters down, and often the smaller sites, with their ability to dig deeper into the internet and be more nimble, act as farm teams for the larger ones. A site can be enormously influential without having crazy eyeballs, because all eyeballs are not equal.

4. A Monkey Can Send a Mass Email: Build Relationships and Understand What Your Real Job Is

I don’t know why one of the oldest truisms of publicity, marketing, salesmanship, and basically every other field is ignored by online publicists: it’s about relationships! I can find my own content without the help of any publicist — any blogger worth his or her job can. I just get annoyed that my time has been wasted. If a publicist shows that they know what they’re doing, the resulting surprise on behalf of the blogger/reporter/editor will lead to more attention paid to that publicists offerings. Duh.

Amen sister! The original post is a really quick read and if you are dealing with online publicity, I suggest you check it out.

Improve your financial literacy

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

In this post, I’ve included links to some important financial resources that were mentioned in Saturday’s workshop. Among them, you’ll find some of my favorite blogs and sites, as well as a gigantic financial glossary, three articles on how to hire a financial planner and some handy tools and calculators (loan, savings, retirement) courtesy of FINRA.

Banking & Lending

Bankrate is the place to get the best available rates on just about any kind of consumer financial product; Mortgage 101 is an educational site for potential home-buyers; if you’ve gone to college recently and wanted a scholarship, you probably remember filling out a nightmare of a form called the FAFSA; and if you are looking for basic, general information about all-things-banking why not head to the source and check out the educational resources provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City?

Credit

Be sure to review your credit history each year using Annual Credit Report (it’s FREE); learn how your credit score is calculated and what affects it by visiting MyFICO; if you are trying to avoid debt collectors and bankruptcy, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling can put you in touch with a free credit counselor; if you are new or just inspired to learn more about how the game works, visit Credit.com; and next time you are ready to shop around for a new card, be sure to check out Card Ratings first.

Insurance

Such a topical issue given the health care “debate”…If you are an artist looking for health or liability insurance, you can find it at Fractured Atlas; if you are any kind of freelance worker looking for health, dental, life or disability coverage, check out Freelancer’s Union.

Investing

If you are curious about or ready to take the plunge into investing, here are some resources to help you learn the lingo, grasp key concepts and demystify the complicated world of “Wall St”: Investopedia, The Motley Fool, Morningstar, and Mutual Fund Education Alliance. The topic of peer-to-peer lending as an investment strategy came up, made famous by the international organization Kiva.

Retirement

The U.S. Social Security Administration sends you a statement twice a year to report on your taxable income and projected benefits. If you haven’t received one in a while, you can request it online. Be sure it matches your tax statements – I found they missed crediting me over $15,000 of income one year!

And obviously Social Security won’t be enough to support those of us under 40 when we reach collecting time, so you should consider participating in an employer sponsored plan (usually a 401K or 403B) and maximize any matching funds opportunities they provide. If that isn’t an option, consider an Individual Retirement Account.

Taxes

Why not start at the top and just contact the IRS (or consult their new YouTube channel – seriously!) with your questions? In preparation, you might want to spend some time on these blogs: Don’t Mess With Taxes and TAXGIRL.

Personal Finance

My top blog picks are The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly – I have been reading both for years now, and think they are two of the best places online to find tips, tactics and techniques for reducing debt, saving for retirement, learning to craft a frugal lifestyle that doesn’t cramp your personal style and more. Of course, what is theory without practice, so be sure to investigate the free money management tools offered by Mint and Wesabe.

Finance, Economics, Policy

Here a few of my favorites blogs: naked capitalism, The Big Picture, and The Baseline Scenario. These are serious blogs written by serious minds who really know their stuff. Sometimes I don’t follow every little detail, but reading them has helped me dramatically improve my understanding of macroeconomics, fiscal and monetary policy, and the financial calamity we are currently living through.

Business

SBA stands for Small Business Administration – it is the part of the Federal government designed to help support small businesses; SCORE is an amazing national organization that provides business education, resources, templates and even mentoring in locations around the country; and if you are looking for general business advice, check out inc.com or allbusiness.com.

If there are any questions we didn’t have time to cover in the workshop, or follow-up thoughts or resources you’d like to share (whether you participated or not), please post in the comments section.

I want to thank everyone who braved the storm-that-never-came to join me.

My heroes: Elizabeth Warren

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I’ve decided to start writing about people whom I feel are so important that everyone should know who they are. I begin with a woman who has become an amazing role model for me over the last year given her ability to speak truth to power eloquently and decisively.

Elizabeth Warren is a professor at Harvard Law School and Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, the committee responsible for figuring out where the TARP (aka bailout) money went.

She has been warning about the “coming collapse of the middle class” for years. The first time I saw her speak was in this amazing video of the same name hosted and presented by UC Berkeley’s Graduate Council Lecture series in March 2007.

Below is a great interview with her about her life, what motivated her to study bankruptcy and the middle class and how she got involved in consumer issues. She has co-authored two important books on the subject with her daughter, The Two-Income Trap and All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.

Most recently, she spoke in a great interview with Yahoo! Finance at The Economist’s Buttonwood Gathering and had this to say:

Warren pulls no punches when it comes to her criticism of former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson for his failure to put any restrictions on or monitoring of the initial TARP funds, and for using the money for something other than “toxic asset relief,” as originally intended.”I have a real problem when we describe to taxpayers their money will be taken and used one way and in fact it’s used another way,” she declares.

And you can always check out how the COP is progressing by watching the quickie video updates summarizing each new report or if you are a true die-hard like me, checking out the full hearings (I listen to them while I cook).

I would call her the greatest living advocate for the middle class in the USA today. Having been born into the middle  class to parents who have struggled my whole life and destined to die in the middle class (assuming I don’t outlive it as a socio-economic strata in our society), I cannot put into words the anger and frustration I feel towards the leaders in big business and government who have chosen to capitulate and ultimately, serve institutions with giant lobbying budgets over  individual citizens. Smarter people than me have argued their complicity and collusion have systematically reduced this country to an oligarchy during my lifetime and I wonder every day where this nation will be in 5, 10 and 20 years unless we drastically change things for the better.

On behalf of our nation’s disenfranchised individuals, I want to thank you Elizabeth Warren for doing everything in your power to help us.

Biting the tax bullet

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Last weekend the financial crisis hit home in a different way when I found myself in the strange position of having to write a sizable check to the IRS for the first installment of my 2009 Estimated Tax. My first response was “barf” – it was a pain in the ass to calculate and represents a big chunk of cash I hate to part with. However, I got over it a bit when I realized that:

A. if there was ever a time that the US Treasury can use my paltry contribution to the nation’s coffers it is now; and

B. since this is the first year I am making a truly livable wage as an independent contractor, I want to avoid any IRS issues by paying on time (especially upon discovering that penalties can be applied for paying late).

In my research, I found this handy list of 101 Tax deductions for bloggers & freelancers that I wanted to pass along for those who are just starting out or in need of a refresher course. As always, internet advice does not replace individualized advice from a qualified professional and I recommend using an accountant who specializes in independent artists.

then and now

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

I started blogging about issues affecting the arts while working at Fractured Atlas.

I invite you to peruse my very first manifesto, originally published in the Fractured Atlas newsletter and republished by The Association of Teaching Artists.

Here is a sample menu of posts.

The question of relevancy

Shoestring budgets & demographic diversity on off-off-Broadway

when art falls apart

All arts organizations are NOT created equal

Fiscal Sponsorship can change the world!

Value vs measurement

Pleased to partner with National Performing Arts Conference

Pass the bailout, please.

Changing of the Guard

I plan to continue writing about arts related issues. I also hope to write about other topics that occupy space in my consciousness, including sustainable agriculture, independent theater production, financial and economic policy, thoughts on frugal living, recipes I like…you get the point.

Open for comments and discussion 24/7 – welcome to my blog.