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I've been sending marketing memos and reports to our advertising clients for several years, and on this page you will see the highlights of those marketing memos as they relate to Internet advertising and marketing as well as TV and Radio and print advertising and marketing.  You will see my thoughts on Google advertising and Facebook advertising, and pay per click ads and banner and display advertising as well as traditional radio and TV commercials and direct mail ads. 

Best wishes for your success, Alan Mendelson

SEPTEMBER 11, 2017

For small, independent businesses, October is a crucial month for your advertising and marketing. The month of October is when you can get a jump on your competition. The big marketers and retailers will be pushing their ads during November and December for holiday sales -- that's what big companies do. As a small, independent company, advertising and marketing in October gives you a chance to let consumers know what you have before they are swayed by the ads of your bigger competitors.
 
There is another reason you should push your advertising in October: it's when many families actually start making up their lists for holiday spending. The great recession of 2008 changed the buying patterns of many families. The 2008 slump wiped out impulse buying for many families because they just couldn't afford it any more. And the 2008 slump made families plan and budget. That hasn't changed nearly a decade later.
 
Yes, a decade after the great recession, families are still planning ahead for their holiday spending and that planning starts in October. Not only should you be advertising heavily in October to get to the top of those planning lists but you should also start to offer lay-away plans and start taking reservations for big ticket items.
 
This is something I say every year: no one except for the Trump family, is going to see or hear a commercial for a Rolex or diamond jewelry three days before Christmas and go out and buy that big ticket item. Everyone else is going to plan for a Rolex or diamond jewelry, or a new car, or new furniture, or a home remodel, or luxury clothing, or appliances weeks before the holidays. That means you start advertising those big ticket items in October. And as a kicker, you add a lay-away plan or an early bird discount to rope in the sale.
 
By the way, there are also three holidays that will help you boost sales and help in your marketing:
 
There is Columbus Day for Columbus Day Sales. Columbus Day Sales have not been popular here in Southern California but last year some stores did advertise Columbus Day Sales.
 
October 16th is when tax extensions are due, and once those tax extensions have been filed, many families will start spending again.
 
October 31st is Halloween. This year Halloween falls on a Tuesday night which means it might not be as popular as if it fell on a Friday or Saturday night, so if you are selling Halloween merchandise you might need to give it an extra advertising push.

AUGUST 23, 2017

Let me tell you about the advertising solutions with the highest impact. If you think it's a traditional radio or TV commercial, or a newspaper advertisement, or direct mail, you're wrong.

1. Supermarket Tote Bags

Thanks to the California legislature and the voters who stopped the giving of free shopping bags at supermarkets and other stores, grocery tote bags are now the #1 highest impact form of advertising. Of course we are talking about tote bags with your name and logo boldly printed on the bags which will be visible each and every time they are used by consumers and clerks when they load the bags at the check-out counters. You can purchase these bags with your logo and name printed on them for prices ranging from 79-cents to $1.08 each. The problem with tote bags? Getting them into the hands of future customers. You could try to make a deal with a supermarket chain to give your bags out free of charge.

2. Pens

Even though our cell phones have replaced the need for calendars and note pads and scheduling books, we still use pens. Pens with your company name, address and website still are used and a have a long life expectancy. With a quality printing job, pen users will see your name for weeks and months to come. The problem with pens? Getting them to your customers and potential customers. Printed pens could cost you $1.89 each and are you going to pay someone to stand in shopping centers and malls handing out $1.89 pens to passersby?

And that's the list of the highest impact advertising solutions in today's market: grocery tote bags and pens. Anything else you're doing including chip clips or refrigerator magnets or even computer thumb drives isn't as effective as pens and bags.

WHAT ABOUT MASS MEDIA ADVERTISING?

If you do want to do mass media advertising, so you don't have to hire someone to hand out shopping bags and pens, let me remind you that mass media isn't cheap either.

A one-column inch in Los Angeles newspapers ranges from about $20 to about $160, and then you run the risk that on the day your ad runs, newspaper readers skip the page you are on.

30-second TV commercials on major TV stations here in the Los Angeles market cost between about $50 during overnight to $1,500 or more during prime time, and then you run the risk that the viewers will pick up their cell phones, or run to the bathroom or the microwave during the commercial break.

Radio commercials can cost $800 or more during the peak listening times but 65% or more of all radio listeners are in their cars and they might be distracted when your spot is on and they are not likely to write down your name, phone number or website when they're driving.

Postcard advertising starts at about 58-cents per household and since 90% or more of postcards and mailers are not read, your actual cost per reader is closer to six-dollars.

Click-through rates on website advertising is also very costly, and you could end up paying $38 or more to reach an actual consumer who will contact your business.

I still think that your own half-hour TV Infomercial is your best option. At only $600 for a full half-hour at 2-AM you will have a chance to make a connection with viewers and get your point across. And with our freeways choked as early as 5-AM taking a half-hour Infomercial at 4-AM for $400 or less might be a true Advertising Best Buy. By the way, September is when the TV stations start booking Infomercial broadcasts for the fourth quarter.

AUGUST 21, 2017

Are you using the best name for your business? I could write a book about this, and someday I just might, because having the best name for your business could be a big plus when it comes to marketing and advertising and success. First, I want to tell you about the company with the absolute best name: Any Cab Company. Yes, there really was an Any Cab Company in Syracuse, New York when I went to college there in the early 1970's. They had the best name because whenever a student went to the pay phones to call for a taxi for a ride to the airport they would dial information and ask "can I have the phone number of any cab company?" And, sure enough, the operator would give them the phone number for Any Cab Company.

If you have a service company take note: you might want to buy the name "Any Plumber" or "Any Electrician" or "Any Carpenter" or "Any Repairman" and not just for telephone listings, but also for search terms on the Internet.

Sometimes simple is best, and sometimes being too creative can be bad. I just wrote a special Business Marketing Memo about a new chain of restaurants here in Southern California called "STACKED: Food Well Built." It's really a very great restaurant with a great concept, but it's name has been causing problems for the owners, for employees and for consumers. You can read the report by clicking here.

There are some other companies that are relatively new that are making mistakes with their names. For example, there is a relatively new solar power company that advertises how it was formed by veterans and the name of their company uses a military term. Frankly, anyone not in the military would not be familiar with the term or how it is spelled and that's bad for an Internet search.

There are companies that use the names of their owners but unfortunately the name is not easily spelled. Let me give you an example: Allen Carpet is the actual carpet company, but it could also be Alan Carpet or Alen Carpet or Allan Carpet or Allyn Carpet or Allin Carpet. Then there is a lawyer referral service that uses the word "counsel" in it's name and it advertises heavily on radio. Does the listener spell it "counsel" or "council" or some other way when it searches for the service on the Internet?

Because so many consumers shop for businesses using the Internet, and because search engines can filter search results based on the geographic location of the consumer, it can be very beneficial these days if your company name includes your geographic location. For example, "Joe's Plumbing of Beverly Hills" would most likely show up higher in search engine results for a user in Beverly Hills than another plumber who just uses the handle "Joe's Plumbing."

And since you want your business name reinforced with your website address, you want a short business name which fits nicely as a dot-com. Some of you already embraced that concept with your own names and websites including: BedsEtc.com and EcolaTermite.com.

In fact, there are some companies that have changed the actual names on their storefront doors to match their website addresses. And there are companies that have made their phone numbers their website addresses as in 8005550000.com.

And when it comes to phone numbers, a phone number that includes letters that match your name is fantastic such as 800-962-NTMA for the NTMA Training Centers.

The bottom line is that you want your company name, your website name, and your phone number too, to be easy to remember and to identify who you are. Never mind about what Shakespeare wrote about a rose with any name smelling sweet, the easier names get the business.

AUGUST 14, 2017

There is a relatively new restaurant chain in Southern California by the name of STACKED: Food Well Built. But you might know it by its slogan of Food Well Built. While it's a great restaurant with a strong menu and service, its use of two names in its marketing is confusing. That is the subject of a special Business Marketing Memo. Click here to read it.

AUGUST 3, 2017

I had a very interesting conversation the other day with a client who was interested in billboards and bus benches for his advertising. He saw that a lot of his competitors (he's a lawyer) have billboards and bus benches and he wanted to know if he should do the same thing. There are good reasons to have billboard and even bus bench advertisements and the biggest reason is that here in Southern California we do spend a lot of time in our cars. On average each of us spends two hours a day driving to and from work. That is a lot of time to be exposed to billboards and bus bench advertising. But unfortunately, that's where the "positives" of bus bench and billboard advertising ends.

The #1 problem with billboards and bus benches is they are not designed properly. In speaking with my lawyer client we focused on what one of his competitors is doing -- and doing wrong. The competitor has a big portrait photo on the billboard (that's good for the lawyer's ego) but the website address for the lawyer and phone number for the lawyer's office are small and difficult to read against the background colors. I've passed that lawyer's billboard on my way to work almost every day and I still can't read the phone number. Even if I could find and read the phone number would I pull to the side of the road to write it down?

The #2 problem with billboards and bus benches is that they don't get our undivided attention. We are usually driving past them, aren't we? But what's even a bigger problem is that there are so many billboards and bus bench ads that we can easily be distracted by the many ads -- if not by the actual traffic during our commutes.

The #3 problem is the cost of billboards. Here's what the billboard trade group says: the return on investment (ROI) for billboards "beats all traditional media except TV." Yep, and that's the bottom line for your money. If you are concerned about ROI (return on investment) then TV is still king of all media.

As my lawyer friend said to me, "case closed."

But, just for the fun of it, we went on to consider bus bench ads. I asked him to drive by some bus bench ads and report back to me what he saw. And what he saw were bus bench ads blocked by pedestrians as well as by folks simply sitting on the benches, or bus bench ads that were blocked by cars in traffic or bus bench ads that were in need of repair.

Now the bus bench advertising industry likes to use numbers like these: Average cost: $250 to $500 per month. Number of passing cars: 25,000 per day. Using those numbers the cost per passing vehicle can be as low as one-cent. But that cost of one-cent per vehicle is making the assumption the message is being read and absorbed. By the way, our TV show is reaching a household for less than one-half of one cent.

JUNE 28, 2017

Right now your potential customers and your potential clients are planning for their kids to go back to school and for many of them to go back to work after their vacations are over. You might not realize this but many public schools start up again on August 15th and this means that well before August 15th many families will want to have their back to school shopping done. Are you trying to get those back to school dollars?

Besides the usual shopping for school supplies and clothing and shoes, there is shopping for computers and furniture including beds and desks and lighting. And that's not just for the kids. Parents also need computers and clothes and office supplies and furniture to prepare for their jobs and to prepare for going back to work when family vacations are over.

Since families plan ahead for big spending -- and computers and clothing and furniture can all be considered big ticket items -- you need to be advertising now because families are making their plans now for buying those items. It is probably safe to think that the big shopping days for back to school will be in the first ten days of August (Orange County schools are back in session on August 15, and and Los Angeles County schools are back in session on August 16), so you should be advertising heavily starting July 15.

In fact, the National Retail Federation says that 68% of families have their back to school shopping list ready at least one month before school starts. Are you running your ads yet? What are you waiting for? And remember that the bigger the ticket price, the longer shoppers will shop before pulling the trigger and that means the earlier you need to be advertising your store and your business.

There was a forecast released two weeks ago that said 2017 Back To School Spending will rise by 4% over last year. How much of that increase will you get?

APRIL 15, 2017

If you have a retail business, your customers are expecting you to have a Memorial Day or a Memorial Weekend sale. And if you are selling a big ticket item such as a car or furniture your customers are expecting your Memorial Weekend Sale to last one full week or longer. It's been that way for a while now, and it's mostly because of the furniture, auto and RV sellers who have been advertising week-long sales.

Yes, customer expectations are now running high for sales and discounts. It's been that way ever since the great recession of 2008. Many customers now actually will put off shopping until the expected sale signs are up and the airwaves are crowded with advertisements for sales and bargains. Welcome to the retail reality of 2017.
 
So how do you get the jump on this with everybody advertising sales? You could start your Memorial Day and Memorial Weekend sale earlier than your competition. In fact, every year it seems like businesses are starting their sales earlier and earlier and running them longer and longer. Again, it's the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession. Why not start your Memorial Weekend Sale two weeks early?
 
Starting your Memorial Day and Memorial Weekend sale early makes a lot of sense especially if you are selling big ticket items and this is because consumers are not likely to buy cars, furniture and jewelry on impulse. Don't hesitate advertising big ticket items early for the key shopping month of May. Remember there are other holidays in May where shoppers also are buying big ticket items and your early advertising will help you with these other sales opportunities.
 
Mother's Day could prompt families to buy anything from jewelry to furniture to appliances for mom.
 
Many high school and college graduations take place in May and graduation gifts can range from clothing to accessories such as handbags and attache cases to jewelry and to furniture and to cars.
 
May is also when many families will take advantage of the weather to have major home improvements such as room additions and kitchen remodels.
 
May is also the start of wedding season and engagement season and this means plenty of parties where gift giving is expected. These gifts can range from appliances and jewelry to housewares.

May is also when many families start shopping for Father's Day gifts knowing that Dad really wants that special golf club, or you want to give Dad those custom cuff links.

The best part about the month of May is that the worries about taxes is over for most families, and the 70% of families who are due income tax refunds probably have them in hand. This will help the return on your May advertising and marketing expenses.

APRIL 10, 2017  

When most people discuss "May" and "December" love they think about May and December love affairs where there are big age differences. As a business owner you have to look at May and December love differently. You love the month of December because that's when you ring up big retail sales. Well the month of May also has the potential for big retail sales. Consider these reasons why consumers will shop heavily during May:

There is that big holiday in May called Mother's Day and Mother's Day could prompt families to buy anything from jewelry to furniture to appliances for mom.
 
Many high school and college graduations take place in May and graduation gifts can range from clothing to accessories such as handbags and attache cases to jewelry and to furniture and to cars.
 
The month of May is also when many families will take advantage of the weather to have major home improvements such as room additions and kitchen remodels.

The month of May is also the start of wedding season and engagement season and this means plenty of parties where gift giving is expected.These gifts can range from appliances and jewelry to housewares. And none of us can forget Memorial Day and Memorial Day Weekend and keep in mind it's when shoppers expect to see sales and promotions so be sure you don't disappoint.

The month of May is also when many families start shopping Father's Day gifts knowing that Dad really wants that special golf club, or you want to give Dad those custom cuff links.

The point is this: how you advertise and market in May could be responsible for the second biggest retail sales month of the year.

MARCH 31, 2017 

Roulette is not the kind of casino game I would like to play because your fate is decided only by luck. There is no skill, there is no savvy that can help you win. Where the ball bounces and lands on the roulette wheel is totally out of your control. Unfortunately, many businesses play advertising roulette with their money. If they get business from their ads it's only because of luck.

The truth is, when you buy any advertising you are buying a slot on a big roulette wheel, and the customer is the ball. The only way to improve your chances of catching the ball (the customer) is to have more slots on the wheel than your competition.

I'm writing this just after a ride in the car, and just after watching TV for an hour, and just after looking at a website for lawyers. Each of those media is nothing more than a roulette wheel for its advertisers.

While in the car, in the course of about 15 minutes, I heard four different commercials for four different tax-help companies. I also heard a lot of other commercials too. But those tax-help companies each had one slot in the roulette wheel hoping the consumer (listener) would land in their slot.

At home I watched one of my favorite TV shows and during one four minute commercial break I saw three (really 3) commercials for accident attorneys. Yes, each of those attorneys had one slot in that roulette wheel -- and the attorneys' slots were right next to each other.

That prompted me to look at a website for attorney referrals. Out of curiosity I did a search for "accident lawyers" near my address and there were 72 different attorneys listed. Yes, each of those attorneys had one out of 72 slots which gave them horrible odds of the ball landing with them. (By the way, Vegas roulette wheels have either 37 or 38 slots depending if it's a 0 or 00 game. Even 72 slots is crazy by Vegas standards.)

You shouldn't be playing "advertising roulette" with your money. If you are on TV doing commercials you don't want your commercial on the same wheel as your competition -- you want to have your commercials running when other competitors are not running their commercials.

If you're on the radio you want to follow the same rule. Why would you pay a radio station to have your commercial before or after the commercial of a competitor? What gives you the edge over your competitor? Do you really want to leave it to the luck of a bouncing ball for the consumer to call you after you just spent hundreds of dollars on that radio spot? If you're on a website, do you want to have your ad mixed in with the ads or listings of dozens of your competitors? Think people!

If you are going to play the "advertising roulette game" then make sure your competition is not on the same wheel. And if they are on the same wheel, then be sure you are dominating the wheel by having the most slots.

Frankly, there are two things you can do. First, you can negotiate an exclusive arrangement for your ads. Second, you can buy up the entire wheel. One way to buy up an entire wheel is with half-hour TV Infomercials because during your program your business is the only one being advertised.

Remember I told you about the three accident lawyers who had TV commercials running in the same commercial block? Well, each of those law firms could have had their own half-hour TV Infomercial for about what they spent on those 30-second spots that were jumbled in with the spots of their competitors.

And that website for referring lawyers? One lawyer told me he spends about $6,000 a month on ads like that. Would you put $6,000 on a slot in a roulette game?

MARCH 28, 2017  

April is one of those months of the year when a little investing in marketing and advertising can go a long way. Your advertising and marketing in April can be effective because there aren't many distractions for consumers and consumers are ready to spend.

In April, about 70% of taxpayers have their tax refunds and that means they have money to spend. So you want to advertise and market to get those shoppers and their money. Sure, there are about 30% of taxpayers who owe money and they will wait till April 18th to file (that's the deadline this year) and there are those who will file extensions or won't do anything but they're out of your control. Unless you're in the "tax help" or "money help" business those consumers are out of your marketing target anyway.

If on the other hand you do cater to consumers with tax problems, April is also your month. April is a good marketing month for resale shops, pawn shops, mortgage companies, personal loan companies and of course "tax help" companies and bankruptcy lawyers.

April also marks the start of spring -- the real spring. It's when consumers are shopping for outdoor furniture and outdoor living equipment ranging from barbecues to sports gear to patio sets. And of course this is when many families buy cars. Spring is also car fix-up season for those who don't want to buy. Spring is also personal fix-up season. Wardrobes change and this is the time to market spring styles and winter closeouts.

Spring is the start of home improvement season, and I mean the major home improvements. It's the ideal time to add on rooms and patios and to fix the roof and replace windows and doors. If you are in those businesses April is your time to market.

April, by the way, is when many families who charged purchases for Christmas and the holidays have paid off those purchases. Typically families take three months to pay the holiday bills. Those bills arrived in January and April is when they are paid. This means the psychology of families will be ready for spending again in April.

April is also when you should be advertising big ticket items for Mother's Day and Father's Day. If you are selling anything expensive you must give consumers a chance to think about, check out, save and then buy what you are selling. If you are selling diamond earrings for Mom you can't advertise them a week before Mother's Day and expect many will buy on impulse. If you are selling Rolex watches for Dad you can't advertise them a week before Father's Day and expect many will buy on impulse either.

By the way, many Graduations are in May so if you are marketing to Grads start your advertising and marketing in April also. The wedding season runs from June through August (most weddings are in August, by the way) so you start advertising everything from wedding jewelry to gowns and tuxes to honeymoon travel in April.

So April is a big month for starting your marketing and advertising. You advertise and market early so that consumers think about you first.

MARCH 25, 2017  

There is nothing to debate about this: you must have videos on your website. If you want to grow your business, if you want to convert website passersby into paying customers, and if you want to be ranked higher in Internet search results, you must have videos on your website. You can't fight it. The audience wants to see videos, the audience would rather watch a video than read text, Google owns YouTube, and Google and the other search engines know that the audience wants videos and so they will list websites with videos higher in search results. That's just the way of the world these days.

If that doesn't motivate you to have videos on your website, how about this:

Once you have a video on your website, you can use that same video to promote your business on other websites including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and dozens of other websites. The advantage of having a video on the Internet is that you don't have to pay for TV airtime and the Internet is free.

We have produced videos for clients that have been viewed 50,000 times or more on YouTube. Just last weekend one of our clients called me to say that the video we produced for him five years ago has continued to produce new customers for him and over five years it has had more than 1,200 views. Think about that: those 1,200 views are like 1,200 customers walking into his financial services company for a consultation. That's like meeting 240 potential customers a year without taking you away from your other work.

Videos on the Internet are probably the most effective for companies with high priced products and services. If you have a high-end product or service, or if you do something unique such as installing windows and doors quickly and with little disruption, you need to have a video. One of our clients is a floor refinishing company, and the video we produced for them is not only on the Internet, but each salesperson has the video on the laptop they bring to customers' homes as part of their sales routine.

We just shot a 5-minute video for a company in the financial services sector. The video will be on their website, and it will also be on YouTube. It will help explain their services and while it will help convert website passersby into paying customers, it will also help to weed out unqualified customers.

That five-minute video can also be used by that company for pay-per-click advertising, and for use on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn as part of their overall marketing and brand-building. And it can also be used as part of a future TV Infomercial and can be shortened for traditional TV spots also.

But the immediate benefit is simply this: once that video appears on their website, Google and the other search engines will see it and their website will get a boost in search results over the websites of their many competitors who don't have videos.

MARCH 15, 2017

I just broke the news to a business owner that he has no website traffic. Well, he might have a few people who come to his website, but he doesn't have enough web traffic to justify the $16,000 a month he told me he was paying for online display and Pay Per Click ads and for SEO (search engine optimization). Yes -- he told me he's been spending $16,000 a month. I looked up his website on Quantcast.com which is an independent company that tracks website traffic and the behavior of consumers. Go ahead -- look at your own web statistics.

Go to www.quantcast.com and click on the "Explore" button on the top right of their home page. Then a search bar will open at the top of the page that says "Search site, domain, etc" and enter your website address there. Then press enter. I did that for the company spending $16,000 a month and Quantcast delivered a screen that said "no search results to display" which is a nice way of saying "zero."

By the way, this business owner revealed to me that his monthly budget of $16,000 led to 40 possible leads from phone calls made to his business. That means each phone call cost him $400. He didn't tell me how many of the 40 callers actually signed up to do business with his firm.

For comparison, enter this website alanbestbuys.com. I have nothing to hide. I do ZERO advertising on the web. I don't pay anyone for SEO and I have ZERO pay per click ads. What I have is a TV show and I have content on my website that brings me hundreds and thousands of website visitors. But to be honest -- my TV audience is far greater than my web audience. TV is still king of all media.

I am still proud of my website audience because it shows who is watching my TV show. The Quantcast website gives the audience demographics for my website and I reach a wealthy, older, college educated audience. Yes, these are consumers with money to spend.

Quantcast provides a lot of detail too. I found that my audience is four to five times more likely to own a luxury car such as a Mercedes or a Lexus or a BMW.  My viewers really love basketball and hockey. And I have a lot of viewers who work in the medical profession. And do you want to reach Hispanics and Asians? Well, I've got them -- and I've got the wealthy, college-educated Hispanic and Asian audience!

One more thing: my audience is SIX TIMES more likely to use Yelp. So if you want to make an impression on Yelp users -- use my TV show and website.

If you don't have good website traffic don't dismiss it. Your website is the front door to your business. Consumers shop first using the Internet. They click with their fingers and no longer let their fingers do the walking. My TV show delivers a TV audience and website traffic. I can see it and if you look at Quantcast.com you will see it.

MARCH 6, 2017

Follow these five steps now to improve your website and your ranking in Google's search results:

1. Remove Keyword Spamming  Keyword spamming is when you list certain keywords on your website to attract visitors and search engines but the words have no meaning or relationship to your content. For example, if you list the names of dozens of cities near your business that is considered to be keyword spamming. If you repeat the same phrase over and over again on your website, such as "the best original tacos made with the best and healthiest ingredients" it is also considered to be keyword spamming. Google penalizes websites that spam keywords and they will push you lower on search engine results.

2. Remove Hidden Keyword Text  Some web designers try to outsmart the search engines and Google by hiding their keyword spamming behind photos or graphics or by having the keywords in white over a white background. But guess what? Google is smarter than your web designer and hiding keyword spamming just won't work. Remove it now and fire that web designer.

3. Stop Using Scraped Content  Scraped content refers to content copied from other respected websites. Some web designers will scrape respected content from other sites in an attempt to boost a customer's website ranking. Well, scraped content not only won't help your website ranking but Google will punish you and lower your search ranking or even drop you from their search results.

4. Lack Of Original Content  If your website only uses photos and text supplied by your suppliers or manufacturers or wholesalers then Google will punish you in search results. You must have your own original content. It is okay to use photos and information supplied by other companies but you must improve upon it. Write your own reviews, add your own descriptions, supply additional information to the content given to you. When you simply copy and paste you are cutting your own search engine ranking and your own throat.

5. Add Videos About Your Business  How many times do I have to say this? The best way to improve your search results is to have videos about your business on your website. Remember that consumers love to watch videos and Google owns YouTube and Google wants to promote websites with videos that are hosted on YouTube. Videos will improve the time that consumers spend on your website and the more time spent on your website the better your chances for making a sale.

Google is constantly monitoring websites for violations of its Webmaster Guidelines. Remove the violations as soon as possible.

 

FEBRUARY 27, 2017 

One of the biggest casinos in the United States is located here in Southern California. I'm not going to name them here but you probably know who they are because they advertise just how popular they are. This casino just rolled out a new advertising and marketing campaign and I'm afraid they blew it. And it's shocking that they blew it considering all the money they have. They blew it by choosing the wrong word for their new slogan. Their new slogan is "Play On Another Level." Unfortunately the key word "another" is weak. It's very weak.

"Another" does not indicate better. In fact, "another" doesn't indicate anything. It's a bland, meaningless word that sends no positive images to the minds of potential customers.

The casino's ad agency would have been better off using a word that would appeal to the desires of potential customers. Here are some other key word phrases that could have been used that would be more effective instead of Play On Another Level:

Play On A Winning Level
Play On A Superior Level
Play On A Glamorous Level
Play On A Championship Level
Play On A Select Level
Play On A Winner's Level
Play On A Quality Level
Play On A Supreme Level
Play On A Greater Level

Frankly, when you say "it's on another level" it easily can be interpreted to mean a lesser or inferior level.

FEBRUARY 20, 2017

If you are considering overnight TV advertising including Infomercials please consider this information:

Our Best Buys Show was on four times during the Presidents Day Weekend. We had our two regular shows on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 10-AM on KCOP. And our advertisers who were on those two shows also got two free bonus shows on KCOP. One free bonus show was Sunday morning at 4:30-AM. The second free bonus show was at 2-AM Monday morning.

I carefully monitored the web traffic during these regular shows and bonus shows and I thought the results would interest you.

First, more than 70% of the visitors to our website during the overnight bonus shows were using their cell phones. Yep, as they watched in bed, they had their cell phones in hand and because they probably had no other distractions they went to our website during the shows. This statistic comes from Google Analytics, which we use.

We actually had more traffic to our website during the Sunday morning show at 4:30-AM than we did during the Monday morning show at 2-AM. In fact the difference was substantial.

We also found that the TV show viewers at 4:30-AM on Sunday were more inclined to click on ads than were the TV show viewers at 2-AM on Monday.

Of course both of the overnight shows had a much smaller audience than our regular 10-AM shows but it was significant that so many went to our website while the shows were on TV.

In fact, the Sunday show at 4:30-AM generated about 20% of the usual web traffic during our 10-AM show and the 4:30-AM audience generated about 15% of our usual revenue by clicking on our pay per click ads. Now that is very significant considering that the actual number of viewers at 4:30-AM was so much smaller than during our 10-AM shows.

What this tells me is this: while the overnight audiences are smaller, they are more inclined to pay attention to a program on TV, and because there are less distractions they are more likely to click on an advertised website for more information or to place orders.

I think that is a very good performance report for anyone considering an overnight half-hour TV Infomercial. I saw it myself this past weekend: while the audience is smaller in the overnight hours they do pay attention and they do respond and will go to websites and click on advertisements.

So with the overnight shows, while you are getting fewer viewers you are getting better viewers who are more inclined to listen to your message and to respond to it. It's quality, and not quantity.

For those of you considering your own half-hour TV Infomercial, please consider what I just told you.

FEBRUARY 20, 2017

I am hoping you will never make the mistake that another company here in the LA area just made. I won't identify the company publicly because I don't want to cause anyone to lose their job or embarrass the owner. But the owner should be embarrassed and I know that he personally manages all of the marketing at his company. The company is a retail store, and it sent out a postcard campaign for a Valentine's Day sale. Of course there's nothing wrong with a postcard campaign for a Valentine's Day sale until you consider the following:

1. The store did not use a mass mailing system and they paid retail for each postcard sent. In fact, on each postcard is a regular 34-cent postage stamp which means the cost of the campaign was at least 34-cents per household.

2. The store had a custom designed postcard. Again there is nothing wrong with that but you have to figure that at the absolute minimum the design cost $300 (and that's cheap) and the printing had to be at least 5-cents per postcard. So this business has now spent at least 39-cents per postcard.

3. I'm not sure what mailing list the store used. If it's only their existing customer list (I happen to be on it) then the mailing list was free. Otherwise, the store might have spent anywhere from 3-cents to fifty-cents per name and address. If you're keeping tally, the store now spent a minimum of 39-cents per postcard plus the design cost ($300 maybe?) plus the cost of any additional names and addresses. Frankly, there are other advertising options that will reach a household for less.

Now the killer:

4. The postcards were postmarked on February 9th which means they couldn't be delivered until February 10th at the earliest. But more likely, they were delivered on Saturday, February 11th. I don't know about you, but my mail arrives on Saturday afternoon when I am already out of the house.

Valentine's Day was Tuesday, the 14th, which means anyone who happened to actually read the postcard had two or maybe three days to act on it.

So what we have here is an expensive ad campaign that went out too late to have much of any value.

If you're going to have a postcard campaign at least send out the postcards two weeks before the targeted shopping dates. Give your money a chance to work for you. Don't send out postcards so that your customers have little or no time to react.

FEBRUARY 6, 2017

I believe there are two basic rules that everyone must follow as part of a successful business advertising and marketing plan.

Rule Number One is to plan ahead for your advertising and marketing. The reasons are simple for this: if you plan ahead you can get the best prices and the best placement for your ads. You also don't have to rush and make snap decisions which can be filled with errors.

Rule Number Two is to anticipate what potential customers will be thinking about or doing. If you know, for example, that a family will be on vacation in Europe you wouldn't want to spend money on a direct mail campaign while they are away. And if you know that a family has kids you would include them in an advertising campaign for summer camps and family vacations. And if you know that a family of potential customers doesn't read newspapers on a daily basis but watches TV you would divert your ad dollars away from print and towards broadcast.

Rule Number Two also includes knowing the mindset of your potential customers. If you are selling water skis and bathing suits it's unlikely many shoppers have water sports on their minds in February so you wouldn't do much advertising in February -- but you would advertise in June. On the other hand, we all know that consumers are shopping for holiday gifts in November and December so it makes sense to advertise in October to get your business on the minds of those shoppers before they actually start shopping.

So that brings us to the question: what is the mindset of consumers in March?

First, we should mention that there aren't many holidays during March to prompt shopping. Yes, there is St. Patrick's Day on March 17th and there is National Alien Abductions Day on March 20th but I doubt many of your customers will want to buy a new sofa or remodel their kitchen to celebrate either.

But there's another unofficial holiday that will run all month long during March and it's the "tax refund in the mail holiday."

As I've told you before, while you Mr. Businessman are struggling over your business taxes, about 70% of consumers get an income tax refund and that's money available for shopping. March is when you should be advertising to get your piece of the tax refund pie.

Since there is no major holiday to prompt shopping, you have to advertise and market your business to make those consumers splurge.

There is something else that will be on the minds of consumers in March and that is what to do with the house and where they live.

During March is when families decide if they want to move during the summer (when the kids are out of school) or if they want to fix up their current home instead of moving.

So if you are in Real Estate, March is when you start advertising your brand to home sellers and to home buyers. If you are in the Mortgage business, March is when you start talking up your loan business for both buyers and refinancing loans for families that are going to fix up their homes. If you are in the furniture business, the carpeting and flooring business, the kitchen remodeling business, the bathroom remodeling business, the pool and spa business, the roofing business, the pest control business, the moving business and any business related to where people live, March is when you want to get your name out and get it in the mindset of consumers.

FEBRUARY 1, 2017 

Many small businesses get swept up, and then get carried away, by Pay Per Click advertising programs on the Internet. Yes, there is a time and a place for PPC ads, but you should know the true cost of a Pay Per Click ad campaign. Once you understand the true cost of a PPC campaign, it might not be as appealing as you think it is.

First, let's look at what you think the cost of the PPC ad campaign is. You might be told you need a budget of $1,000 a month and you might be told that you will be charged $1.25 each time someone clicks on your Internet ad link to your website. Okay, so what does that mean? That means your $1,000 will get you 800 people to look at your website. Simply it's 1000/1.25 = 800.

But wait, there's more to this advertising math. Are you doing the work yourself, or are you paying an outside company to handle your PPC campaign? I just spoke to a business owner who is paying someone $400 per month to manage his campaign. Now he is paying $1,400 a month to get 800 visitors to his website and that means his cost per visitor is now $1.75 each. How would you like to stand outside your store and pay people $1.75 each to walk in? In effect, that's what you are doing with PPC ads.

You should know that all advertising is priced by the thousands. For example, the cost of a thousand visitors, or the cost of a thousand listeners, or the cost of a thousand readers, or the cost of a thousand viewers.

If you are paying $1.75 per click-through on the Internet, one thousand click-throughs is costing you $1,750. Now, hold on to your wallet because most other forms of advertising have "cost per thousand" rates that range between $3 and $15. If you happen to be spending $15 to reach 1,000 viewers or listeners, your cost for each person is only one and a half cents. (By the way, we figure our Best Buys TV Show has a cost per viewer of less than one-half of one cent.) So, do you still want to pay $1.75 for each Internet click-through?

Wait... it gets even worse. Not everybody who clicks on your Internet ad is going to become a customer. The actual "conversion rate" is about 3-percent which means if you are paying $1.75 for each Internet click-through you will have to pay about $58.33 to actually get a new customer.

JANUARY 19, 2017

Don't kid yourself: the key to all advertising is to reach your target audience at the lowest possible price. There are all kinds of low-priced advertising that you can buy, but if it is not reaching your target audience you are throwing your money away. The classic example of this is what happened to Crazy Gideon's -- the downtown Los Angeles electronics discounter. I know this story well because I produced the commercials for Crazy Gideon's, but I did not do the media buy. Gideon (who is now retired) spent $25,000 a month for three months on Cable TV commercials. Even though I am a Cable TV watcher I never saw one of my commercials, and neither did Gideon. In fact, Gideon said he never got even one customer from his Cable TV advertising campaign. When the campaign was over, we found out why the response was so poor.

Gideon did not buy commercials specific to the geographic area that his customers came from. Most of his customers came from the area around downtown Los Angeles and from the San Fernando Valley, but the Cable TV systems ran his commercials in cities in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and north LA County and South Orange County. Gideon told me to my face it was $75,000 wasted.

Buying the correct geographic area isn't your only concern. You also want to buy the media that will reach your targeted audience demographic.

Don't make these mistakes:

If you are selling wedding gowns you don't want to advertise in hunting magazines. If you are selling kitchen remodeling you don't want to advertise in magazines that cater to apartment dwellers because renters aren't going to remodel their kitchen.

You also want to be sure your advertisement is reaching the correct demographics for income and age.

You don't advertise second-hand, pre-owned, used furniture on an all-news or financial news station because it is very unlikely those listeners will buy pre-owned furniture. You don't advertise men's suits or legal services for auto accidents on a rock and roll radio station that caters to pre-teenagers, nor do you advertise on radio stations where the listeners are so old that they don't go to work and they don't drive.

These examples might seem silly to you but these mistakes are being made right now by businesses here in the Los Angeles area.

JANUARY 5, 2017

Now is when you should be making your new year resolutions to improve your business. Allow me to suggest two resolutions.

Resolution #1 Curtail Radio Advertising

Frequent readers of my Marketing Memos know that radio is not my favorite advertising medium and frankly, it's a potential disaster for small businesses. First, radio is expensive because most of the radio stations are controlled by only a few companies who keep prices high, and you are paying a lot per listener. But are people really listening to your commercial on the radio? Most radio listeners are in their cars and frankly when they are in their cars they can't write down the names and phone numbers that they might hear. And let me emphasize the phrase might hear because when folks are in their cars are they really listening for commercials and listening for phone numbers and names and addresses? Or, are they in the car with someone and talking? Or, are they perhaps talking on their hands-free cell phone? Next time you're in your car, listen to a "commercial block" with four or five commercials in it, and tell me if you can remember what businesses were advertised and what their phone numbers or address were.

RESOLUTION #2 HAVE AN INFOMERCIAL

This will surprise those of you who are radio advertisers. For the cost of a "morning drive" spot on a major radio station in Los Angeles, you can have your own half-hour TV Infomercial in the late night. Also, you will have better response from a single late night half-hour TV Infomercial than you will have from that single morning drive-time radio spot.

First, let me tell you about current prices for late night half-hour TV Infomercials. We are booking for clients now Infomercials running between 1:30-AM and 3-AM for prices ranging from a low of $350 to as high as $650. And that is probably equal to or less than what "spots" on some of the major radio stations in "morning drive-time" are costing now. And what are the differences?

First of all, there's a good chance no one in their car will listen to or remember your "spot" that comes in a cluster of "spots" during a commercial break. Now, it's true the TV audience at 1:30-AM or 3-AM will be smaller than the morning drive-time radio audience, but anyone watching your half-hour program will have few if any distractions. Chances are they're in bed, or sitting in the kitchen with nothing to do. And it is more likely they will actually absorb your message.

With your own half-hour program you really have a chance to tell them about your business, and to show them what you offer, and to show them the quality of what you are selling, or explain why they need your service. You just can't do that in a thirty second or sixty second commercial radio spot.

A half-hour TV Infomercial allows you also to capture views from other viewers who are changing channels. If they miss the first five minutes of your half hour TV show they have another 25 minutes to get your message. But if you pay the same amount of money for a 30-second radio spot, there is no second chance to capture listeners because either they heard the full thirty-second spot or they didn't.

Another thing to consider is that half-hour TV Infomercial programs are not expensive to produce. While you could go to the big-name Infomercial companies who charge $200,000 or more to produce a program for you, we have produced very successful Infomercials for less than $10,000 and I have a documented case where one of my clients booked more than $150,000 in business with each broadcast. Call me to discuss.

DECEMBER 19, 2016

This is when you should start planning for your February advertising and marketing. Yes, it's too late to do anything for Christmas but this is the right time to start your program for the big February sales season.

The first "holiday" in February really isn't a holiday but it's just as big. It's Super Bowl Sunday and it's on February 5th. Do you sell TVs and sofas to sit on when families watch TV? You want to be advertising as soon as early January to capture these sales. If you have a restaurant selling take-out foods -- this is a big "holiday" for you.

Valentine's Day is February 14th and Valentine's Day gifts range from traditional jewelry for women and fine watches for men, to clothing to sports gear and sports memorabilia for men. For my friends in the jewelry business a word of caution: if you are selling big ticket items including diamond jewelry and Rolex watches don't make the mistake of waiting till the last minute to advertise these items because consumers are not going to wait till the last minute to plan for and buy merchandise that costs thousands of dollars. Your advertising and marketing for big ticket Valentine's Day items should be in place no later than mid January. You need to plant the idea and give the consumers time to budget and then come to your store to make the purchase. And "big ticket advertising" in the last three days before Valentine's Day is a waste of your money.

Presidents Day is February 20th and that's a Monday. So that entire weekend starting Friday, February 17th is a big sales period. Again, if you are selling big ticket items including furniture, bedroom sets, kitchen appliances, cars, jewelry, you need to be advertising early to plant the thought in consumers' minds that they should shop with you. Remember, you want to get the word out before your competition gets the word out. Everyone will advertise for Presidents Day the week before the holiday. But the businesses that advertise two weeks before and three weeks before will get the edge. In fact, this past November we saw many companies start their Black Friday sales in early November.

There are other important reasons to plan your February advertising now. If you reserve your air time early you will not only get the best air time available (and this goes for the best print placements also) but you also will be able to negotiate the best prices.

NOVEMBER 21, 2016  

I want to look ahead to the month of January. One central theme of all of my Marketing Memos is that you should always plan ahead and now is the time to plan for your January advertising and marketing. The best part about January advertising on TV and radio is that the cost is about as low as it gets. Let's be real: November and December were the big ad months because of political advertising and the traditional holiday ads. In January that business evaporates and the TV and radio stations are hungry for revenue. Not only are January "spot prices" low, but prices for half-hour Infomercials are at rock bottom.

TV advertisers in January also get a bonus. In addition to the low ad prices in January, there can be a larger audience watching TV in January. Let's face it: in January there are fewer holiday parties, and there is less time spent in shopping malls, and there is a lot less vacation time in January, and that all adds up to a larger TV audience watching your lower cost TV commercials and Infomercials. That makes January TV advertising a real deal.

There are also good marketing reasons to advertise in January: There are the New Year sales and the after holiday clearance sales and January White Sales for appliances and bedding and furniture. There is also advertising for consumers who make "new year resolutions." If you are selling cosmetic surgery or financial planning or physical fitness you can target the consumers who have made new year resolutions in these categories. There are families who, after the holidays, have made resolutions to remodel the kitchen or bathroom or fix the roof or add on a room and January is the time to market to these consumers as well.

There are also certain January holidays for advertising and marketing and these holidays include Martin Luther King Day which is Monday, January 16, and the Chinese New Year starts Saturday, January 28.

January is when you also want to start your early February advertising for three very important shopping events: The Super Bowl is February 5 and many families will buy new TVs and sofas to watch the big game; Valentine's Day is February 14 and if you are selling jewelry you must advertise your big ticket items early; and Presidents Day is February 20 and you should advertise your Presidents Day Sale early.

NOVEMBER 17, 2016 

When you plan your advertising and marketing for the month of December you have to plan on having a split personality. In the first half of December your personality should reflect a holiday spirit. In the first half of December you have to pour on your advertising for holiday sales. The weekend of December 17-18 is the final weekend before Christmas and in recent years this final weekend before Christmas has seen a huge surge of last minute sales. So up until Sunday, December 18 it is okay to advertise for holiday sales.

After December 18th your advertising personality has to change because after December 18th it is probably too late to impact any holiday shopping. Not only is the big final weekend over, but it's also too late to affect plans for buying big ticket items. Unfortunately, every year I see that there are companies that in the last few days before Christmas will advertise big ticket items for Christmas ranging from diamonds to Rolex watches to new cars and frankly they are simply wasting their money. The reality is, few shoppers will be rushed into buying a big ticket item at the last minute. That kind of advertising for big ticket items should have been made days or even weeks earlier when there was still time to impact shoppers' plans. Asking a shopper to spend thousands of dollars on impulse a couple of days before the holiday is a waste of money.

This doesn't mean your advertising has to shut down after Sunday, December 18th, but if you do advertise after Sunday, December 18th it should be well thought out and planned. After Sunday, December 18th, your advertising should be targeting either last minute impulse items or after Christmas discounts and sales. Popular last minute items include gift cards and gift certificates. If your business hasn't had gift cards or gift certificates before, this might be the year to have them. The gift card market has been steadily increasing since 2012 and the gift card industry is expecting a record year this year.

There is other advertising you can do in late December. If you are having a big sale in January, it doesn't hurt to start that advertising in late December because you will probably get a head start on your competition. Late December is also when you can beef up advertising for winter living which includes home improvements and furniture and appliances since families will be spending more time indoors. Since home improvement plans are never made on a whim, advertising your home improvement business throughout the month of December makes perfect sense.

It also doesn't hurt to start your January White Sale advertising in the days right after Christmas. You might actually want to start your January White Sale before New Year's Eve to get the jump on your competition.

OCTOBER 30, 2016 

Every day, different business owners email me or call me with questions about having their own half-hour TV Infomercial. And after telling them how effective they can be, and how affordable they are, and how the actual costs of traditional 30-second commercials on both radio and TV are so high, I remind them that the window is opening up soon for low-cost TV Infomercial airtime.

November and December are not the months to start with an Infomercial because the best air time has already been locked up by the big holiday advertisers who are selling everything from holiday blankets to cookware to CD collections for gifts. But in January the big holiday advertisers are gone and not only will there be a lot of quality broadcast times available, but prices will be low.

If you ever wanted to have your own half-hour TV program advertising your business and services January is the time to have it on TV. Consumers are watching just as much TV in January as they watch any other month of the year but the price you will be paying for the half-hour broadcast times will be among the lowest of the entire year.

If you are serious about being on the air in January keep in mind that it takes several weeks to shoot, edit, have your program closed-captioned (required by law) and then get approved by the station for broadcast. Let me discuss each of these.

PRODUCTION TIME  We have shot full half-hour TV Infomercials in one, two or three days. For example, if we are shooting in two or three stores or interviewing three or four customers, we can get the video shot quickly -- sometimes in one weekend. In general, each day of shooting needs two days of scripting and editing. This means an Infomercial shot in three days could be edited and ready for "closed captioning" six days later.

CLOSED CAPTIONING  Closed captioning is required by law, and takes about a week. We use a third-party closed captioning company for this service.

STATION APPROVAL  TV stations and networks must approve the program for their standards and practices. Because I've been in the business for more than ten years, and I've been in the TV news business for a long time, I know the rules and we will produce the program so it gets approved. Still, the stations require one full week to view and approve each new program.

Combining the three elements of production, closed captioning, and station approval, and without any delays, it takes just over three weeks to get an Infomercial ready for broadcast. But that doesn't include planning for your program: who are we going to interview and where are we going to shoot and what days will we do the shooting?

So the bottom line is this: if you want to have your new half-hour TV Infomercial on in January, when air time prices are low, now is the time to call me so we can start putting your production together. Remember during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays the closed captioning company, and the TV stations have their offices closed and are not accepting new Infomercials during these holiday breaks.

If you want your new half-hour TV show to start soon after New Year's Day, it needs to be shot, edited and delivered to closed captioning probably by about December 15th.

OCTOBER 25, 2016 

This is the time of year when you start to make your last minute plans for holiday advertising, including the last minute advertising before Christmas. Before you decide to make a big "media buy" in hopes of boosting your last minute sales consider these factors:

Consumer shopping patterns have shifted and more shoppers are planning their purchases weeks and months ahead.

Many consumers actually start their shopping earlier than November in an attempt to control their budgets and to be sure they get the merchandise they want at the best price. Shoppers have learned that last minute buying can mean a lack of merchandise and higher prices.

It is unlikely any last minute advertising campaign will influence any shopping decisions for big ticket items, since consumers plan for major purchases weeks and even months in advance.

If consumers are buying anything at the last minute, they are buying lower priced impulse items. If you are selling anything pricey then mid-December advertising is probably too late to influence any holiday shopping decisions. Frankly, I chuckle when I see jewelers advertising diamond earrings and Rolex watches the day before Christmas -- because anyone shopping for diamonds or high end timepieces was shopping for them days or even weeks earlier.

If you really want to promote December sales, do your advertising right after Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend. If you are advertising big ticket items for Christmas, then realistically, the absolute last days you should advertise is the weekend of December 17 and 18. That final weekend before Christmas is probably the last day anyone who is "undecided" will make a big ticket purchase. However, I think it is smarter to advertise big ticket items for Christmas during the first two weekends of December which are the weekends of December 3-4 and December 10-11.

OCTOBER 16, 2016 

This is the time of year when everyone starts thinking about their Black Friday sales. In this Marketing Memo I want to suggest to you to skip Black Friday and to choose another day to promote your holiday sales. The problem with Black Friday is that everybody else and all of the giant retailers will be promoting Black Friday. That makes it very hard for small and independent businesses to compete.

Here's a true story: a couple of years ago one of my clients promoted a Black Friday parking lot sale at their stand-alone store off the 5 Freeway. They didn't do well and I knew they wouldn't because it was their single, stand-alone store versus the big shopping malls.

Black Friday selling and shopping is tough enough, but how can a single destination store compete against a shopping mall with multiple stores? The reality is the single destination store cannot compete. When shoppers plan their day they are more likely going to hit the mall with multiple stores than deal with traffic to get to just a single store location.

If you have a lighting store with one location, or a furniture store with one location, or a clothing store with one location -- you cannot compete with the attractiveness that a shopping center or a major mall can present on Black Friday or even during Thanksgiving weekend. My advice is to lay low over Thanksgiving weekend, let the big shopping malls and chain stores have their sales -- then come out swinging with your sale after the Black Friday hoopla wears off.

Actually, Black Friday isn't the big shopping day it used to be. The big shopping days have now shifted to the final weekend before Christmas, and the latest shopping data shows that many families are now working through their shopping lists even before the Thanksgiving holiday.

And here's another idea. Perhaps you can beat the competition by having your big sale a week before or two weeks before Black Friday? There is a big advantage to having your big sale early: you can get the shoppers before they blow their budgets at the competition's Black Friday sale.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

This past Friday, Google announced another update in how it ranks websites in its search results. These latest updates to the "Penguin" program can have serious implications for your website's rank if you violate any of the guidelines that Google has issued. For a bit of background: Google has issued it's own standards or guidelines for quality websites. If you don't meet those standards, Google will give you a lower ranking in its search results. Unfortunately many website designers do not follow the Google guidelines and that can seriously hurt your business.

One of the guidelines that Google says it is now enforcing is its opposition to keyword stuffing. Unfortunately many businesses use keyword stuffing on their websites. This is a warning that Google is going to punish you. You not only risk getting a lower ranking on search results, but you also risk being completely removed from Google's search results.

One typical example of keyword stuffing is listing on your home page dozens of communities or cities that you serve. Google hates that. Google does not want to see a list of cities that you serve. That is keyword stuffing. You can yell about it all you want but Google says that list of cities is a black mark. Google also wrote in its memo about other examples of keyword stuffing. This is a quote from Google:

  • Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value

  • Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for

  • Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural, for example:

    We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you're thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at custom.cigar.humidors@example.com.

The problem for you, again, is that many website designers don't follow Google's rules. If your web designer does not know what Google's rules are, call me and I will review your website.

AUGUST 27, 2016

How would you like your own half-hour TV show just about your business? How would you like a TV show where you control the entire half hour and you decide what to promote? How would you like your own half-hour TV show where you don't have to worry about a competitor's message coming in the same "commercial block" as often happens with traditional commercials on radio and TV? Of course you can have your own half-hour TV show by having your own half-hour TV Infomercial.

You can even have your own half-hour TV show scheduled every week at the same time -- or every night at the same time -- so you can tell your customers exactly when you will be on. By having a regularly scheduled half-hour TV show you can actually grow your audience and keep the audience coming back by saying "we'll be here again next week at this same time" or "watch us every Tuesday and Thursday at this same time." Not only does that help to build an audience but it also will help you build credibility with the audience because you have your own TV show.

Half-hour Infomercials are not expensive to produce or to broadcast. We have produced complete TV Infomercials for as little as $6,000 and this is a one-time fee. You can broadcast a half-hour Infomercial on the main TV stations here in Los Angeles for as little as $500 or sometimes less in the overnight hours, and during daytime for $3,000 or less. I am talking about the major TV stations like channels 5, 9, 11 and 13, and not some cable TV public access channel like channel 862 that no one is watching.

Now that I have given you those prices, consider the alternatives:

On overnight TV here in Los Angeles, a 30-second commercial on the main stations costs $50 to $100 which means that for $500 you could buy as few as five 30-second commercials or one half-hour TV Infomercial. On daytime TV here in Los Angeles, a 30-second commercial on the main stations cost $250 to $500 which means that for $2500 you could buy as few as five 30-second commercials or one half-hour TV Infomercial.

Sure, sometimes 30-second TV commercials can get the job done. But unless you are McDonalds or Bank of America or American Airlines how are you going to tell the audience where your business is located or the quality of your products and services in just a 30 second message? The reality is you can't get the job done in 30-seconds. Most small businesses and even mid-sized businesses are wasting their money with 30-second commercials. And to add insult to injury your 30-second commercial could be in the same commercial block with your direct competition.

As a matter of fact, the other night I was watching TV and two termite companies showed up in the same block of commercials. And then two window companies showed up in the same block of commercials. And then two car dealers showed up in the same block of commercials. And then two lawyers showed up in the same block of commercials. So, if you're at home and you just watched a block of commercials with two termite companies, or two window companies, or two car dealers or two lawyers, which of the two do you call? Do you call the advertiser who appeared first or the advertiser who appeared second?

If you have been spending money on traditional commercials whether on TV or radio it's time to give your own half-hour TV show a try. You will find that for the cost of a traditional "spot campaign" you can have your own half-hour show with enough broadcasts on TV to have a real impact on viewers. Because -- even though you don't want to admit it -- no one remembers what was in a 30-second commercial. And if you don't believe me, watch a block of commercials on TV or listen to a block of commercials on the radio and when it's over, write down the names of the companies who just advertised. Go ahead -- try it.

AUGUST 21, 2016

You and I have something in common: we both want and need new customers. As we get new customers we can increase sales and revenues but we have to be careful about how we spend our money to acquire new customers. There are some new industry statistics that can give us some ideas on the most efficient way to acquire new customers. Recently, the Direct Marketing Association reported that social media advertising is getting great response on mobile devices including cell phones and the response rate on mobile devices is greater than the response rate on desktop computers, and the response rate for social media on mobile devices is even greater than the response rates for email, Internet display ads, and Internet search advertising. What does this mean? It means if you are buying ads on social media be sure the ads are formatted to be viewed on cell phones. It also means that paying for display ads on websites and paying for ranking on search engines is not as important as it used to be.

But what marketing has the best ROI or return on investment? The Direct Marketing Association says that the ROI on email marketing is 122% which simply means for every dollar you spend you'll get $1.22 back in business.

Some other industry statistics show that the "email open rate" is 19.47% and I am proud to say that my email open rate is currently 46% and that's because I am sharing information as well as asking for business. If you are using email marketing, include some tips in your emails first and then give your sales pitch.

If you are paying for "search" the average cost per click is $3.79 and less than 4% of those who do click will convert into actual customers. Paid search is a very expensive way to find new customers. Internet display ads have a conversion rate of less than 5% so that's another expensive way to find new customers. If you are printing a catalogue the latest industry report says that the cost per lead is -- brace yourself -- $47.61 and that's a big "ouch" if you ask me. But those of you printing catalogues aren't spending the most per new customer. The highest cost per new customer is for telemarketing and that cost per lead is a staggering $309. Double ouch. And to add to the pain of telemarketing is the statistic that when you get someone on the phone only 6% will actually do business with you. (I know a home improvement contractor who uses telemarketing and now I understand why he has no money for TV advertising.)

 

AUGUST 15, 2016

In a couple of weeks, there will be no more time for excuses. Either you will get serious about advertising and marketing for the back-to-school and back-to-work and upcoming holiday shopping seasons, or you won't. In September the big media outlets including radio and TV stations, firm up advertising schedules for the holiday shopping season. Frankly, most of the good broadcast schedules for Infomercials have been sold out through the end of the year, and if you haven't booked time for commercial spots the chance to lock-in "early discounts" is pretty much over.

The month of September is critical by itself. The first two weeks of  September are dominated by Labor Day and Labor Day Weekend sales. During early September families are still shopping for back to school, and with vacation season over, families are also shopping for clothing and accessories and supplies for getting back to work. This is when many families buy computers and printers, desks, lighting, and supplies for work.

The month of September also marks the time when outdoor living shifts to indoor living. So families will now be buying that sofa, or dining room set, or new appliances not only for indoor living but also looking forward to the holiday season when guests will be visiting.

While families had lots of excuses not to remodel their bathroom or kitchen during the summer because they were outside, the excuse time is over and now they are going to be serious about their big home improvements. September is also when families start budgeting and making wish-lists for holiday shopping. As a business owner you might make the mistake of not thinking like your customers. Well, trust me on this: your customers are now planning ahead for their holiday shopping. Research shows that to be true. So you must start promoting your business now to capture those early plans and this also means it's time to start advertising layaway plans, and financing plans, and your merchandise for the holidays.

If you are selling big ticket items including furniture, jewelry, appliances, and electronics start advertising early so that when families are making up their wish lists you are included in those wish lists. Trust me on this: if you are advertising Rolex watches and diamond jewelry you are wasting your time and your money if you advertise the week before Christmas -- because no one is buying those items on impulse unless they are rock stars.

AUGUST 5, 2016

By now, you know you need to have a Blog on your website. A blog is a name given to an article or a series of articles that share information you have. A "blog" is a "website log" of information that you add to over time. As a business owner there are various reasons why you should have a blog on your website. The main reason you put a blog on your website is to show your customers and clients that you have certain knowledge and products and services that they are looking for, and by writing about those products and services and by sharing your knowledge you hope to build your attractiveness and trust.

Another reason to have a blog is to help boost your ranking and appearance in search engines and to improve your Search Engine Optimization or SEO. The search engines will "read" your blog and the content in your blog will help you get a higher ranking in search results. Having a blog with content about a subject will get you a higher SEO ranking than just listing products and services on your website. I will repeat that again because it is so important: Having a blog with content about a subject will get you a higher SEO ranking than just listing products and services on your website.

Let me give you some examples: If you are an estate lawyer having a blog or article about the right way to write and store a will will have more impact on your SEO ranking than just listing on your website "keywords" such as "will." If you are selling washing machines, having a blog or article about the latest features in washing machines will have more impact on your SEO ranking than just listing models and prices and descriptions of the machines. Why? Because a couple of years ago Google made the decision to look for and rank higher original content (articles and blogs) to determine its search engine results.

So what should you be writing about? Write about your business. Write about what you do. Write in sentences and paragraphs. Did you know that if you wrote an article with a sentence that says "we offer plumbing services in Sherman Oaks and Encino and Tarzana" it will have a higher impact on SEO results than just listing the names Sherman Oaks, Encino and Tarzana on your website?

If you want your website to get to the top of search engine results without paying for a higher ranking then blog, write, publish about your business, your products, your services and what you do. As a Google executive said to me, the most valuable member of your website team is not your web designer -- it's your writer.

JULY 30, 2016 

August is one of the most important months of the year for your advertising and marketing. Here's what we have in August:

1. Back To School. August 16th is the first day of school for the Los Angeles Unified School District and for many other districts in Southern California. What parents don't buy the week before school starts they will be buying the week after school starts and this includes computers, clothing, desks and lighting, and of course school supplies.

2. Return To Indoor Living. August is when vacations end and families return to indoor living. So if families put off home improvements such as new appliances and remodeling during the summer, they are going to catch-up now before the days get even shorter. This is the time to start pushing home improvements, furniture, appliances and electronics to make indoor living better.

3. Back To Work. August is when the peak vacation season is ending and that means parents will be going back to work. This opens up the opportunity to market and advertise clothing for back to work, as well as computers, luggage, desks, and small appliances for offices.

4. Summer Close-Outs. August is when you have to close-out and move out summer merchandise to make room for fall fashions as well as other merchandise for indoor living. Your competitors are also going to start their close-out sales, so get the jump on them by starting your sales and your ads earlier than they start them.

5. Early Labor Day Sales. Labor Day this year is Monday, September 5th, which means that Labor Day Weekend will start on Friday, September 2nd and traditional Labor Day Weekend advertising will start as early as Friday, August 26th. Why not get a jump on your competition by starting your Labor Day Sales and your Labor Day advertising earlier?

6. Balancing The Budget Time. August is when families start to balance the budget. They look ahead to the tax deadline for mid-October if they filed extensions and they look at their budgets for the holidays. With vacations over it could be time to look at investing, insurance and their mortgage payments.

JULY 16, 2016

Back To School is the second biggest shopping season of the year. The Christmas Holiday Season is of course the biggest shopping period. And Back To School Shopping is bigger than the spending for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day and Halloween combined. The estimates for the 2016 Back To School Shopping Season are that sales will surpass $67.96-billion and the average shopper will spend $657 this year, and that's $27 more than the average shopper spent last year. $657 represents a lot of spending other than for notebooks and paper and pens. It also includes clothing, computers, electronics, furniture and other school year essentials. Are you ready to grab your share of those Back To School budgets?

The latest estimates are that 95% of Back To School purchases will be made at brick and mortar stores. You should start your Back To School advertising as soon as possible because the shopping will begin in earnest by mid-August and by mid-August you should be advertising for Labor Day Sales. Labor Day is September 5th which means your early Labor Day advertising will be the weekends of August 20-21, and August 27-28.

Not only is August the time to advertise for Back To School and for early Labor Day Sales, it's also the time to start to market "indoor living" again. Soon the days will be shorter and more time will be spent indoors and families will be enjoying their game rooms, computers, living rooms, family rooms, furniture and kitchens again.

Remember: Back To School Season is the second biggest consumer spending season of the year and only the Christmas Season is bigger. Consumers will be shopping so grab your share of their budgets.

JUNE 29, 2016

If you are trying to reach consumers with money, and consumers who spend money, then your advertising dollars should be spent with TV. I've been telling you for some time that our TV show reaches an older, college-educated, wealthy, homeowner audience. The latest statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and from advertising and media industry research shows that indeed TV is where you reach these consumers.

First, let's look at the annual spending per person according to age group. Most businesses want to target what has been called the "key demographic" of 18 to 34 years old. But look at the annual spending for those consumers:

Spending for those under 25 is $30,373.
Spending for those 25-34 is $48,087.

If you want the real big spenders you want older consumers:

Spending for those 35-44 is $58,784.
Spending for those 45-54 is $60,524.
Spending for those 55+ is $55,892.

Now, let's look at the TV audience:

Those 18-34 make up only 26.2% of the TV audience.
Those 35-54 make up 36.6% of the TV audience.
Those 55+ make up 37.2% of the TV audience and is by far the biggest audience block.

So not only is TV reaching an older audience, but the viewers TV reaches do the most spending per person.

JUNE 20, 2016 

Everybody wants to grow their business. Some want to grow their business because they want to boost sales and revenue; others need to grow their business just to keep up with the competition. For most businesses the biggest obstacle to growth is the additional cost of that growth. Growing a business can mean adding space, and employees, and equipment and inventory and those things all cost money. But with your existing marketing and advertising budget it is possible to grow your business without spending any extra. Here are a few examples:

The first example is an auto repair business. While the business is successful there are still slow periods and the business owner is always looking for ways to grow sales and revenue. He has the employees and lifts and equipment already in place and what he needs are additional customers. He has been advertising to his target demographic of men who want high-performance tires and wheels by advertising on TV during sports events. So, what can he do?

Well, my suggestion was to shift the target for some of his advertising dollars. Instead of spending all of it during sports events on TV, spend some of his existing advertising budget towards women during other programs. Women are car owners too, and his ads that target women can emphasize how he offers guaranteed low prices, honest estimates, and quick service so the women can handle their busy schedules.

The second example is a small company that buys gold. Over the last couple of years, the gold buying business has been going through a tough time and it's because gold prices are down, and consumers are not selling. This gold dealer said to me "people are not selling their gold, what can I do?" As he said that to me I looked in his small shop and saw that he had cases with gold jewelry. "Is this the gold people sold you?" "Yes," he answered. So I asked him "why aren't you advertising that you have estate jewelry for sale?"

In fact he wasn't advertising estate jewelry. The big sign in his window and the billboard near his store all said he buys gold -- but there was no mention that he sells anything. Then he told me that before opening a shop to buy gold he was a jeweler for 30 years. "You're now back in the jewelry business," I told him. "Estate jewelry is trendy."

The third example is a furniture outlet. There is a lot of competition in the furniture business so how does a furniture outlet get new customers? How about by advertising to a different kind of buyer? Until now this furniture outlet advertised to consumers looking to buy for their own homes. But by tweaking their current ads to include landlords who want to rent furnished homes and apartments the furniture outlet can increase their business.

In all three examples (all real examples) there was no additional spending and only a minor change in the message and placement of their existing advertising budget. What's also desirable is that an advertising budget is not a long-term commitment like adding a new showroom, and advertising does not require long-term planning like getting permits and blueprints and actual construction. Simply, advertising is a low-cost way to test and to grow a business expansion without changing or spending money to do anything differently.

JUNE 17, 2016

More businesses are using Facebook -- the #1 social media website -- to promote their business. I use Facebook for my business but I don't make the mistake of depending too much on Facebook for my web presence. It's okay to have a page on Facebook for your business but don't make it your only web page. You really have little control over your Facebook page and someday Facebook could start to charge you for it or even remove it. You always need your own website and you should use your Facebook page to direct traffic to your own website that you own and you control.

There is some new research that shows the best ways to grow your Facebook page following.  One of the most important things, according to this research, is to have videos as well as photos, on your business page on Facebook. Facebook is promoting video and pages with video.

Statistics show that pages with pictures and videos get more than double the traffic of pages without pictures and videos. And in the past year, the number of videos that were viewed has doubled. Facebook wants traffic and that's why Facebook is promoting pages with videos to other Facebook users.

There's also some interesting research about the best time to post on Facebook. It seems that the best time to post on Facebook to get the most views is 3-PM on Wednesdays. Click-through rates are highest from 1-PM through 4-PM on weekdays. The worst time to post on Facebook is after 8-PM.

How often should you post new content? Research shows that Facebook is promoting the best content on its newsfeed so the research shows you should post great content (articles and videos) and avoid frequent posts that lack quality. Google and the other search engines have similar guidelines for deciding which websites to promote. So the bottom line: post quality, not quantity.

So use this research to get the most benefit out of your Facebook business page. But remember to put the most effort into your own company website because your website is an asset you control and it's an asset Facebook can't take away from you.

JUNE 13, 2016

All of us are shocked and saddened by the events in Orlando. I could write paragraphs about the sadness and senselessness and grief and how we all need to pray for the victims and the survivors. I could write paragraphs about the heroism of the police and first responders. You already share my thoughts. As business people we now have to prepare for the consumer shock after this tragedy. After a tragedy, whether local or national or in a foreign country, there is always consumer shock which can affect business and commerce including the stock market and retail sales. Of course the greatest example of this was after the 911 attacks. There will be consumer shock after what happened in Orlando. It will last a day or two and during that time consumers will be less concerned about retail sales and more concerned with the news and their personal safety.

It's always in good taste to recognize the tragedy and show respect and concern for the victims. Say something on your website, put a sign by your cash register. Fly the American flag. Show your support for the police. It's in poor taste to try to capitalize on tragedy so don't use the Orlando tragedy to advertise that you sell guns or safety equipment or survival supplies or that you sell alarm systems. I don't think I really have to say that to anyone.

Normalcy will return and hopefully quickly. But with that said, you can use news events as part of your business marketing if the news didn't hurt anyone, or if it's good news. For example, the news this past week was that El Nino was a bust. You can use this news to promote "bust related" businesses. If you sell artificial turf the news has given you a reason to advertise and promote it. If you sell alternative landscaping the news has given you a reason to advertise and promote it. If rain would hinder your home building or remodeling business you can now advertise that consumers don't have to worry about weather and rain delays for putting on a new roof, or painting, or changing doors and windows.

Looking ahead: you can have promotions linked to sporting events such as team wins and the Olympics. In summary, it's okay to market and advertise success and good news.

JUNE 6, 2016

I am very pleased to see that more of you are following my advice about adding videos to your website. I am sorry to say that some of you are doing it the cheap way and in the end the cheap way is really the more expensive way. Let me give you a few true examples.

There is a retailer (I will spare them the embarrassment of using their name) who hired a production company to create a 45-second video using graphics and still photos of some products. This particular production company has a retail price of $200 for this type of video but they will discount to $90. The business put the video on their website and on YouTube. YouTube keeps track of the video's views -- and in about a week it was viewed a total of 30 times, and I was one of the viewers. So far, that business has paid 90/30 = $3 per view. That's $3 per view IF they paid the discounted price of $90.

Example #2 is a video that a Realtor in Santa Clarita produced for their website that was also put on YouTube. This video was published on YouTube in October of 2015 which was about six months ago. I don't know what that Realtor paid, but I was told that videos such as these cost between $350 and $600 and they involve a photographer taking still photos and creating a photo montage. Do you know how many views that video has had? FOURTEEN. Exactly FOURTEEN and I was one of the views. Let's do the math using the low-end price of $350. So we have 350/14 = $25 per view.

Example #3 is another video of a house for sale in Newhall. This video runs 3 and a half minutes and probably cost more than $350. It's only been on YouTube for just five days -- and it's had 5 views. That's one view per day. Let's do the math using the basic price of $350. So we have 350/5 = $70 per view. Yes, I was one of the viewers and I'm sure the Realtor is one of the other viewers included in the YouTube viewer count. Yeah, $70 per view. Wow.

Why do I mention this? Obviously it's because my Best Buys Show offers a better deal. Our retail price for a one-minute video is $450 including production and we also put the video on YouTube, and you have all Internet rights to the video. Some of our YouTube videos have been seen 45,000 times or more because I have thousands of people who come to my website, sometimes as many as 9,000 people a day. But more importantly the same video goes on our TV show, and we reach as many as 230,000 viewers. Let's do the math, okay? So we have a $450 spot viewed by (let's use a low estimate) only 100,000 TV viewers. That's $450/100,000 = .004.5-cents per view which is less than one-half of one-cent per view.

Come on folks. Give me a break and give yourself a break. If you want a video for your website have us do it and we'll also put you on TV. Stop throwing away your money.

MAY 30, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend marks the start of the home buying season. It's also when it's most convenient for most families to move because the kids are off from school and the parents have vacation. It's also home improvement season when it becomes convenient to rip out a wall or install windows or put on a roof.

When families can't move or can't afford a home improvement such as an addition or a remodel, then it's home dress-up season when they might buy new furniture or new appliances or home decor items.

If you haven't already planned to advertise on TV in June then it's too late. But now is the time to plan for TV advertising in July. If you are in real estate or a real estate related business such as home improvement, construction, and home decor then the period of June, July and August is your Christmas shopping season. And I can't imagine any business that doesn't advertise for its peak season.

TV advertising is ideal for showing how modern kitchen built-ins and cabinets work.

TV advertising is ideal for showing how home security systems work, and how the new spas operate, and the new features on windows and doors.

TV advertising is ideal for showing the features of new plumbing fixtures and appliances and furniture.

TV advertising is ideal for selling high-end homes because with a TV "walk through" thousands of people can tour a home and the carpets won't get dirty. Yes, with a "TV open house" you can have thousands of potential customers visit a home and you won't have to worry about bathrooms being used or how the kids in tow might put handprints on the walls.

MAY 24, 2016

If you want to make the smartest buy for your advertising and marketing dollar then you want to buy the media with the lowest cost per thousand to reach your target audience. Another way to say the same thing is to buy the lowest cost per customer reach. It makes perfect sense to pay to reach your targeted potential customers. It makes no sense at all to advertise in media that will not reach your customers. Here are some basic examples:

If you are selling bridal gowns you will not want to advertise in rod & gun magazines. If you are selling Rolex watches you will not want to advertise in comic books about super heroes that are written for pre-teenagers. If you are an accident lawyer, you will not want to advertise on rock & roll radio stations geared to teenagers who don't have a driver license yet. If you are a kitchen remodeling company you will not want to advertise in a magazine for apartment renters and dwellers.

Those are the obvious examples. The real art of advertising is knowing where you will get the most bang for your buck by looking at the actual demographics of the media you want to buy.

Let's take, for example, overnight TV commercials here in Los Angeles. In general, you can buy a 30 second spot between 2am and 5am for about $50. Yes, the price is cheap, but you have to ask yourself if your target audience is watching at that time?

If you are selling jewelry your target audience probably has money, and a job, and they are asleep in the middle of the night. If you are selling beds and mattresses, people unable to sleep because they are uncomfortable just might be awake between 2am and 5am so that time period might be ideal for you. If you are selling appliances, housewives are asleep between 2am and 5am but they will be waking up early to get the kids and the husband to work so advertising to housewives between 2am and 5am wouldn't make much sense.

The other point to consider before you invest in advertising and marketing is the demographic that the media will reach. Here in L.A. if you are selling Rolex watches you would not want to buy a TV commercial on a Saturday night because your "Rolex crowd" might be out to dinner or at a show or movie. But if you are selling Rolex watches you might want to buy a commercial during a major sporting event.

Are you selling "feel good merchandise" such as furniture? Avoid the media that will make the audience feel bad. That means don't advertise during newscasts when your "feel good commercial" about a new bedroom set might follow a story about a fatal car wreck or a kidnapping.

And be careful about buying commercials during TV shows with a large rating or audience. A TV show might have a big audience but you should ask if that audience is your target audience? Do the viewers of that TV show have the money to buy your product or service? Do they have the lifestyle that needs your product or service?

MAY 18, 2016

You can almost hear them now: the bells of June. There are the wedding bells, and the bells that signal the end of school for summer vacation, and the cash register bells. Those are the bells of June. The cash register bells will be ringing for Father's Day on June 19th, and for Graduations most of which come early in the month, and for Wedding gifts all month long, and the bells will be ringing for early 4th of July sales and for the prime home buying season, and the start of summer vacation spending, too.

This year the 4th of July falls on a Tuesday which means the big 4th of July sales will be the weekend of June 25-26. If you are selling any kind of big ticket item, you need to advertise before that weekend to give consumers a chance to find you and plan to buy your merchandise. The big drug store and supermarket chains already have their 4th of July displays in their stores!

Consumers have come to expect 4th of July sales. In previous years, consumers have shopped the July 4th sales for five major categories:

1. Outdoor home goods including pool and patio and grills. Consumers believe they will find big markdowns around the 4th of July.

2. Indoor furniture and appliances. Consumers expect to find big discounts because they reason retailers don't expect many shoppers for indoor merchandise during the summer.

3. Winter and spring fashions. Savvy shoppers know that in June major retailers are having their closeout sales ahead of the new fall fashions.

4. Summer clothing. Savvy shoppers even know that summer styles start to go on sale around the 4th of July to make room for the fall and back to work and back to school styles of the fall.

5. School and office supplies and school and office computers. Savvy shoppers also know that when the school year is over and many businesses schedule vacations that office supplies and equipment and computers are discounted.

Consumers will be looking for deals in June, including early 4th of July deals. You should be ready to promote your business to those shoppers. Don't forget that June is the start of the prime home buying and home selling season. This is when families want to buy and move. Be ready for those home buyers and home sellers who will want everything from storage units to moving vans to mortgages.

MAY 12, 2016

In my last Marketing Memo (May 9, 2016) I told you how important the number 3 is for your website design. I told you how you should limit colors and fonts to three different choices. I also told you that articles need to make 3 points. Now, I am going to tell you about the magic of the number 3 when it comes to search ranking and search results and SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

First, you know that Google and the other search engines maintain a list of results for certain keywords. If the keywords on your site match the keywords that consumers use in their search on Google, or Yahoo, or Bing, or even Facebook and YouTube your website will show up in the search results. If the keywords on your website are the best match for the search request, your website will show up highest in the search results.

But Google and the other search engines don't look at every word on your site for keyword results. In fact, in order for a keyword on your site to actually matter to the search engines that keyword must show up on your site a minimum of three times. This is so important I am going to repeat it: In order for a keyword on your site to actually matter to the search engines that keyword must show up on your site a minimum of three times.

As an example, if you want to show up in search results for the keywords "best plumber in Sherman Oaks" you must have the keyword phrase "best plumber in Sherman Oaks" on your website a minimum of three times. So, if you've been voted "best plumber in Sherman Oaks" flaunt it.

This rule of 3 when it comes to keywords is very important. In fact, Google and the other search engines will punish your website's search results if you spam or cram your website with worthless keywords.

Keyword cramming, unfortunately, is something a lot of web designers do because they don't know or understand how Google operates. What is keyword cramming? It is listing too many keywords without substance. If you hired some company to build your website there is a chance your website has keyword cramming on it now, and that keyword cramming is actually hurting your Google search ranking and results.

The most common form of keyword cramming is having a list of cities where your company does business. You know exactly what I'm talking about. At the bottom of the home page there is a list of every community name in Los Angeles County or Orange County or areas near your business. That list of cities and towns is considered keyword cramming and right now it is hurting you in Google's search results.

If you really want to be known as the plumber for Sherman Oaks and Encino and Tarzana then you must use a keyword phrase like "we are the best plumber for Sherman Oaks and Encino and Tarzana" a minimum of 3 times. The search engines are smarter than your web designer. The search engines know that if you seriously want to be the plumber for "Sherman Oaks and Encino and Tarzana" you will write that phrase a minimum of 3 times on your website.

If your web designer disagrees, fire your web designer. If your web designer disagrees, fire your web designer. If your web designer disagrees, fire your web designer. Look, I said that 3 times.

MAY 9, 2016

By now you realize how important your company's website is:

1. You know that shoppers look online before they will visit your store or call you. 
2. You know that when you go to sell your business, the buyer will include your website in the valuation of your business. 
3. You know that more consumers are shopping and buying online and you must meet that demand.

I just gave you three reasons why your company website is important. In fact, 3 is the magic number for your website and how you should manage your website.

The most effective websites use only 3 colors. Three colors are enough to highlight important things and three colors are enough so your website readers won't be distracted.

The most effective websites use only 3 sizes of font

You want one font size for headlines.
You want one font size for the body of articles.
You want a small font size for legal content such as license numbers.

You don't want to have more than 3 font styles.
You want your main text style.
And then italics to highlight certain words.
Then maybe a third font style for something special such as a Graduation Gifts category.

And then, while writing your articles on your website you want to be sure you give the reader 3 facts or 3 points. If you are selling windows you want to give 3 reasons why your windows are best. If you prepare estates and wills you want to give 3 reasons why you do a better job. If you are selling ceramic tile you want to give 3 reasons why you are the best ceramic tile dealer. Why 3 facts? Because consumers can absorb 3 facts and lengthy lists of facts and lengthy paragraphs of facts will not be read and they will not be absorbed. 3 is the magic number.

MAY 3, 2016

Everybody in the advertising industry is talking about the importance of social media including Facebook and YouTube and Twitter and LinkedIn and all the rest of it. Yes, social media is important, but before you jump in you should understand the true cost of social media. I'm going to cut to the chase: if you're paying someone to handle your social media it's already too expensive for you. But if you are doing your social media yourself, by spending ten minutes a day telling your Facebook friends what's new in your business or what's new in your industry, you are handling social media properly. Here's the reality, ten facts, about Social Media:

1. Facebook is the #1 most-used social media site with 1-billion, 100-million users. You are not going to reach them all so don't even try. That means don't bother to buy advertisements, but you should keep your friends and followers updated on what's new with your business.

2. Twitter is the #2 social media site with more than 300-million users. Again, you are not going to reach them all but you should send out messages about what's new with your business. Send out a tweet about three times a day, four hours apart. Be sure your customers know your Twitter account so they can be alerted to specials, discounts, new arrivals, and your tips and advice.

3. While YouTube is not among the top 15 most popular social media sites I think it is still the most important. You should have videos on YouTube because YouTube is still the #2 most popular search engine (Google is first) and by using your YouTube videos on your own website you will likely increase the search results and search ranking for your website.

4. Don't be impressed by numbers. Your competition could be showing thousands of social media "followers" but that number is meaningless. First, followers can be "bought" from companies that create bogus "followers" using computer programs. You don't want followers -- you want results. So if you are getting results from 200 followers you are way ahead of a company that boasts of having a hundred thousand followers that were "bought" from a "follower factory."

5. If you want to buy Facebook followers there are plenty of ads on the Internet. I saw how you can get 2,000 Facebook followers for $57.99 in one online ad. Why would you want to buy followers? Because the more followers you have, the higher you will show in the Facebook newsfeed or listing of stories. Is that a good thing to do? Well, if you think any of those 2,000 purchased followers will do business with you then be my guest. Otherwise, you're throwing out your money.

6. But if you do buy 2,000 Facebook followers for $57.99 keep in mind you are paying about 3-cents per follower, but that can be like throwing 3 pennies into a wishing well 2,000 times over.

7. No matter what form of social media marketing you do keep in mind that if you have a photo or a video attached to your social media message or post it is more likely to be viewed. Text-only posts or messages are easily overlooked.

8. Don't pay a service for social media. It's not worth it -- period. I've seen prices close to $1,000 a month as well as starter packages for $79 a month. They do nothing you can't do yourself.

9. Social media is worthless if your existing customers don't know about your social media accounts so put your social media accounts on your website, your bags, your business cards, and have signs at your business.

10. Social media is not a road paved with gold for anyone except for the social media companies and for those trying to sell you social media services. You can hope for, at best, a small incremental boost to your business. Don't be a sucker for any big promises which is why I tell you to do it yourself.

APRIL 27, 2016

One of my clients called me asking for help about how to word a new sign on his building. He sells flooring. He wanted to know if he should incorporate the word "discount" or the word "wholesale" with his store name on the sign. I told him he needed to do some research to determine how customers would respond to each word. The research for the wording on a store sign is similar to the research you would do to choose the keywords you would use on your website to increase search results and in your advertising to promote sales.

The best research you could possibly do is to ask your customers. But, you don't want to ask them directly. For example, if you were to ask a customer which word is more attractive to you -- "wholesale" or "discount" -- the customer might not give you a true and honest response. Instead you should have a conversation with the customer and in the course of the conversation listen to the customer and identify the words the customer uses.

Yes, go out on your sales floor and ask your customers what they are looking for. Listen to the words they use. If you have a service business listen to the words your clients use. Does the patient want braces on his teeth or does the patient ask for Invisalign? Does the client want a will or does the client want estate planning?

When discussing prices does the customer use the word "wholesale" or does the customer use "discount"? That's the best research you could possibly do because the words customers use in conversation are the same words they type into a search bar on their computers. This is how you find the most effective keywords that you should incorporate into your marketing and advertising. There is a quicker method to research what customers respond to: do a Google search for the number of results for certain words and certain phrases used on the Internet.

My flooring client gave me several words and phrases he was interested in using. I entered those words and phrases in Google to determine which had the largest number of results and here's what I found:

Los Angeles + wholesale flooring had 527,000 results.
Los Angeles + discount flooring had 538,000 results.
Los Angeles + discount flooring + to the public had 713,000 results.
Los Angeles + wholesale flooring + to the public had 720,000 results.

I haven't interviewed his customers so I don't know what words they use when they talk about flooring and prices, but based on this simple Google search my feeling is his best choice for a sign would be something like "Joe's Wholesale Flooring To The Public."

It is important that you use the words and phrases that your customers use and it is vitally important that you use common language when you are advertising merchandise and services. Here are some examples: are you selling sanitation fixtures or are you selling toilets? Are you selling outerwear or are you selling jackets?

APRIL 20, 2016

Savvy business owners choose their advertising and marketing options based on their costs. Some want the lowest cost per reach which is the lowest cost for getting their message to a consumer or a household. Some want the lowest cost per sale. Some don't care about reach or sales and they just want their advertisement to boost their own ego so they will advertise on the radio station they listen to or in the magazine or newspaper they read. I'm not kidding about this. I used to have an Infomercial client who had his Infomercial on TV at 5:30 every morning. Why 5:30 in the morning? Because he was at the gym every morning at that time and he liked watching himself on the TVs in the gym while he worked out. Yeah, people do crazy things.

Frequently, business owners fail to do the math about what they are spending and what they are getting in return. Here are some examples:

A business owner told me he is now advertising on Yelp buying an ad that costs $375 for 300 clicks. That's $1.25 per click. After the ad gets 300 clicks it will disappear for the rest of the month. Bottom line: the advertiser is spending $375 to reach 300 potential customers.

Another business owner told me he is now part of a direct mail campaign with other related businesses. He is sending flyers to the homes of consumers as part of a "package." His cost is 13-cents per flyer per household. Unlike the business owner who is paying per click, this business owner has no guarantee that anyone will even see his flyer or open the package containing his flyer and the others. In fact, the redemption rate for coupons sent through the mail is about 3-percent. With an expectation that only 3% will be read, it means his actual cost is about $4.29 for each flyer being read.

Newspaper advertising costs and radio advertising costs are all over the map. Unfortunately with radio unless your brand is well known, no one driving in their car will be able to write down your name and phone number or address.

Before you advertise on radio listen to a cluster of commercials on any radio station, and then when it's over, ask yourself what commercials did you just hear? I doubt you'll be able to remember the three, four, five or six commercials you just listened to especially if you were driving and about 70% of radio listeners are driving.

With newspaper ads you are hoping someone will look at the page your ad appears on, and then you are hoping a competitor's ad isn't right next to your ad. I just talked to a business owner who runs an expensive ad in one of the top LA newspapers and right next to his ad, on the same page, is an ad for his competitor.

Even though I am in the TV advertising business, I do not recommend that you buy traditional "spots" which are 30-second TV commercials. The problem with "spots" is that consumers don't watch them anymore. Now consumers either zap through the commercials with their DVRs or change channels with their remotes, or pick up their cell phones to send text messages while commercials are on TV. Don't forget that during commercials consumers can run to the bathroom or the microwave and if they do both I hope they wash their hands properly.

By the way, when a TV station sales rep tells you that a certain TV program has a high rating that doesn't mean the commercials shown during and before and after that TV show also have high ratings. I think traditional TV commercial spots are the dinosaurs of advertising but if you want them, I can produce them and book your time, but I think you're wasting your money.

I still believe in the power and strength of half-hour TV Infomercials including our Best Buys Show which is a shared Infomercial. Our viewers really do watch the show because it doesn't look like a commercial program. Most viewers think it's a news show, just like the Best Buys Specials I did on KCAL News for 16 years. And Infomercials in general have a lower cost than traditional TV advertising and give you an opportunity to convince consumers you have the products and services they need and you can't do that in a 30-second spot.

By the way, before you spend $1.25 per click on Yelp or $4.29 to have your direct mail flyer read, or even before you spend 13-cents to have a flyer included in a direct mail envelope, consider that my Best Buys TV Show can reach a household for less than one-half of one-cent. We have the audience, and we have a low price.

If you want the best value in advertising talk to me about your own half-hour TV Infomercial. You can reach thousands of TV viewers for a full half-hour in a good time period for as low as $600 with your own half-hour TV Infomercial. Call me for the details and after we talk you'll never buy another newspaper ad or radio spot again.

APRIL 15, 2016

Google is sending out warnings and advice to website publishers. The advice is about how to improve search results on Google. The warnings are about dangerous practices that could get you removed from Google's search results. Getting removed from Google's search results is the kiss of death for any business because shoppers are more likely to check you out online before they walk through your door or call you up.

Let me start with the warnings about dangerous practices:

Google says be very careful about hiring a "search optimization firm" that promises you a "top ranking" in Google's search results. Google warns that if the SEO firm does anything that is deceptive or violates Google's own rules your site could be dropped. Google also warns that some SEO firms are on its list of companies that have practiced deceptive practices and if you are affiliated with any of those companies you could be dropped from Google's search results.

What are some of the deceptive practices? They range from simply spamming your website with the names of cities where you do business, to having links to your website from link farms which are websites that are created just to have links to other websites. Spamming your site with keywords that have nothing to do with your content can also get you in trouble. In fact, just listing keywords on your site without actual articles that contain keywords is enough to knock you off Google's search results. Also do not have mass-produced or copied articles on your website as unoriginal content will hurt you.

What are some of Google's tips to improve your search engine results?

First, have original articles and original content (information) on your home page. If your home page is filled with fancy illustrations and graphics it is not helping your search engine results. Your home page should clearly tell your customers -- and the search engines -- what you offer. Unfortunately, too many web designers like to create fancy "landing pages" but the search engines consider landing pages to be "clutter" and they might not look at your interior pages. A fancy home page with art and no content could kill your search results.

Other tips including adding videos and have descriptions that tell what your video is about since search engines read text but can't actually see the content of the videos. Make your website meaningful and a website that simply copies and pastes pictures and descriptions from another website does not impress Google and will hurt and not help your search engine results.

APRIL 13, 2016

The month of May is probably the most important marketing time of the year outside of the traditional year-end holiday shopping season. You should maximize your May marketing because of all the reasons and holidays in the list below:

Tax Refunds Are In Hand (all month)
Tax Deadlines Are Over
May Day / Law Day, May 1
Cinco de Mayo, May 5
Mothers Day, May 8
Memorial Day, May 30
Graduations (all month)
Home Buying Season (all month)

Keep in mind that about 70% of taxpayers get a refund this year and since most families expecting a refund file early there is a lot of cash available to be spent. For the 30% who were worried about filing their tax returns, that pressure is over and either they were filed or extensions were filed. That loosens the pressure for new spending.

Mothers Day is May 8 and you can't deny spending money on Mom. Traditionally Mothers Day is the biggest day of the year for restaurants but in recent years "smart moms" have asked for more practical gifts ranging from new furniture to new major appliances to new kitchens to new cars so advertise your Mothers Day promotions.

As soon as Mothers Day is over graduation season is with us. Graduates need furniture for leaving the nest, and clothing for their new jobs.

Also after Mothers Day it's time to start advertising for the big Memorial Weekend sales. Every year I plead with my clients: if you are selling big ticket items start your Memorial Weekend advertising early because no one buys a big ticket item on impulse and the earlier you start advertising the better your chances for getting the sale.

May is also the start of the prime home buying season and home selling season. If you have a home improvement company this is the time to be advertising your services to both buyers and sellers. Sellers need to get their properties in shape, and buyers will want to fix-up what they buy. Of course if you have real estate or real estate services to market this is the time to do it.

MARCH 29, 2016

You weren't taught this in school, but George Washington wasn't just a great general and our first President, he was also an advertising genius. You might think his doctrine "beware of entangling alliances" only applied to his view on international relations, but it also applied to signing long term contracts with advertising agencies and outlets such as the Internet, TV, radio, newspapers and billboards. (Okay, the Internet, TV and radio weren't invented yet.)

Our media landscape is in a constant state of flux and long term contracts can prevent you from taking advantage of new media opportunities including changes in the audience and changes in media pricing.
 
Imagine the pickle you'd be in if you signed a long term advertising contract with the website My Space at the time when Facebook was starting to surge? What if you signed a long term contract with one of my competitors? All four of them are now out of business and at least two of them required that you paid in advance for contracts that lasted four to six months.

It is only natural for businesses to offer and to look for long term contracts. But you don't want to be locked into one advertising campaign when something better comes along.

This is the time of year when I start discussions with companies about the summer and fall advertising seasons. When a company tells me that their ad budgets are committed for the rest of the year I know they made a big mistake. It simply means they are locked into an ad campaign that isn't working because if they spent their money wisely they would want even more advertising.

Let's face it: if you are spending $1 on advertising and getting $2 in sales, why wouldn't you advertise even more? When a company says their budget has been spent it simply means they made a bad decision and have no money left. This is why you should avoid long term ad contracts and like George Washington advised "beware of entangling alliances."

MARCH 23, 2016

In this Marketing Memo I want to discuss the "real numbers" which are the numbers that really count.

I just had an email exchange with a business owner who has an hour long paid radio show on a station here in Los Angeles on Sunday mornings at 6-AM. He told me his paid show has an audience of 50-thousand listeners. That's what he told me, and it's not true. That particular radio station has a 24-hour cumulative audience (known as a "cume") of 180,000 listeners. The average quarter-hour audience on the station according to the station's own press release is 14,800 listeners and that includes it's peak listening time and Sunday morning at 6-AM isn't a peak time. If he has an audience of 1,000 he's lucky. What's worse is that this business is advertising a service for adults interested in real estate, and this particular station caters to a teenage audience. Those are the real numbers.
 
I just finished another conversation with a business owner who pays about $400 a month for a very artistic website. Unfortunately he doesn't need art lovers -- he needs customers who will look at the various pages on his site. In this case the website has a "bounce rate" of about 49-percent. What is a bounce rate? A bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who come to your site and leave after looking only at your home page. His site's 49% bounce rate means that almost half of the visitors who look at his home page are lost -- and they leave. Why do they leave? My guess is that they are not impressed by fancy pictures and graphics and there is no "content" on the home page to make them want to look into his site and doing business with him. That's what a 49% bounce rate means. Those are the real numbers.
 
I talked to an attorney about his advertising, and he spends about $1500 a month advertising on the lawyer referral website AVVO. I never heard of it until he told me what it was. I went on AVVO and did a search for an attorney using keywords that matched this particular attorney. I entered his specialty and his city. In fact I entered the exact city where his main office is located. He showed up in twentieth place in the search results on AVVO. Yes, $1500 a month is buying him twentieth place, and it was on the second page of search results with 19 of his direct competitors listed above him. Those are the real numbers.
 
When you run your business you look at the real numbers, right?

MARCH 15, 2016

At a Wall Street investors conference, CBS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said that CBS will be selling off its radio stations. All of the CBS radio stations, including the radio stations that dominate the market here in Southern California, will be sold. CBS is throwing in the towel on radio probably for the same reasons I have been telling you to avoid radio advertising. They are these: radio advertising is not effective and is too expensive and it is not appealing to advertisers.

The reality is radio no longer reaches a large audience or wealthy demographic. Those who used to listen to conventional radio are now listening to satellite radio and they are listening to programming using Bluetooth through their cell phones. Or, they are listening to the Internet through their phones. Radio has lost its advertising base to other media including the Internet and TV which is still the king of all media and TV has become more affordable in recent years.

About 70% of radio's listeners are in their cars but advertising to drivers has never been effective because drivers aren't really concentrating on radio. Radio broadcasts have always been in the background especially when there are others in the car. Radio hasn't been effective for advertisers because drivers can't write down phone numbers or websites. And as more advertisers realized just how ineffective radio advertising is they've bailed out of radio and that is why CBS is throwing in the towel on radio before it suffers the fate of radio station giant Cumulus Media which is expected to be in bankruptcy soon.

Have you been hanging on to radio for your advertising? Why?

There has been another problem with radio advertising here in Southern California: it has been an oligopoly meaning that only a few companies controlled all of the radio station market. That has meant inflated radio advertising rates. Even if you don't want to admit it, if you've been advertising on the radio you've been paying too much per listener.

Make your plans to get out of radio now because as soon as CBS starts selling off its radio stations its package deals will be gone and whatever package deals you are getting now will be wiped out. And that will make expensive radio advertising even more expensive.

Radio stations have been using tricks to hold on to its advertisers. For example, radio stations have been giving "bonus" 5-second spots to its clients. In case you were snowballed by this trick no one can catch a 5-second radio message when they are driving.

I've often said that the only businessmen who like radio advertising are businessmen who like to hear their name on the radio while commuting to work. It has been an expensive ego trip to say the least. And once the CBS radio stations are broken up that ego trip will become even more expensive.

Someone will buy the CBS radio stations but the future of radio is for narrowcasting and not for broadcasting. It just happened to KFWB, a former CBS radio station. KFWB was once an all-news station and then all-sports and now it has foreign-language programming, so if you want to broadcast your advertising you'll have to find something else besides radio.

MARCH 14, 2016

Don't get caught up in all the hype over Facebook advertising because it is not as effective as you might think. You might have hundreds of friends and followers on Facebook but the odds are they aren't looking at your posts and if they are looking at your posts and updates they aren't looking at them in a timely manner. Consider these statistics:
 
The average visit to Facebook lasts 20 minutes and the highest traffic time to Facebook is on Thursdays and Fridays between 1-PM and 3-PM. Outside of that window, Facebook is not a giant for advertising and marketing.
 
The reality is different media have their Prime Times. Facebook has its Prime Time just like radio has its Prime Time. With radio Prime Time is between 6-AM and 9-AM. Television also has its Prime Time which is 8-PM till 11-PM but the TV audience is so large outside of Prime Time that even off-peak TV time dwarfs the audiences of radio and Facebook. That's reality.

Here's another important statistic about Facebook: the average Facebook user has 155 friends or followers. So when you post something on Facebook just how many people do you really think are going to read your post or see your advertisement? And if you buy a paid ad on Facebook ask yourself how many people are on Facebook looking at ads?

MARCH 6, 2016

A few months ago I had a discussion with some clients suggesting that some companies who are not yet ready for their own full, half-hour TV Infomercial program might consider sharing a half-hour program with another company. Over the last few days we shot our first "shared Infomercial" involving two companies, and we will be editing it this week. It will be on the air in a couple of weeks here in Southern California.

The two companies that came together to share a half-hour program were a mortgage lender and a real estate office. Both companies agreed on how much time each company would have on the program and how much they would spend on broadcasting the program. They also agreed on the broadcast schedule, and they agreed on how to split the costs.

It was actually easy for these two companies to make this deal because they do a lot of business together. Yes, it was natural for a mortgage company and the office of a major real estate firm to do this. Neither company could afford their own half-hour show but together they could have a program that would reach a mutual audience and they could control the times and the stations it would be broadcast on.

Our Best Buys TV Show is actually a shared Infomercial program but it has as many as 14 different advertisers sharing the half-hour and we have a fixed time of Saturday at 5:30-PM on KCAL. Two or more companies with their own shared Infomercial could have it broadcast on different stations and at different times.

We look forward to producing these shared Infomercials for two or more companies and for scheduling their broadcasts at the best possible prices. And when these companies have grown each can move up to their own full, half-hour program.

Perhaps you would like to consider a shared Infomercial program with one or two other companies? Recently I talked to dentists in different parts of Southern California who have discussed the idea of a shared program. I also talked to several doctors in Las Vegas who are also considering the idea of a program that would be broadcast on TV stations in Las Vegas.

FEBRUARY 29, 2016

Here are some of the newest trends in website designs:

1. Forget about "above the fold" design. It used to be that web designers put your most important details "above the fold" which means at the top of your web page, similar to the top half of a newspaper. But now, mostly because of web browsing on cell phones, consumers have become used to scrolling down pages. Because consumers now accept scrolling there is no need to jam your content "above the fold."

2. Videos have become one of your most important features for engaging customers. The demand for video on websites has never been higher so you must have a video about your company and goods and services on your home page. And because consumers are now accustomed to scrolling (read #1 above) it's okay to put your video at the top of your home page.

3.  Use bold and large lettering on your pages. Because many consumers are now searching the web using their cell phones it is vital that your website have large, bold lettering to help make your content more visible on cell phone screens.

4. Don't forget the essentials on your web pages. Even with all of the new trends you still must have these essentials on every page of your website: your name, address, phone number and email if you use email for your business.

5.  The days of a CONTACT US page are over. REMOVE your CONTACT US page and have your contact information on every page (see #4 above). Consumers don't want to click from page to page to get your contact information or address or phone. They want to see it on every page. Those who look at websites using their cell phones especially don't want to click to change pages so have your basic info on every page and especially your home page.

FEBRUARY 24, 2016

I am hearing from more of you that you want to spend more money on Social Media Advertising. So this Marketing Memo will include some tips on how to improve your social media ads. But first, to be honest, I don't like social media advertising for two reasons:

1. Social media is too expensive. You are literally paying dollars just to have someone look at or click on your ad and that's just too much money. Our Best Buys TV Show reaches a household for less than one-half of one cent so why are you paying $1 or more for ads on Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites?

2. I don't think consumers of social media are there to see the advertisements. I think the consumers of social media are there to socialize: to show pictures of their kids, discuss restaurants and trips, talk about their kids going to college or getting good grades in school or showing photos of reunions and their golf buddies and bowling teams.

Consumers in general don't use any media to see commercials or advertisements and when you buy an ad you are just hoping that the consumers will catch your advertisement. That's the truth. No one watches The Walking Dead on AMC to see the commercials. No one watches NBC News to see the commercials. No one watches Saturday Night Live or NCIS to see the commercials.

Consumers don't watch our Best Buys TV Show to see commercials either. They watch for information about businesses. And because our TV show is made up of commercials that are packaged like news and information consumers watch and pay attention.

You should use this same strategy in your Social Media Advertising: give useful information.

If you want your Social Media ads to work and to have an impact put useful information in your social media ads. Obviously the useful information should be what your business offers and here are some examples:

If you are a lawyer, your social media ad should include a tip about what to do after a car accident.

If you are a furniture seller, your social media ad should include a tip about how to remove scratches from furniture.

If you are a tile store, your social media ad should include a tip about how to care for and clean glass and marble and porcelain tile.

Ads that simply say "shop with us because we have the best prices" are not going to be effective on social media because consumers aren't looking for deals on social media. On the other hand, consumers are looking for useful information on social media and many consumers are posting tips and advice and warnings on social media -- so join them and rise with the tide.

Of course this is the strategy we use on our Best Buys show also. We're not just showing prices but we also explain to our viewers why they are making a smart buy. We did this recently with an attorney offering free check-ups of estate plans, and we did this with a real estate company offering to sell homes without charging a seller's commission. In the case of the lawyer we provided information about changing tax laws, and in the case of the real estate company we showed them how real estate marketing has changed with technology.

Consumers want information and help so use your advertising including your social media advertising to give them what they are looking for. As a result you will gain a good reputation and you will get a response and sales.

FEBRUARY 11, 2016

We all know the proverb "March comes in like a lion" but it's not just about the weather. This proverb also relates to advertising and marketing. March is an important month for marketing and advertising and if you're not prepared for it, March will roar like a lion and ruin your spring and maybe your summer selling seasons too. March doesn't have the big holidays, but it has holidays that can set the mood for consumers. There are St. Patrick's Day on the 17th and Easter Sunday on the 27th and both are "feel good" holidays. One reason why consumers feel good is that tax refunds have either been delivered or they are in the mail.

I wrote about this several weeks ago and I hope you didn't forget. While businesses get worried about their taxes in late March and April, about 70% of consumers have already received their income tax refunds. While you might not be in the mood to spend, your customers have the cash to spend and in March they are spending. In March your customers are also planning ahead for bigger purchases.

March 13 marks the start of Daylight Savings when daylight hours get longer. So March 13 will also mark the time when homeowners start thinking and caring about outside activities including home improvements for their patios, their windows, their doors, their driveways and their landscaping. With outdoor living in March consumers will also be thinking about how they dress and how they look. They'll be buying new clothes and they'll be exercising and giving themselves a closer look in the mirror.

And guess what? El Nino did not deliver all the rain many hoped it would so homeowners will be shopping for artificial grass again in March. Homeowners will also be shopping for patio furniture and outdoor kitchen equipment and barbecues, and they will start thinking about fixing up their cars for road trips.

March is also when consumers start thinking about putting money away for big ticket items for upcoming holidays. Mother might want new earrings or a new kitchen for mother's day or a new dining room table. Dad might want new golf clubs or a new toy for his Man Cave for father's day. And don't forget that in May high school and college graduations and that grad might want furniture for a new apartment or a car or clothing to enter the workforce, or a new watch. And March is when you should start planning for your Memorial Weekend promotions and advertising and for June weddings and gift-giving.

March is not only the start of the home improvement season but it is right before the peak home buying and home selling season. Is your business linked to real estate sales?

All of this starts up in March. And if you're not prepared for it with your marketing and advertising then the lion will roar. However if you are prepared you'll sail through March and into the spring and summer as easy-going as a lamb. So, are you ready for March and the consumers who have tax refund money to spend and who are already shopping for Moms, Dads, Grads and home improvements, outdoor living and wedding season?

FEBRUARY 6, 2016

I learn about my competition, and advertising competition, in the funniest ways. About a week ago a business owner sent me an email asking what it would cost to record and edit a commercial for a radio advertising campaign. What the business owner probably didn't realize is that there was an attachment on the email sent to me. That attachment was the invoice from the radio station for the commercial time the business owner was buying. What a blunder that business owner made.

Oh -- sending me the attachment isn't the blunder I'm talking about, but that was pretty serious. The true blunder was the amount of money the business owner was paying for that radio time.

Why is it that business owners who carefully negotiate prices with vendors, watch utility bills, monitor employee overtime, and stretch their production dollars every which way they can throw caution and their budgets to the winds when it comes to buying advertising?

What really makes me scratch my head in disbelief is how much money is thrown at radio in Southern California when it is so well known that radio in this market is controlled by only a few companies and the lack of competition means radio prices are too high and out-of-whack with traditional and usual cost-per-listener rates?

What makes this big radio spending worse is that radio is not effective for anyone but the biggest national companies. Radio works for McDonalds because you know where to find the golden arches. Radio works for Bank of America because you know where to find a local branch. But if you are trying to give the listener your name, address, phone number or website, radio is a horrible option because most listeners are in their cars and they can't write down that information.

The other day while driving on the 101 Freeway I listened to a 15-second radio spot for a small, local company. The company's phone number was repeated three times in that radio spot and when the spot was over I could not remember the phone number. What's worse is that I was on the 101 and I could not write the number down even if I could remember it.

I think business owners like to buy spots on radio stations they listen to just so that they can hear their company's names or listen to themselves while they commute to work. That's the only explanation I can come up with. Radio spots are not effective, and they are not priced competitively. So it must be that they want to hear themselves. Paying for those radio spots is an expensive ego trip.

And that business owner who accidentally sent me the invoice from the radio station? It turns out that business could buy three half-hour TV Infomercials for the price of just one sixty-second radio spot and each of those TV Infomercials would probably reach triple the audience of what one radio spot would reach.

By the way, a half-hour TV Infomercial on a major LA station at 2am is now priced around $600. If you advertise on radio now compare those apples to your oranges.

JANUARY 31, 2016

Let me be blunt. The most important things on your company website are, in this order:

1. Name, Address, Phone Number.
 
2. A description of who you are and what you do.
 
3. Videos of what you do and helpful ideas and tips for customers.

Those are the three most important things on your website -- and all three should be on your home page. Videos are becoming more and more important. Consider these web statistics for the year 2015:

In 2015, half of all the Internet traffic on mobile phones was for watching videos. 57% of all Internet traffic was spent watching videos. 55% of consumers on the web watch videos every day. 78% of consumers on the web watch videos every week.

By 2017 (next year) 69% of all consumer Internet traffic will be watching videos. By 2018 79% of all consumer Internet traffic will be watching videos. And if you have the word "video" in your email tagline, statistics show the "read rate" for that email will increase by 19%.

I said this years ago and I will say it again: the way that black & white TV shows were replaced by color TV shows, video on the web will replace text on the web. Consumers want to see videos when they go to websites. They want to see videos for all sorts of subjects including medical care, buying furniture, remodeling kitchens, writing a will, buying insurance, buying a house -- anything and everything.

Do you need more proof of the demand for video? Then consider that YouTube is now the #2 search engine in the world. A giant category for YouTube is its massive number of "how to" videos. So where are the videos on your company website? What are you selling and why isn't there a video about it? Are you selling a kitchen remodeling package? Have a video. Are you selling a hotel room at a resort? Have a video. Are you selling a service to prepare a will? Have a video. Are you selling insurance? Have a video. Are you selling furniture? Have a video. Are you selling cosmetic dentistry? Have a video.

JANUARY 29, 2016

The name of your business is very important because it sends a message to customers and clients even before they walk through your door or consider your products and services. Would you want to use a name that includes "Loser"? I don't think so. The NFL didn't when it came time to promote Super Bowl 50. Read my Special Business Marketing Memo by clicking here. And see why Louis Vuitton might want to do some heavy marketing and promotion for Super Bowl 55. Are you making the most of your business name in your marketing and advertising? Disney grabbed the year 2000 for marketing perfectly.

JANUARY 18, 2016

Twice this past week the subject of SEO -- Search Engine Optimization -- came up in discussions with my TV advertising clients. One TV client told me he just signed with a SEO company for a big campaign. Another client told me he could not afford a SEO campaign and would not try one. Both clients are making a big mistake. The reality is that with the changes made by Google and the other search engines it no longer makes sense to pay any company for SEO, and with the changes made by Google and the other search engines you can accomplish all of the SEO you need all by yourself and at zero cost.

Let me explain. First, there is nothing a SEO company can do for you that you can't do yourself. In the old days, SEO companies could create tags with keywords and farm out links to your website. But in the last couple of years Google and the other search engines have made those kinds of SEO techniques obsolete. Today, the only thing that counts is the content you have on your own website. And Google has become a judge of quality content.

I've written about this so many times before: you need original content. Content includes original articles, blogs, original photos and of course videos about your company and products and services. Google ranks websites according to their original content and the better your content the higher your rank in search engine results. Content is what SEO is all about today.

The best part about the new SEO is that you don't have to pay anyone to do it for you. You can write your own articles. You can post your own photos, and you can add your own videos to your website. Paying a SEO company to get links to your site and to create meta tags for your site is a waste of time and a waste of money because Google and the other search engines no longer rank websites by links and tags.

To the client who told me he hired a SEO company I said "you're wasting your money." To the client who said he can't afford to hire a SEO company I said "great, now you can do it yourself." Do-It-Yourself SEO is the reality of Search Engine Optimization today. Do it yourself and save your money for other marketing and advertising programs.

JANUARY 14, 2016

One of the problems for some business owners is that they are out of touch with the true spending patterns of consumers. These business owners make decisions based on their own business but overlook what their customers are doing with their money.
 
For example, there is usually a difference with taxes for consumers and for business owners. Many business owners cut back on spending for advertising and marketing in April because they are facing their tax crunch. What they fail to realize is that most consumers don't have a tax crunch in April -- and in April most consumers already have their tax refunds and have extra money to spend. Fact is, about 70% of American taxpayers get a refund. This year those refunds will start showing up the first week of February and that could mean a burst of consumer spending in February.
 
The IRS will start accepting tax returns on January 19th which is about a week away, and the IRS says that direct deposits for refunds will start showing up in consumer bank accounts in the first few days of February and the first refund checks will be mailed on February 7th.
This means that early filers (and there are a lot of early filers because 70% of taxpayers get a refund) will have extra money for Valentine's Day and for Presidents Day sales.
 
And those refunds will continue to be sent to consumers so by early April -- when many business owners are worrying about filing taxes -- most consumers will already have their refunds and extra spending money.

So what's the bottom line here? Don't make the mistake of cutting back on your advertising and promotions and marketing in April because you face a tax crunch. And if you are looking for those tax refunds to boost your sales start marketing now to get those extra sales as early as the first week in February.

JANUARY 3, 2016

I was just sent a list of the 50 best "inspirational quotes" from legendary figures including George Patton, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, Zig Ziglar and others. There were two that apply best to advertising and marketing for business. The first is this: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." - Wayne Gretzky

This is really good advice for those of you who are afraid to try something new. For example, I frequently talk to business owners who tell me that they are satisfied with the same advertising they've been using for the last year, or two years, or five years. And for that reason they don't want to try something new such as TV or Infomercials. As Gretzky said -- without trying another form of advertising you miss 100% of the customers that other media could bring you.

If you are using radio now you should try TV. If you are running newspaper ads now you should try the Internet. If you are using billboards now you should try direct mail. The point is different media will reach a different audience and the audience is constantly changing the media it uses. Here are some examples of how the media landscape is changing:

1. Newspaper readership is down, and Internet use is up.

2. Radio advertising will never have the reach of TV but with so many TV channels available you have to carefully choose the programs that will deliver your targeted demographics.

3. Social media advertising might be trendy but how many people really click on Facebook ads?

That brings me to the second quote: "Change before you have to." - Jack Welch

You want to adapt to the changing advertising and marketing environment before your sales go down. Sure radio ads might have worked for you for the past five years, but will they still be working for you a year from now? Are 15-second TV commercials still having an impact in "commercial blocks" that are three minutes long? Have you been afraid to put videos on YouTube and on Facebook promoting your business? Have you ignored the growing trend of shoppers clicking on web pages instead of having their fingers walk through phone directories?

Here's one more quote about the importance of being willing to change: "He who stands his ground might have his feet firmly planted in quicksand." - Alan Mendelson

DECEMBER 26, 2015

I want to congratulate you if you avoided spending any money on advertising on Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve Day. It amazes me that businesses actually waste money advertising for Christmas sales the day before the holiday. It's even more amazing that they run ads in the evening when most stores are already closed. But -- it happened again this year. This happens because someone was lazy. Maybe it was your advertising agency for not carefully buying your advertising; maybe it was the TV or radio account executive that you deal with who was only concerned with getting a commission when your spot airs and didn't care when it aired.

The lesson is you must advertise in advance of holidays and most importantly you must give your customers a chance and time to react to your ad. Advertising the day before a holiday is not going to help. I suggest you advertise two weeks in advance for all but small, impulse items. And the pricier the item, the more advance time customers will need. As an example: you can advertise roses for Valentine's Day the day before the holiday, but if you are selling diamond tennis bracelets and gold necklaces you'd better be advertising two weeks or even a month ahead of the holiday.

With that said, here are dates for some key events and holidays and if these events and holidays fit your marketing plans be sure to advertise in advance. (Be sure you carefully note the very important date in April.)

JANUARY
Clearance and White Sales (all month)
Martin Luther King Birthday 18
 
FEBRUARY
Groundhog Day 2
Super Bowl 7
Chinese New Year 8
Valentines 14
Presidents Day 15
 
MARCH
Daylight Savings 13
St Patrick's Day 17
Easter 27
 
APRIL
April Fool's Day 1
My birthday 7
Tax Deadline Day 15
Earth Day 22
Administrative Professionals Day 27
 
MAY
May Day / Law Day 1
Cinco de Mayo  5
Mothers Day 8
Memorial Day 30
Graduations (all month)
 
JUNE
Graduations (all month)
Weddings (all month)
Summer Begins 20
 
JULY
Independence Day 4
Summer Vacations (all month)
 
AUGUST
Weddings (all month, biggest month for weddings)
Back to School shopping (all month)
Schools back in session
 
SEPTEMBER
Labor Day 5
Grandparents Day 11
Autumn begins 22
Start saving for the holidays
 
OCTOBER
Columbus Day 10
Boss's Day 17
Tax Extensions Due 15
Halloween 31
 
NOVEMBER
Daylight Savings Ends 6
Election Day 8
Veterans Day 11
Thanksgiving 24
Black Friday 25
 
DECEMBER
2nd Biggest Shopping Weekend 17-18
Winter begins 21
Hanukah 24
Christmas 25

DECEMBER 19, 2015

Your company's website is a valuable company asset. You might not see your company website as valuable today but it could be very valuable to the businessman who decides to buy your company when you retire or when you decide to sell. Your website is part of your brand and these assets must be protected. Read my Special Business Marketing Memo "Protecting Your Company Website" by clicking here.

DECEMBER 15, 2015

It's probably too late to place Christmas advertising in major media including major newspapers, television and radio. Your last minute options include the Internet and if you have a radio or TV commercial already produced you might be able to find a spot that has become available because of a cancellation. Christmas Day is in ten days and the problem with web advertising in the final days is that it can be ineffective.

Last minute web advertising -- and all last minute advertising for that matter -- only "works" with impulse shoppers. Frankly, impulse buying fizzled during the recession and with the growth of the Internet. The recession forced consumers to be smarter shoppers and the Internet allowed them to shop more easily to find the best buys. Still you might be forced to advertise in the next week and my best advice to you is to shop wisely for your last minute advertising.

You must buy quality over quantity and that means get the best price for the cost per thousand or cost per household of your demographic. Don't be fooled by the price of the ad. A $20 radio spot in the overnight time period with no audience for your demographic is not a deal -- it's a waste of $20.

DECEMBER 14, 2015

Seasons Greetings from Google: between now and the end of the year, Google will not be making any changes in how it views and ranks websites in search engine results. That means that during the next few weeks you don't have to panic about making changes in your website content or design to keep pace with Google's web ranking methods. But, sometime in early 2016 Google will update how it ranks websites in its search engine results. The talk on the Internet is that the changes will be very significant. While no one really knows what changes are in store, you don't have to wait for those changes to be announced to make your website better right now. In fact, making your website better right now could improve your holiday sales and your post-holiday business in January. So here are some changes you can make right now to improve your website and website leads and your online and brick and mortar business.

1. Add new articles and content to your website. There is nothing new about this tip and you should be adding new content (articles and videos) all the time to keep your site fresh and interesting. New content is attracts visitors to your site and the more visitors the more business.

2. Put an emphasis on trying to add videos to your website. The easiest way to have a video on your website is to first add the video to YouTube (it's free) and then have a link from YouTube onto your website (also free). Google owns YouTube and that gives Google a reason to promote websites with videos.

3. Promote your website in case Google doesn't give you a high ranking. Your website should be part of all of your marketing: it should be on your signs, on your mailing envelopes, on your invoices, on your cash register receipts, on your business cards, on your license plate frames, and of course in all of your advertising. Have your website name on display in your store or business or office. Your website is an asset so the more you promote it the more valuable it will be.

DECEMBER 7, 2015

In just a few weeks it will be a new year and time for those New Year Resolutions. Business people need to have New Year Resolutions too and the one resolution you should keep is to have a blog on your business website. Blogs are articles you write with information about your products and services and tips and advice and information. Blogs are very effective for converting website visitors into money-paying customers. Blogs will also help you increase your "key-word count" on your website which will help raise your position on Google and other search engine results. The bottom line: if you are going to keep one resolution in the new year, keep the resolution to start blogging.

The best blogs -- the blogs that will build your credibility and will do the most to increase your sales -- are the blogs that provide help and information to readers. If you provide worthwhile information then consumers will find your website through search engines and then they will buy your products and services.

Remember: consumers are always searching for tips and ideas and helpful information. They have questions -- and if you provide that info they will discover your business. Do you need some ideas about blogging? Try these:

You are a lawyer: blog about what to do if you have a car accident or what to discuss with your teenagers the liability about partying when you're not at home.

You have a financial company: blog about how to improve your credit score to get better loan rates.

You are a dentist: blog about the best way to brush and floss and about the best ways to whiten teeth. Discuss options for the newest cosmetic dentistry.

You are a flooring retailer: discuss the latest products and the different grades of flooring and carpet. Discuss how to clean spots and stains and repair scratches.

You are a home remodeler: discuss tips and ideas to make a project move faster and how to save money.

You are a clothing seller: discuss how to keep clothes in their best condition including cleaning tips. Give tips about how to add low-cost accessories to update a wardrobe.

You are a furniture seller: discuss how to make minor repairs to wood furniture with crayons and marking pens and how to clean spots and stains.

You are a bedding company: discuss how to make sleep better with low cost options including different pillows, and ways to raise or lower the height of a bed by adjusting the frame.

You sell appliances: discuss which filters and vents need to be cleaned and maintained to keep the appliances efficient.

All of these ideas come from questions that are asked on search engines all the time. The idea is simple: when you share your professional knowledge it will build trust and credibility and it will pay off in more sales while at the same time it adds valuable content to your website that will bring in more customers through web searches.

And if you really want to hit a marketing home-run, then add a video blog to your website with videos of you giving tips and advice.

DECEMBER 1, 2015

I realize that the holiday shopping season has just started and you are very optimistic about Christmas sales, but you must start planning for January. There are a lot of advantages for setting up your advertising and marketing for 2016 now including locking in the best prices and the best placements. The TV and radio stations have already started to book advertising for the new year and the early birds win the best deals. Of course, even though you hope shoppers will clean you out this holiday season, you must start planning for January clearance sales and January white sales as well as shoppers who just want to buy in January when they think prices will be lower. Don't forget there are also "gift card shoppers" who will be using their Visa and American Express gift cards starting after Christmas Day and through January.

You might also want to plan for the weather in January with the forecast of a very strong El Nino approaching. If your business is linked to rain and cold you need to have your advertising and marketing in place. This includes roofing, heating, insulation, winter sports, auto service, clothing and more.

There are also some holidays in January that you have to plan for. The biggest holiday actually comes in February and that's Valentine's Day, but if you are selling any big ticket item whether it's jewelry or a new kitchen you have to advertise that big purchase for Valentine's Day in January. If you are selling any kind of self-improvement January is the month you need to capture those New Year Resolutions. This includes cosmetic dentistry, physical fitness, financial fitness, college planning, new careers.

Here are some January holidays and sales days with their dates to consider for your advertising and marketing, and please remember I don't make this stuff up:

January 1  New Year's Day Sales
January 8  Bubble Bath Day (bath remodelers!)
January 18 Martin Luther King Birthday 
January 26 Spouse's Day

By the way, home and bath remodelers, January is also Bath Safety Month.

NOVEMBER 8, 2015

It surprises me how so many companies pay a lot of money for a professionally designed website that is a failure. The biggest reason why these expensive websites fail is that many web designers think like artists and not like consumers. You need a web designer to think like one of your customers. Let me say that again: you need a web designer to think like one of your customers. Here are five things that your customers want when they visit your website:

1. They want to know how to find you. This means that they want on your home page your name, your address, your phone number and your email address if you really will respond to emails quickly. Too many so-called professional web designers put your vital contact info on a "contact us" page and that is a horrible mistake. Your name, address and phone number should be on every page.

2. Customers want to see your best buys first. If you are having a sale or promotion put it right at the top of your home page. Do not make the mistake of having a link from your home page to an interior page for your sales and specials and deals. Web designers love to create pages and links -- because that's how they justify their existence and boost their charges. You don't need an extra page and you don't need links which are just hoops for your customers to jump through.

3. Customers want a quick response when they contact you through your website. Don't have an email address on your website if you don't have the emails going to your cell phone so you can respond immediately. If you delay responding you can lose a sale. Many web designers will urge you to have some kind of email inquiry page or box -- you should say "no" if you're not set up for it. Just have your phone number on every page -- top, bottom and middle.

4. Customers want to see what you are talking about and promoting. Today's web users now expect to see videos about everything whether it's how to operate a new reclining bed with a massage feature, to how the new dental laser technology treats cavities. If you don't have videos on your site add them as quickly as possible.

5. Customers want to eat their dessert first. If your website is a meal, skip the preliminaries. Having a "welcoming page" is a waste of time. Having appetizers about what you offer is a waste of time. Get to the main course and even the dessert right away -- make your customers drool with your best prices, best services and best offers as soon as they come to your website. Again, web designers love to build "landing pages" which do nothing. When they build a "landing page" for you all they did was raise the amount of money they charge you -- and for your customers it's another delay and another click before they find what they are looking for.

Do not discuss these five points with your web designer. Your web designer will fight all five -- because they won't put more money into your web designer's pockets. Tell your web designer that you want these five things -- and these five things will put more money in your pocket.

OCTOBER 19, 2015

The advertising trade press and the business media are starting to come out with their articles with predictions about 2016. An article in Forbes caught my attention because it predicted 7 advertising trends for 2016 and #1 on the list was that online video advertising will start to dominate. The article in Forbes cites a big change at Google. As we all know Google owns YouTube, but now Google is starting to place videos and video advertisements at the top of search results. Now that's a big change -- and it means that video ads and videos about businesses could now show up well before text links and text ads. Take notice of that. I've been telling you for several years that video ads are key for your business and having videos on YouTube about your business and having videos on your own website can only help you capture visitors and promote sales. Perhaps you've ignored what I've said for the past couple of years, but you will not be able to ignore Google when it places a video above your paid text ad on Google search results. If you pay for Google text ads take note of that.

The reality is customers want to view videos and they would rather watch a video than read a report. Video ads are more powerful tools than text ads for the same reason -- video can entertain while reading text can be a burden. Remember that search engines like Google want to please the public and so the search engines will list videos before text in search results when the videos supply the information in the search result. And since Google owns YouTube, it makes perfect sense that videos that are also hosted on YouTube will get an extra boost in search results.

So, how many videos about your business do you have on YouTube? And how many videos do you have on your company's website? The writing is on the wall about the future -- or to be more correct -- the video is on the computer screen.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2015

The big supermarkets and department stores have some savvy marketing experts and that's why they are already advertising for Halloween. Yesterday -- September 18th -- I was in my local supermarket and they already had their displays of Halloween goodies and pumpkins ready to buy. Department stores have their costumes and trick-or-treat gear on display. Halloween is, after all, the second biggest holiday for spending after Christmas, and the big guys are already marketing for Halloween six weeks in advance. If you are not marketing for Halloween what should this tell you? This should tell you that six weeks before Christmas you should be marketing for your biggest season of the year.

Six weeks before Christmas is November 13th, and that's less than a month away. Do you know what you are going to be doing? Actually, Halloween retailers might need only six weeks for their marketing because Halloween merchandise is not that expensive. Marketing expensive holiday gifts needs a longer lead time. If you are selling big ticket items including furniture and jewelry and appliances, now is the time to be advertising your layaway plans. Few consumers are going to be able to react to advertising in December for any big ticket items. But if you advertise layaway plans now you have a chance at gaining some extra sales by hitting the hearts and minds of shoppers early when they can set aside some of their holiday budget for your merchandise.

You also need to advertise big ticket items now even if you are not going to offer layaways, because now is when consumers start making up their holiday wish lists. Advertising now is crucial for big ticket items and I can't say this enough. You need to plant the thought in consumers' minds now because your big ticket item is competing with a lot of smaller ticket items that are easier for consumers to buy. If you want the big sale, you have to convince shoppers that one big item like a dining room set or a kitchen makeover will be a better holiday gift than a new video game console plus a new TV plus a gift card for Starbucks.

Once you realize that the smart thing is to advertise early you have to get serious about it. Advertising always picks up in October and November and December and with the increase in the number of ads comes an increase in prices. Newspapers can always add extra pages to handle additional ads, but TV and radio have a limited number of ads in good time periods. Recently I've been talking to several business owners who said they are going to wait till November to start advertising their big ticket merchandise -- and there is no bigger mistake they can make. Anyone who advertises high-end gifts in the last few days before Christmas is wasting their money because who is going to buy a Rolex watch or diamond earrings after seeing an ad two days before Christmas Eve?

SEPTEMBER 13, 2015

What are the worst days to advertise? I am not going to make you wait for the answer. The worst days to advertise are the three days before Christmas. It makes absolutely no sense to advertise three days before Christmas because everyone has either made their minds up about what to buy or they've already bought it. I am talking about expensive items, of course. Sure, there will always be last minute purchases of a shirt or a tie, or a bottle of perfume. But anyone who is buying a big ticket item for Christmas including jewelry, a watch, a bedroom set, a vacation package, a gaming system or appliance, or a kitchen makeover already has their mind made up before the last three shopping days before Christmas.

 

Every year I laugh at the companies that advertise Rolex watches and diamond jewelry and other luxury items during the last couple of days before Christmas. What idiotic advertising agency did they hire? No one is going to watch TV or listen to the radio 72 hours before the holiday and rush out to make a ten-thousand dollar purchase. If you are going to advertise during the 72-hours before Christmas you should be advertising your after-Christmas sale and you should be saying "you waited this long, well just wait a little longer to save even more!"

 

The reality is consumers plan and shop in advance. Right now is when you should start advertising for Christmas. Right now is when you should be promoting layaway plans and financing plans for holiday shopping. Right now is when you should be promoting yourself as the leader in your retail category.

 

If you advertise now you will plant the seed in consumers' minds early and come November they will think about you first. Yes, October is when you advertise for November.  You do not advertise in November for November sales -- then it's too late. If you advertise now, you will also beat the rush when all businesses advertise heavily. If you advertise now, you will probably save on your advertising budget.

 

Frankly, advertising has been picking up the last couple of years and this coming November and December TV and radio stations are likely to have a lot of demand for commercial spots and a windfall of advertising revenue. That means they are likely to charge higher prices during November and December.

 

If you advertise now you will get your message out at a lower cost. And if you book your holiday advertising time now -- weeks before the November and December advertising crush -- you have a chance to lock in lower advertising prices for the holidays.

SEPTEMER 9, 2015

Whenever a new client decides to come on my Best Buys Show the question about a spokesperson always comes up. Some advertisers think they have to hire an actor or a model and I tell them not to do that. You don't have to hire anyone. You are the best spokesperson for your business. You know your business and the quality and service you offer better than anyone else and most importantly customers will trust you more than an actor or a model. If you can talk to your customers in your business you can talk on TV and talk on the radio. It surprises me that some businesses make the big blunder of hiring the wrong actor or model to represent their business.

For example, there is a mattress company that has as its spokesmodel a young blonde girl who is more suited for pitching fast food than mattresses. In fact, I refer to her as the "McDonald's model" because I can only picture her talking about Big Macs and not mattresses. Then there is a career college that right now is using singing and dancing "students" in its advertising and I think that's a mistake too. The career college is not only expensive but it is a school for careers in health care. I can't imagine that future students would be swayed to hand over their money and invest two years by singing and dancing "students." I think the students would want some hard facts on costs and careers and information on the education they're getting from someone with credibility such as a professor or employer or school director or student graduates who can talk about their success.

But sometimes you shouldn't be your own spokesperson if by accident you show a liability. For example, there is a window company that promotes its local factory but the owner who does the company's radio commercials in his thick Eastern European accent mispronounces "Southern California." How his advertising agency allowed that amazes me. I asked him about it and he says "yes, people talk about it." Well, they might "talk about it" but how much business has it cost him? Do you trust someone who says they're local but they can't pronounce "Southern California"?

In advertising you have to consider both the message and the messenger. Viewers and listeners will judge the message by the messenger. A young blonde girl with "cheerleader looks" and dressed in what could double as a McDonald's Uniform does not have the credibility for selling an expensive mattress. Singing teenagers don't promise a future for students in health care. And if you want to be known as a local manufacturer don't mispronounce where you live and operate.

AUGUST 31, 2015

I have several clients who cut back on their advertising during the summer because they believe that their customers are away on vacation and not likely to buy their products and services. That could be and that's a decision every business has to make for themselves even though I believe that consistent advertising is the key to branding and having customer loyalty and awareness. With that said, now I can tell you that the summer doldrums are over and it's time to advertise again. In fact, the traffic to www.alanbestbuys.com this past Saturday, August 29th, after our TV show was the highest since May. Yes, our viewers and your customers are back.

Not only was there strong traffic to our website on Saturday but there was also a surge in clicks on the advertisements that appear on my website. This is just more proof that consumers are in the spending mood.

WHAT ABOUT WALL STREET?

Another question facing businesses is about the impact that Wall Street is having on consumer confidence. The question is should they cut back on advertising because of the turmoil on Wall Street? I don't think Wall Street is such a big factor now in consumer confidence and shopping. Data from the Federal Reserve shows that less than half of the families in America have any exposure to the stock market and most consumers are exposed to the stock market only through their 401(k) and pension plans so they are not likely to be affected by swings like those we just had. This past week, when the stock market was having its been plunge it was interesting to hear on the radio many "man on the street interviews" with consumers telling the radio reporters that they were going to take the selling in stride and they were confident stock prices would rise again. Chances are none of those consumers owned stocks outside of their retirement plans.

So reconsider if you are thinking that you shouldn't be advertising now because of the stock market selling. Chances are the selling on Wall Street is not hurting your customers. What is encouraging is that even with the recent stock market sell-off, our web statistics show shoppers are still looking to spend. Frankly, I think the stock market sell-off had little direct impact on families.

AUGUST 25, 2015

Many of you have a Facebook page for your business, and that's good. But if you are relying on your Facebook page as your main online presence then you are making a very, very big mistake. There is a lot of danger in making Facebook or any social media website your main online website, and here are a few of the dangers:

1. You have no ownership. If you have a Facebook page for your business, Facebook owns that page and that website address and at any time Facebook could block you, remove you, or control what you post. Yes, they could start charging you fees for a service you thought was free. They could even put advertisements from your competitors on your Facebook page.

2. You have no equity. Your company's website has a value. Perhaps you didn't realize your website has a value but the future buyer of your company might indeed be very interested in your company's website for future marketing and sales. You have no equity in having a Facebook page.

3. Your audience is limited. When your company has a Facebook page your audience is limited to those who are your "friends" on Facebook and to those who might search for you on Facebook. This eliminates all of the potential customers who are either not your friends or simply don't use Facebook.

4. Search engines might not find you on Facebook. Do a Google search for yourself just as I did. My Facebook page showed up on the second page of Google's search results but my own website and even my YouTube videos showed up high on the first page of my Google search results.

I am writing this Marketing Memo because last week I noticed that one of my clients is spending a lot of time posting photos of his products on his Facebook page. Then I noticed that he had only 542 "Friends" on Facebook and I realized that all of the work he was doing was reaching a very small audience.

This client would have been better off spending that time posting those photos on his own website along with product descriptions where it had the potential of reaching a much bigger audience. His own website could reach many more than his 542 Facebook Friends. I also told him that his "Friends" might consider his constant posting of product pictures as "Facebook spam" and he could alienate customers.

My advice: Put your efforts into your own website first, then promote your website on Facebook and on other social media. Invest your time into an asset you own, so that you build your own equity, and you are the manager and you can reach more customers beyond the limitations of Facebook members.

AUGUST 14, 2015

The news is out: the weather experts are predicting a monster El Nino this winter with plenty of torrential rain, flooding and mudslides. And thanks to the news media which loves to jump on subjects such as storm coverage and rain and floods and mudslides, the general public will be whipped into an El Nino frenzy even before the first raindrops fall. I hate to be the one to say this, but this could be good for anyone with a business that might benefit from heavy rains and heavy snow, too. So now is the time to start your El Nino advertising and marketing so that the public thinks of you first when the rain -- and snow -- starts falling.

Who could benefit from El Nino? Certainly anyone selling roof maintenance and roof repairs. Companies selling replacement windows and exterior doors can also benefit. So can clothing companies selling raincoats, storm gear, boots, and umbrellas. Honestly -- when was the last time you bought an umbrella? This might be the year. Auto repair companies could have El Nino promotions for new tires and wiper blades, and brakes and tune-ups so drivers aren't stuck in El Nino rains. With the rain will come snow, so this might be the year when ski resorts and travel to ski resorts will have a big year. This will mean demand for ski gear, ski clothing, and other snow sporting goods.

Then there will be the families who will want to escape the rain and this might be the year that they travel to the sun -- instead of having their northern relatives travel here to Southern California. Are you selling tours and vacations to Florida?

El Nino weather could also keep Southern California families indoors more this winter, so that might mean a demand for new TVs, electronics, computers, pool tables, sofas and a new kitchen for passing the time during rainy weather.

Your strategy should be to promote your El Nino solutions and El Nino connection well in advance of the foul weather -- so consumers think of you first when the storms arrive. It's been hard to sell a new roof or a new umbrella or snow skis here in Southern California the last few years -- but this year might be your big chance. Plan for it and take action early before your competition does. We can start your El Nino advertising now -- just as the news media has started its El Nino warnings now.

AUGUST 11, 2015

The success of any business depends on its marketing and thanks to the Internet you can have very successful marketing at zero cost. This free marketing is called Inbound Marketing. Inbound Marketing is when your customers find you. You don't pay anyone to find you customers. In the old days, Inbound Marketing was as simple as customers asking their friends for recommendations such as who has the best prices on appliances? Or, who is a good plumber? Or, what lawyer can help me? Today, Inbound Marketing is all about consumers going on the Internet and searching for appliances or for plumbers or for lawyers. What consumers do by themselves you don't pay for.

You might try to influence the consumer's choices with Search Engine Optimization but SEO and all forms of advertising are Outbound Marketing and someone gets paid for that. Inbound Marketing can be free because customers are motivated to find you. These days customers will look on the Internet first -- and they will look on the Internet sometimes even before they see your paid advertisement in a newspaper or TV, or before they hear your radio commercial. With Inbound Marketing your mission is to give them worthwhile information to find. And if you practice good Inbound Marketing the search engines will also reward you by listing you higher in search results.

What makes Inbound Marketing so successful is that when consumers find you on their own -- by doing their own search -- and call you or visit you on their own they are pretty much already sold on your products and services. Then they are much easier to close. So what are the keys to successful Inbound Marketing?

First you need a credible website. It doesn't need all the bells and whistles of a high-priced website but it must look legitimate.

Second you need good information. If you are selling bathtubs that clean themselves you must have the information that consumers are looking for about bathtubs that clean themselves. Your website should be the authority with all the information about how they work and how they're installed and how much time they'll save the homeowner on cleaning. You'll want all the info on colors and models and warranties and financing plans.

You will also want photos and videos showing the self cleaning bathtub in action.

Actually you can do all of this yourself -- and that's when Inbound Marketing is free -- or you could hire someone to do it for a fraction of the cost of Outbound Marketing. Inbound Marketing costs less than Outbound Marketing because the content for your website needs to be created once for Inbound Marketing -- while Outbound Marketing (advertising and SEO) needs to be repeated over and over again.

Did you know for example that most advertising is based on the rule of three? The rule of three says that a consumer has to be exposed to your advertisement at least three times before they are likely to act. With Inbound Marketing just one exposure can give you results.

We can help you with your Inbound Marketing. Specifically we can help you with having videos on your website which is what will help you not only with customers but also with getting a higher rank in search engine results.

JULY 23, 2015

Here in Southern California several media companies control many of the radio and TV stations and as a result they are pushing "package deals" for advertising on many stations or shows instead of the specific stations or specific programs that target your audience.

The problem: Radio station "groups" might offer packages that include multiple radio stations including stations that do not have programs for your target audience. TV station "groups" might offer packages on multiple TV stations or on various programs that your target audience might not be watching.

While we all love the idea of "package deals" sometimes the package that we are presented is not a deal and sometimes the bad is thrown in with the good. Several years ago I produced the commercials for Crazy Gideon -- the electronics discounter in downtown Los Angeles. Gideon had only one store -- in downtown -- and he wanted to target the audience of adults around the downtown area. Gideon asked me to do his 30-second commercials for a "package deal" he got from a cable TV company. Gideon described the package deal as including "thousands of commercials" on the "main cable channels" including CNN, CNBC, Fox, History Channel, Travel Channel and others.

I advised Gideon against this package because it lacked specifics, but he insisted and I did produce his commercials. The commercials ran for six months, but during that six months I never saw even one of my commercials on TV. Not one. Neither did Gideon, and when we asked the cable TV company for a print-out of when his commercials ran we found out that only a couple ran on the major cable channels and the rest ran at strange middle-of-the-night times on secondary cable channels that weren't his demographic. For example -- he had commercials running on the Cartoon Network at 4am in Riverside, and remember that Gideon's store was in downtown Los Angeles. Gideon told me he got "zero" from the $25,000 a month he spent on that "package deal."

More recently, an advertiser showed me the "package deal" a group of radio stations tried to sell him. It included spots on stations that didn't match his demographic either. He needed homeowners and adults, but the package included rock and roll music stations that targeted teenagers and lower income consumers. Another advertiser showed me a package deal from one radio station that included "5-second mentions" in addition to the 60-second commercial spots he wanted during a certain time of the day. The 5-second mentions were supposedly a discounted bonus -- but the reality was that the 5-second mentions are a waste of money that are rarely "heard" by listeners when grouped with a bunch of other commercials.

There is nothing wrong with a package deal when the package targets your demographic. But if a radio station with programming that doesn't target your demo is thrown in as part of a package it dilutes the true value of what you are buying. Beware package deals. Be specific about the target audience you want to reach and be sure each "media buy" is specific to that target.

JULY 10, 2015
 
August is one of the most important months of the year for consumer spending. August is when back to school shopping is in full swing and that includes buying school supplies, furniture, clothing, getting new glasses and dental exams, and new computers. August is also a time for back to work shopping which includes clothing, computers, office equipment and furniture, briefcases, eyeglasses, dental checkups and auto repairs.

August is actually the month for the most weddings-- it is not June as many think it is.

August is also the end of the peak season for major home improvements such as room additions, new roofing, new windows and doors, house painting, and exterior improvements.

August also wraps up the peak home buying season because families want to be in their new homes before school starts.

August is also a time when many families are buying furniture to get ready for "indoor living" and the "indoor living" season starts with back-to-school. Indoor living also means an emphasis on kitchen and bathroom remodeling.

This August, there will be increased emphasis on water conservation including artificial grass and water saving plumbing. August is also when termite season begins.

August is also when there is a push for auto sales, both new and used, and it is also a time to promote auto care.

And at the end of August is when you should start advertising your Labor Day sales. Labor Day falls on Monday, September 7th and that's the first weekend of September. If you are selling any big ticket items, you actually need to start advertising about two weeks before Labor Day to plant a seed in the minds of shoppers.

As you can see August is a very important month for consumer spending. August will be the biggest time for spending until mid-November when the holiday shopping season starts.

JUNE 24, 2015

They are being marketed as the new "non dot coms" and they are the new website domains such as dot-diamonds or dot-college or dot-bargains. But do you want a new or additional website that ends in .best or .dentist? Click here for my Special Business Marketing Memo on the new website address options and do you really want them or need them?


JUNE 15, 2015

Every business knows about the importance of having an attractive front door. I learned this from my Grandfather who had a chain of grocery stores in New York City when I was a kid: The front door is how customers come into your business and how they perceive your business. You want your front door to be inviting with specials hitting your customer's eye as soon as they approach. You don't want your front door to be down a littered, dark, dangerous alleyway.

 

Today it is the same thing but today's front door is more likely to be the home page on your website. If you are providing any professional service or selling any kind of high end item, most of your customers are likely to check out your website before they walk into your brick and mortar location. That's why your website's home page is your new front door. And because your website's home page is your new front door, you also want that home page to be friendly to Internet search engines such as Google. So what makes your home page attractive to customers and to search engines? Here are five important factors:

 

1. Current information. Be sure your home page is current. If the next holiday is July 4th mention your July 4th specials if you're a retailer. If it's back to school shopping season, be sure your home page talks about back to school shopping. If tax season is approaching be sure you spell out tips for filing. In other words, update your home page so that it appears current. It's a turn-off if in July you still have your Christmas specials on the home page. If you haven't changed your home page in the last two weeks you have a problem with Google.


2. A new video. The search engines reward websites that have new videos and putting new videos on your home page is an ideal way to get a higher ranking in search results. Website visitors respond to information in videos and the search engines know this and so they look for videos. Keep in mind that Google owns YouTube and YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world as consumers look at YouTube for videos with information -- and not just for videos of cats playing the piano.


3. News about your business should be on your home page. News about your business is another way to show the search engines that your website is current. The "news" can be about new inventory, or a new service, or mentioning a new employee, or talking about a new location.


4. Have a customer testimonial on your home page, if possible. Now this is very important: customer testimonials must be real -- written by a real person and using a real name. Consumers have caught on to "made-up" testimonials signed with "initials" and they don't work. If you really want a customer testimonial with impact, have a testimonial written by a real customer using the customer's real name and if possible have a photo of the customer or even a video of the customer talking about your business. Do it right -- or don't do it at all. If you are a lawyer or a psychiatrist or a plastic surgeon you might have a problem with this and that's understandable.


5. Have a way for your website visitors to contact you directly. The best way is to have your phone number on your home page at the top, in the middle and at the bottom of your home page-- yes in three places. Put your phone number in large, bold numbers along with your email address and of course your physical address. Too many companies literally bury this vital information on a "contact us" page and this is a horrible mistake.


JUNE 1, 2015

When it comes to following Google and how it ranks websites the only thing that is constant is this: the rules are always changing. The latest big change is that Google is giving preference to websites that are set up for appearance on smart phones. I tackled this in a previous Marketing Memo which you can see below. Google has made another change which is being called the "Phantom 2" update, and it's being called Phantom because it hasn't received much publicity from Google despite its importance. Google makes something like 500 updates or changes per year in how it decides how to rank websites in search results. You want your website ranked high -- and there's no two-ways about this.

 

What Phantom 2 is doing is putting more pressure on websites with poor content, while rewarding websites with great content. What is great content? It is meaningful articles - not short sentences that lack substantial information. Phantom 2 is going to cause big problems for any retailer with a website listing merchandise for sale. Unless you have interesting articles about your sofas, your fire pits, your iron gates and your replacement windows, Phantom 2 is likely going to penalize your website.

 

On the other hand, Phantom 2 is likely going to reward websites that write about the quality of what they are selling and has videos about their merchandise with descriptions about what is in their videos.  (Remember: computers still can't "see" what is in an online video, so you must write about the video.) For example, if you are a dentist and you have an article about orthodontics and you tell about the various types of braces available, along with a video, Google will likely reward you. But if you are a dentist and just say you offer braces but lack detail you will likely be penalized in search engine results. Let's say you are in pest control: you would want articles and videos describing your services including fumigation and Orange Oil treatments and heat treatments -- and the more content the better. If you are an attorney, have informative articles about DUI defense or what goes into a will or a power of attorney. It's not enough to just say you offer these services.

 

Google is pushing "content is king." About ten years ago I was permitted to attend a closed-door meeting with Google officials who were revealing what made a website rank higher in search results. Ten years ago they said it was content and they said "your content writer is more important than your website designer." Now, it's still all about content.

 

So, what content are you adding to your website? Are you adding new articles about your products and services and are you adding videos to your site to help explain your products and services? Phantom 2 has been operating for about one month, and industry insiders have already seen search results for many websites dropping as much as 60% because of the new Google rules. If you care about your website ranking don't put off changing and improving your site's content. Period.

MAY 22, 2015

Many media organizations during the year will announce "Best Of" awards for their TV and radio programs or newspapers and magazines. These can be legitimate or they can be a way to reward their advertisers with some extra promotion. Or, they can be ways to deceive and trick you into spending for advertising you don't want and you don't need.

If you are contacted by a media outlet that says you've been nominated or chosen as "Best Of ___" and if they want no money from you for the honor then congratulations.

But, if you get a phone call or a letter that says you've been nominated or chosen as "Best Of ___" and you need to pay a certain amount of money to have the honor published or broadcast you had better think twice.

One "Best Of" company operated like a boiler room with dozens of telemarketers. They would call businesses and tell them something like this:

"Hi Mr. Mike. I'm pleased to tell you that you've been nominated as the Best Pizza Shop in Sierra Madre north of Foothill Boulevard. Now, in order for you to actually be elected Best Pizza Shop in Sierra Madre north of Foothill Boulevard you will have to pay for a quarter-page ad in our upcoming special Best Of ___ Magazine."

And then you are told that once you appear in the special magazine readers will vote for you.

You might also get a call like this:

"Hi Mr. Mike. I'm pleased to tell you that you've been chosen as the Best Pizza Shop in Sierra Madre and to have the announcement appear in our special Best Of ____ Magazine you will have to buy a quarter-page advertisement."

Yes, there are legitimate "Best Of" rankings and articles and stories in the media, just don't get roped into paying to play.

MAY 14, 2015

Ever since I started writing these Marketing Memos I've been urging you to have more videos on your websites. The reasons are clear why:

 

1. Videos help sell your business to customers.
2. Videos will keep visitors on your website longer which will increase business via your website.
3. Videos on your website will prompt Google and other search engines to give your website a higher ranking in search results.

 

There is a very strong reason why Google likes websites to have videos: Google owns YouTube which is the largest website for hosting videos. When you put your videos on YouTube and on your own website, Google has the opportunity to link its own advertisements to your videos. And as your videos are viewed, Google's ads are viewed, and everybody makes money. So, to help Google make money -- and you make money -- Google will rank websites with videos higher on search results. It's relly that simple. Google is out with a new report showing that videos really do work as a marketing tool. And Google is forecasting a huge growth in spending for videos on websites. Here's what Google just released:

 

"Online video is undeniably one of the key areas of focus for marketers in 2015, as well as for the next few years, because spending on desktop online video alone is projected to grow 21% every year until 2019."  

 

So are you adding videos to your website? If you want to increase your rank on Google's search results, and if you want to keep visitors on your website longer so that they will do business with you, and if you want to show your customers your best features -- you will want to be adding videos all the time.


MAY 7, 2015

Google has made another change in how it decides how to rank websites in search results. Now Google is giving higher ranks to websites that are set up to look better on smart phones. Basically, if you have small fonts and complicated home pages and lots of small pictures and lots of links on your website pages it is likely that Google will not rank you as high for smart phone users. So is this such a horrible thing? Well, it depends.

 

If customers know your website address, you really don't care where you rank in Google's search results. For example, our website is promoted on our TV show so people watching our show can go directly to our site instead of searching for it on Google and other search engines. If you are a customer of Bank of America you probably have memorized the URL (web address) of BofA so you don't have to go to Google either. If you advertise your website on TV and on your shopping bags and cash register receipts your customers can find your website without Google as well. However, if your business is new, and your website address is unfamiliar, then perhaps you should ask your web designer if your website is properly set up for smart phones. With that said, let me give you a dose of reality: many small businesses ignore their websites or think they aren't important. Many businesses fail to maintain a blog with updates, and many businesses fail to post new videos on their websites frequently. Frankly, these businesses have more serious issues than worrying about how their pages appear on smart phones because they still aren't taking care of the essential basics.


So here's the bottom line for your money: Before you start to panic over this change in Google search results be sure you are updating your website on a daily basis and be sure you are adding new videos and new articles about your business.

APRIL 4, 2015

The months of May and June are filled with key holidays for retail sales and various events for marketing. Here's a list of key dates and events to keep in mind:

MAY 5  CINCO DE MAYO for party supplies, entertainment, outdoor furniture.

MAY 10  MOTHER'S DAY  Remind your customers to buy something nice for mother or they will face a full year of guilt. Mother's Day is traditionally the busiest day of the year for restaurants, but in recent years there has been a big push to buy Moms computers, furniture, beds, jewelry, appliances and other household luxuries including a kitchen or bathroom remodel. The trend to buying Mom luxury items was helped by the recession with families deciding to shift money from dining out to purchases that will last all year. Mother's Day shopping can now stretch through the full month as Mom will want to be part of finding that new sofa, or new fridge, or deciding on a kitchen or bathroom remodel.

MAY 25  MEMORIAL DAY  Your customers expect to see Memorial Day and Memorial Weekend sales. Memorial Day is a Monday but the "sales" and promotions can start anytime from Friday May 22 through the following weekend May 30-31.

May advertising and marketing also sets the stage for three crucial events in June:

JUNE 21  FATHER'S DAY  Anything can be sold as part of Father's Day because we Dads are practical. We can be convinced that a new bathroom or a new kitchen is a Father's Day gift. We can also view a new sofa as a Father's Day gift. Of course there are traditional Father's Day gifts such as sports equipment, watches, cologne, and suits, ties, cufflinks, jewelry and sports collectibles, computers and cell phones and a new high-def TV.

JUNE GRADUATIONS  There aren't specific dates for June graduations and some graduations are actually in May. Graduation gifts can range from clothing to computers to furniture for a new apartment.

JUNE WEDDINGS AND ENGAGEMENTS  June is often thought of as the big month for weddings and wedding gifts, but actually August has more weddings. Still you can promote weddings and engagements with gifts and purchases including jewelry, household items, household appliances, furniture and everything a new couple might need. Do you have a wedding registry? Every business should have a wedding registry. If Home Depot has a wedding registry YOU can have a wedding registry.

APRIL 2, 2015

I had a rather vigorous debate with one of my "Facebook friends" last week. She is a Realtor and has been using a company that takes photos of her listings and arranges them into a "slide show" for online advertising. I asked her why she buys these "slide shows" but doesn't use my company to produce a TV video for her?

Here are the facts about the slide show:

1. They run 1-minute long.
2. The slide show is made up of still photos edited to run one after another.
3. There is no narration but there is generic music playing.
4. The cost, she told me, was $169. The company charges an additional $99 for narration. That would bring the cost of a video with narration to $268.
5. The slide show is sent to her for her use on her website or social media sites such as Facebook or YouTube.

Here are the facts about what we offer:

1. We also produce one-minute videos, but we produce real videos -- not slide shows.
2. Our videos are shot in high definition and edited to follow a story line. 
3. Our videos have full sound whether it's "natural sound" at the location such as the sounds of birds or fountains, or the sound of a Realtor or business owner describing what's for sale and what is being shown in the video.
4. The "retail price" of a one-minute video with us is $450 which includes all of the production, narration, natural sound, or on-camera speaking by a Realtor or business owners.
5. We also give our production to the client for use on the client's website or social media sites such as Facebook or YouTube. But we do something the "photo tour company" doesn't do -- we put the video on our Best Buys TV Show on Saturday at 5:30-PM on KCAL Channel 9 where it can be seen by tens of thousands of potential customers and clients. How many people will see the photo tour that the Realtor has on her Facebook page and website?

By the way, I did check out that photo tour company and I found out that they also shoot high definition videos just like we do. But they charge $2,700 for a one minute video. And they don't put it on TV -- they just give you the video.

I admit not everyone wants to be on TV to promote their business, but I can't understand why someone who is selling real estate would pay $268 for a "slide show" with narration just for their website or Facebook page when for $450 (our retail price) -- just $182 more -- they can have a full high definition video with narration and the ability to speak on camera and have it on Channel 9 at 5:30-PM on a Saturday where it will be seen by thousands.

APRIL 1, 2015

I had my first meeting with a new client yesterday and we discussed branding and how to build up the company image. We discussed the basics including a website and using press releases to announce company developments. Then I suggested an Infomercial for the company. I wasn't surprised when the company owner said to me he didn't know what was involved in having an Infomercial and what it cost and how to go about creating one. The reality is a lot of company owners don't know about Infomercials or the value having your own half-hour TV show can have. So here are some key points.

1. Infomercials are a true advertising and marketing bargain. Consider this: on many Los Angeles TV stations a 30-second commercial between 2-AM and 2:30-AM costs about $100. But you can run your full half-hour Infomercial program in that 2-AM to 2:30-AM time slot for about $1,000. Put it another way: instead of buying five minutes of commercial time you can get a half-hour TV show for the same cost.

2. Infomercials give you a chance to convince the viewer. A half-hour Infomercial allows you to really sell yourself and your product and your business because you have time to state your case. You really can't do much convincing in a 30-second commercial. And consider this: it takes about 12 seconds to say your name, address, phone number and website and if you are advertising your business with 30-second commercials that doesn't leave much time to tell the viewers why they should do business with you.

3. Infomercials are prestigious. When you have your own half-hour TV Infomercial you really have your own TV show. You can tell your customers and your suppliers "we have a TV show" and you really do have your own show. You control the content, and you are the star, and for a full half-hour it's all about you.

4. Infomercial production costs do not have to be expensive. You've probably heard about how some companies charge $250,000 or more to produce a half-hour TV Infomercial. But you can have an Infomercial produced for less than 10% of that amount. And because an Infomercial can have a long "shelf life" and can be broadcast many times over a period of months or even years the cost "per broadcast" can be very small.

5. Now is a good time to buy air-time for Infomercials on many of the TV stations in Los Angeles because the spring and summer are a slow period for Infomercials. There is the highest demand for Infomercial air-time during the fall and winter as "direct response companies" pitch their products for the holidays. But now, in the spring and summer, the Infomercial giants are not advertising so the local TV stations have air time available and at attractive prices.

6. So how much does a half-hour of TV airtime cost? That's probably the big question and here are some sample time slots and prices on various stations in the Los Angeles market. Keep in mind that these are prices on broadcast TV stations and not Cable TV. Cable TV prices are much, much lower because their audience is much smaller.

Monday through Friday, 7:30-AM  About $3500.
Monday through Friday, 2-AM  About $1,000.
Monday through Friday, 4-AM  About $500

Saturday mornings are very popular and have a large TV audience and time slots on Saturday mornings can range from $4,000 to $10,000 and sometimes more. Sunday mornings cost less.

7. Your own Infomercial has other uses and benefits. Not only can you put your Infomercial on various TV stations, but you can also put it on your own website and on YouTube and you can link to it from Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. Your own Infomercial becomes your story book.

For more about having your own Infomercial and to see some of the Infomercials I hosted and produced for clients including a lawyer and a retail chain of stores, please go to my Infomercial website www.AlanMendelson.TV.

MARCH 27, 2015

I am compelled to write this Marketing Memo because the sellers of snake oil in the advertising business are in town. Like other snake oil salesmen over the years, they are making fancy claims and using fancy language to rob you of your money. The new snake oil salesmen have hopped on the Internet bandwagon claiming that they have the magic to "double" or "triple" your business when in reality all they are doing is doubling or tripling the cost of their wares. Let me give you a few examples of the advertising techniques that the snake oil salesmen are using:

Snake Oil Salesman #1 is shooting videos of businessmen for YouTube. He simply sets up a camera in front of the businessman who is sitting at his desk and let's the camera "roll" for five minutes while the businessman talks -- or rambles -- about his business. There is no editing. There is no "B-roll" or video of the business shown. The video is nothing more than a "talking head" which is the industry term for nothing more than a static shot of someone speaking. The video is uploaded to YouTube and the price for this service: $3,000.

The reality is you can do this yourself using the camera that is built into your desktop or laptop computer and you can immediately upload your own video to YouTube. You don't even have to buy a video camera. You don't have to edit it but if you do, YouTube provides a free editing system. Actual cost of doing this yourself: $0.

Snake Oil Salesman #2 is selling what he describes as a digital marketing service combined with 30-second commercials on Cable TV. Digital marketing is simply the placement of ads on the Internet. This salesman claims his digital marketing picks the best websites for the online advertising and he can tell his clients in real time (meaning instantly) how the ads are performing in terms of views and clicks, and he says his service is better than competitors who only send a monthly report. This salesman also claims his commercials on Cable TV are targeted to reach the audience that the advertiser needs. The price for this service is $2,000 or $5,000 depending on the size of the package you want.

The reality is because you are buying a package of ads online and on Cable TV you don't really know exactly what you are getting and at what prices.

It's really not clear what professional services you are getting either. Anyone placing online ads has the ability to see how many times their ads are viewed and how many clicks an ad is getting.

You also have the ability to pick the exact websites you want to appear on by contacting those websites and buying ad space from them directly but most businesses buy their online ads through services such as Google Adwords which uses a competitive bid system for placing ads. Google also provides templates for creating your ads so you don't need professional services.

You also have the ability to purchase Cable TV advertising on your own but the danger with Cable TV advertising is that unless you are willing to pay a premium you have little control over what times and on what stations or networks your commercials will appear.

Actual cost for doing this yourself will vary on what you want done. For example, with Google Adwords you can set a monthly online ad budget of $100 and see for yourself how your ads are performing.

Advertising on Cable TV could be a crap shoot for your money because some Cable TV systems will charge you $600 for the production of a 30-second commercial unless you commit to a large ad budget, and it is unlikely you will be able to handpick where you want your Cable TV commercials to appear. So, don't be surprised if your Cable TV commercials for your company appear on some offbeat network at 4 in the morning. You might be promised that your commercials will appear on CNBC and CNN and Fox but just try to get an exact schedule.

For those of you not advertising with us now on the Best Buys TV Show our price is $450 for a 60-second spot with production of your video included and you won't have to guess when you will be on TV because we are on Saturday afternoon at 5:30-PM on KCAL Channel 9. And we also put the video on YouTube and give you all Internet rights to your video so you can use it on your own website and on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. To paraphrase Lee Iacocca "if you can find a better deal, take it."

MARCH 22, 2015

A business owner told me he wants to try social media advertising because he heard it was "hot." Today, everyone is talking about social media advertising which means putting out messages and advertisements on various community websites. The top 5 social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google Plus+ but there are other social community websites. Are you fully aware of the costs and limitations of social media advertising? Read my Special Business Marketing Memo on Social Media Advertising and Marketing by clicking here.

MARCH 14, 2015

Every business owner knows that his company's website is his front door for new customers. New customers are likely to check you out first online and then decide if they will do business with you. This is why your online reputation is so important and why bad reviews and negative comments about you in articles by bloggers can cause you great harm. Recently, several companies who say they can clean up your online reputation have been advertising their services. The reality is, no company can clean up your online reputation because negative comments on the world wide web will remain forever. The negative reviews will never be removed. The best any reputation management company can do is bury negative information about you.

Bury is really the right word to use. The goal of these reputation fix-it companies is simply to create enough new and positive information about you online that it pushes old and negative information about you to the bottom of searches.

Here's an example: in July of 2014 the author of a blog about home improvement criticized your business for its high prices on designer tile and the sloppy way it was installed in her friend's home. That negative article will remain on the Internet and in search engines forever. Your only chance is to post lots of new articles about your fair prices and excellent customer service so that when a search is made about your company there are more "search results" showing what's good about you than articles about how you messed up that one job.

Here's another example: a national news program reported that a national chain store was selling merchandise that was tainted with hazardous chemicals, and you are concerned that customers might think you are also selling this contaminated  merchandise. You should immediately start writing articles and videos announcing that your merchandise is not contaminated and that your goods meet all government standards.

How do you create new, positive articles about you? You can start with your own website and write articles about the good things you do. Then, get other businesses that you do business with to exchange web articles with you so that positive articles about you appear in other websites. You can also publish online press releases that go to news organizations and to search engines and these usually have a fee in the range of $50 per article.

Another way to create positive news about you is to post videos about your business on YouTube with descriptions about your prices and service. You can also write about yourself on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and remember that all good publicity is beneficial.

The reality is that when your reputation has been damaged online, you have to fight with your own words and the more positive words you can have published about you, the less damaging the negative words that were published about you become.

One of the reasons I publish articles about our advertisers in www.alanbestbuys.com is to help our advertisers have new, positive content online that will benefit them when there is a search done about them. We also put our TV show videos on YouTube to help our advertisers maintain a positive image online.

Sometimes it takes a concerted effort to crank out new, positive articles and videos to outweigh the negativity that just one blogger or review can cause. If you need advice about how toi bury negative reviews about your business, give me a call and we can talk about a plan of action.

FEBRUARY 28, 2015

In March and in April many businesses pull in their marketing horns because they fear that sales will be dropping as tax day nears. But pulling in your marketing horns is a mistake, and maybe even a blunder. This is because consumers might actually have more money to spend in March and April and not less money because of taxes. Why would consumers have more money to spend towards tax day? Because there are more consumers who get tax refunds than have to pay come April 15th.

Now consider this: nearly 80% of U.S. taxpayers get a tax refund, and the average refund is about $2,800 and that's a lot of potential retail dollars. If your business caters to wealthy consumers, then there is even bigger bucks available. According to data, families earning more than $200,000 a year get refunds greater than $12,000 and that can be a lot of downpayments on cars, or spending on a kitchen remodel, or spending on home improvements.

Unfortunately, a lot of businesses and business owners do not get refunds -- and they think that's what's also happening with their customers. But the fact is -- it's not what's happening. Your customers will have money to spend, and you should be advertising and marketing to get it.

There is a second reason why consumers will have more money to spend in late March and in April: holiday bills are paid off as we get into spring. Many consumers take about three months to pay off their holiday bills and that means at the end of March and into April the bills have been whittled down and the spending appetite is back.

So don't make the tax season blunder: advertise and market towards tax season and remember that your customers will have cash.

NOW... TAX TIME BLUNDER #2
 
Many small businesses have just started advertising -- and just when shoppers are getting their tax refunds. While I am very pleased to see many small businesses advertising -- many of them are making a very big mistake. These small businesses that are relatively unknown are advertising on radio. Radio is not where unfamiliar businesses should advertise. What do I mean by unfamiliar businesses? Basically, it's a small business that is not known outside of its immediate neighborhood or area. These small businesses have to advertise a phone number and a website URL and the reality is radio is not the place to advertise a phone number or a website address. Basically, most radio listeners are in their cars, driving, and they are not able to immediately write down a phone number or a website address.
 
Just a short while ago I was in my car driving and I heard two small businesses that were unknown to me advertising their phone numbers and addresses. I was paying attention but I couldn't remember their numbers or websites -- and I was motivated. What about drivers who are not motivated? What chance do you have that they will write down a phone number or website URL?
 
Radio, on the other hand, is good for advertising businesses that are well known such as McDonald's or Bank of America or American Airlines. This is because you know where to find a McDonald's, and you know how to contact Bank of America, and you know how to go online to book plane tickets with American Airlines.
 
So while this is the season that small businesses should be advertising to reach consumers who have extra money at this time of year -- picking the best advertising medium becomes crucial. There are many forms of advertising that can work for a new advertiser, but radio is not one of them.

FEBRUARY 11, 2015

I used to love Pay Per Click advertising because it was targeted, direct, and you didn't have to pay anything to the online advertising agency unless someone actually clicked on your advertisement. But those days, I am sorry to say, are over.  Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising is dying. And the death is coming quickly. I first suspected that PPC ads were dying about six months ago when various online advertising agencies cut what they were paying to websites that hosted PPC ads. The reason was clear: PPC ad revenue was dropping.

There are reasons why revenue and the effectiveness of PPC ads are dropping:

1. There are now "filters" on various websites and Internet service providers that block PPC and display ads. In many cases, if you don't tell your ISP to allow you to see ads, you won't see them.

2. Employers and businesses are now blocking ads from appearing on their computers. They do this to keep employees from shopping during company time.

3. Consumers have gotten smart about the Internet and they are using "search engines" to find exactly what they are looking for instead of clicking on ads that might or might not have what they are looking for.

What does it all mean?  It means that there is a very good chance that no one is seeing those PPC ads and if someone does see them they might not bother clickiing on them.

The situation gets worse for companies that pay certain up-front costs for display ads that also have a PPC component.  These companies are getting hit with a double-whammy because not only are consumers not clicking on their ads, but they have paid for artwork and displays that no one is clicking on.

What's the solution?  Simply the solution is to go back to doing online advertising the old fashioned way by having good content, articles and videos on your website that will promote your business when consumers search for your goods and services. You cannot buy clicks anymore -- because the click business isn't what it used to be.

So here is your plan of action:

1. Refresh your website now with new articles and new videos about your products and services. This is the single best investment you can make in your online marketing.

2. Remove out of date articles and videos from your website. Remember that Google will penalize websites with out-of-date content and those sites with out-of-date content will show up lower in search results.

3. Make a commitment now to update your website on a weekly basis (if you can't do it on a daily basis) with new information about products and services.

4. Keep adding videos to your website. The Internet is now all about video and if you don't have new videos being added to your website regularly your site will lose its relevance and you will lose business.

5. Reduce your budget for PPC ads because you're throwing good money after bad.  Use the savings from PPC to pay for new videos and remember that each new video added to your website will keep generating interest and traffic down the road.

Now, there are companies who will disagree with me -- and it's probably becuase they are selling PPC advertisements. I don't think there is even one online advertising agency in the world that is selling PPC ads who will admit that PPC ads have lost their punch or effectiveness. You decide.

JANUARY 19, 2015
 
February has several holidays that are known for special sales. Most notably is the Presidents Weekend Sale. Here in Southern California, you should be particularly aware of the Chinese New Year for sales. The Chinese New Year and Presidents Day both fall during the same week, the week of February 15.

What makes the Chinese New Year so significant to us is that according to the 2012 Census, there are nearly 600-thousand Chinese Americans in the Los Angeles area, and there is a very heavy concentration of Chinese Americans in the San Gabriel Valley. About 44% of the population of Monterey Park is Chinese American. And the Chinese speaking residents of San Marino, Arcadia and Diamond Bar are very wealthy. There are also large populations of Chinese Americans in Irvine, Thousand Oaks and Huntington Beach.

In recent years, Chinese New Year celebrations and sales have become very prominent and if you haven't considered having a Chinese New Year sale before, this is the time you should do it. Keep this in mind also: Asian Americans have a higher per capita income than all other ethnic groups, including Whites. According to the U.S. Census Bureau "in 2005, the median per capita income for Asian Americans was estimated at $27,331, compared to $26,496 for Whites."

The casino industry, which spends a lot of money on market research, has been catering to Chinese Americans with parties and promotions for the Chinese New Year and you should follow their lead. This is certainly a time of year when you should "follow the money."

Remember that Presidents Weekend advertising should run during the same period as Chinese New Year advertising. It doesn't take much effort or expense to include a reference to the Chinese New Year in your Presidents Weekend advertising -- so be sure you do it.

JANUARY 9, 2015
 
February is an important month for advertising because it is loaded with holidays for special sales and consumers anticipate these sales. The first "holiday" is Groundhog Day and unless you are in the pet supply business I think you can pass on this one. February 14th is Valentine's Day and this year it falls on a Saturday and that is significant, and here's why:
 
1. Flower sales will be down because there is no need to send flowers to the office or the store since it's not a work day. That will free up Cupid's dollars for other purchases.
 
2. Restaurant sales will be high because Saturday night is perfect for a Valentine's date night.
 
3. And because couples will be going to restaurants or dining in there will be more emphasis on Valentine gifts. When you think of Valentine gifts the obvious choices are jewelry and handbags. But don't forget about TVs and computers and even new furniture and sports equipment such as bikes and golf clubs as Valentine gifts.
 
4. Couples are getting more practical especially in this economy and it would not be out of order to promote home improvements such as a new kitchen or appliances or a renovated man cave as a Valentine gift.
 
If you are selling big ticket items for Valentine's Day advertise early to give shoppers a chance to think it over and to buy from you. If you are selling diamond jewelry you are wasting your money advertising the day before the holiday because no "Cupid" will make a big purchase in short order.
 
Two other big holidays for advertising in February are Presidents' Day which is Monday, February 16 and Chinese New Year which is Thursday, February 19. This means that the weekend of Friday the 13th could be the start of a lucky, high volume sales period for your business. Yes, this year, Friday the 13th could be very lucky -- as it kicks off the sales period for both President's Day and Chinese New Year. Presidents' Day and Chinese New Year sales can easily continue through the weekend of Saturday and Sunday February 21-22. In fact, Washington's birthday is Sunday, February 22nd.


DECEMBER 16, 2014

If you are a retailer marketing to consumers, here are some dates and events to keep in mind for January and February that might help you in your planning for advertising and marketing:


1.  January is a big month for appliance sales -- and the so called "white sales".


2.  January is a big month for furniture sales.


3.  Martin Luther King Day in recent years became a "holiday sales" day, and  it's January 19.


4.  Consumers have bills to pay and this is when pawn shops do well as well as consignment and resale stores.


5.  This is the month for new year resolutions including nutrition, joining a gym, getting dental makeovers, starting a savings plan, investing, buying a house, paying down debt, getting plastic surgery.


6.  January is when consumers who received gift cards for Christmas do their shopping.


7.  January is when the "savvy shoppers" do their shopping -- looking for post-holiday markdowns.


Also, look to January for starting pre-Presidents Day and Valentine's Day advertising.  If you are selling big ticket items for Valentine's Day such as high end jewelry it is very important that you start advertising early.  Consumers think about big purchases weeks in advance and diamonds and gold are not impulse items in this economy.

OCTOBER 30, 2014

Another company has made "the Facebook blunder" of using Facebook instead of its own website for conducting business with its customers.  To add insult to injury the company is actually proud that it has driven 100,000 of its customers to Facebook.  Click here to read my special Business Marketing Memo "The Facebook Blunder."

OCTOBER 14, 2014

 

In just a couple of weeks the Halloween advertising will be over, the election advertising will be nearing a climax, and the holiday advertising including pre-Black Friday advertising will be here.  Are you ready?  There are several reasons for you to advertise early and before your competition advertises:

 

1.  Early advertisers get the best prices and the best choices of time on TV and radio, and the best placements in print. You really can negotiate the better prices if you commit earlier, and you really can get first pick of the best ad placements. Also remember that commercial space does sell out during the holidays. If you are running an Infomercial the best Infomercial times for the holidays will be sold out quickly.

 

2.  Early advertisers have a better chance of making a lasting impression on consumers. Let's be realistic here: as we get closer to Christmas everyone is advertising, so if you advertise earlier you have a better chance of reaching your customers before your competition is also trying to reach your customers.

 

3.  Consumers shop early and make their plans to buy early. Impulse buying pretty much died during the recession and now most consumers plan in advance what they are going to buy. If you can reach those consumers when they are planning in advance you have a better chance of getting their dollars when they actually do shop. It doesn't matter what you are selling: clothing, perfume, furniture, appliances, electronics -- consumers will be making up their shopping lists in early November.

 

4.  Big ticket items are never bought on impulse. If you are selling any kind of big ticket item whether it's an appliance or jewelry or cosmetic dentistry or a kitchen makeover you must advertise early because consumers will make up their minds about buying big ticket items early. Every year I actually laugh at all of the jewelers who flood the media with ads for expensive jewelry and watches at the last minute because their advertising is a waste of time and money because no one is deciding the day before Christmas to rush out to buy a Rolex or diamond earrings.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2014

 

We have to maintain our business assets whether they are real estate, equipment, vehicles, personnel and our company website. You might not think your company website is an important business asset -- but the entity that someday might buy your company is likely to look at your company website in a totally different way. This is because more companies are using company websites to generate sales, and to advertise and to promote, and to schedule appointments, and to keep customers close.

 

What are you doing with your company website? If you are ignoring it or have it on the "back burner" you might be overlooking an asset that someday might determine whether or not your company thrives or if someone else might want to buy it when you want to sell or retire. So many people are now interested in the value of company websites that there are several organizations that track the effectiveness and the value of company websites. You should find out how these companies are rating your website and if you are not highly rated, you should take steps now to improve it.

 

Start this vital project by going to www.valueurl.com and this is a free service that will look at all of the public knowledge about your website including traffic, and search engine optimization, and search ranking in Google and assigns a cash value to your website. If you are selling merchandise or booking client or patient appointments on your website but you don't have a "value" it's a pretty good sign that you are doing something wrong. To find out the value of your company website, enter the website address or URL in the box that says Enter Your Query Here!  And after you check the value of your own website, check the value of your competition's website. If your competition has a higher value than you do then you have to take action right away.

 

You might be happy with your business model today, but as more consumers do their shopping and window shopping on the Internet your website will become more and more important. Knowing the value of your website today could be an early warning for you to make changes now before it's too late.

 

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014

 

This past week two new advertisers joined our Best Buys TV Show family -- and both of them were devoted radio advertisers who realized that radio wasn't the great advertising medium they thought it was. First of all, radio advertising is very expensive in this town, and the reason is large groups own multiple radio stations and prices are not very competitive. Secondly, many of the radio stations demand "talent fees" for their personalities which is a way for them to subsidize what they pay some very expensive radio hosts.  These talent fees do not reflect a bigger audience -- they only compensate expensive talent.  But allow me to give you some real, dollars and cents reasons to explain what's wrong with radio advertising.

 

1.  If you are trying to reach high-income adults 70% of adults with a household income of $75,000+ listen to radio in the car where they can't write down your company's phone number or website and shouldn't be calling you for more information. The reality is that when you advertise on the radio you are gambling that the potential customer will remember you and contact you later when their drive or commute is over.

 

2.  Radio reaches 77% of the adult population every day, while TV reaches 95% of the adult population every day. By the way, TV also has a larger reach than newspapers (35% of the adult population daily) and magazines (27% of the adult population daily).

 

3.  Your customers can't see the quality of your work on the radio. I am amazed at the companies who are trying to sell craftsmanship, or quality, or beauty or appearance but use radio. No one can see anything on the radio. On the other hand if you don't want the public to see what you are really selling and what you are really doing then by all means use the radio.

 

4.  Radio has a low absorption rate meaning you have to repeat your message several times before the 70% of listeners in the car actually hear and absorb your message. As an experiment the next time you hear a commercial on the radio try to remember the phone number given in the commercial and write it down when you get to your destination.

AUGUST 25, 2014

When it comes to advertising and marketing it is important that you think like your customers so that you don't waste your marketing and advertising budget on the wrong media.  Click here for my Special Business Marketing Memo called Real Estate / American Realty & Associates.

AUGUST 18, 2014

Have you decided that it's time that your business has a website?  Or have you decided it's time to revamp and update your current website to improve your website's traffic and search engine optimization?  Well, we have a guide for Search Engine Optimization Basics that you should read before you start on your new website or make any changes to your existing site.  Click here to read this special Business Marketing Memo.

AUGUST 11, 2014

The most important words in your advertising and your marketing are "positive reinforcement."  Simply, this means that everything you do must show you in the best light.

 

Right now, there are several restaurants that are making a giant marketing blunder because they have violated the rule about positive reinforcement and are in fact putting negative information about their restaurants out in the public marketplace. These restaurants are endorsing a pest control company in radio commercials. Yes, these restaurants are saying that they use XXX Pest Control and while those endorsements are great for XXX Pest Control, the restaurants are literally announcing to the world that they have bugs and rats. Wow. Can a restaurant possibly do anything worse?

 

Sure, we all know that restaurants need pest control, but for heaven's sake don't announce to the world that your restaurant is a customer of XXX Pest Control. I am pretty sure that the pest control company said "this is free publicity for you. We'll mention your restaurant in our radio ads and it won't cost you anything for the free publicity." But if you ask me, being a restaurant and associating yourself with a pest control company can cost a restaurant a lot.

 

The same is true with political endorsements. The chances are if you endorse some political cause or candidate someone is going to be offended. Right now there is a well known liquidator who is on Facebook taking sides on a major political issue and this is a mistake. It's not like the company in question is taking sides in a zoning fight or an environment fight that will affect their business -- the company is stating a position in a controversial political issue that can only alienate some customers.

 

When it comes to advertising, be careful to spend your dollars where your advertising message will be viewed favorably. Remember, you want "positive reinforcement" and you want your advertising message viewed favorably. Few of us can afford to put our name on a stadium but go ahead and sponsor a Little League team. Or, take an ad in a Girl Scouts magazine. You might want to sponsor the maintenance of a section of local freeway near your business. A freeway sign near your exit could help remind customers about where you are located. For information go to: http://adopt-a-highway.dot.ca.gov/

JULY 24, 2014

 

Every business should be concerned about the SEO or Search Engine Optimization of its website. SEO simply is how to get your website ranked higher in the search engines and how to get your website exposed to more consumers who are surfing the web.  Many businesses hire so-called SEO "experts" to boost their website traffic. Unfortunately, many of these "experts" are wasting your money by doing work that won't help you.  Here are four of the big SEO mistakes that some SEO companies are still charging for:

 

1. Submitting your website to search engines. This is a total waste of time and a waste of money because the search engines will find you. Telling a search engine you exist doesn't mean a thing if the search engine doesn't like what you have on your website.

 

2. Getting other websites to link to your website, also known as link-building. This is another waste of time and money. It really doesn't matter anymore how many websites link to your site because that is the old way of measuring "website importance." Today, Google and the other search engines look at your content including articles and videos and if they judge your website to have better articles and videos you will be ranked higher.

 

3. Adding unoriginal articles to your website. You are facing a search engine ranking disaster if Google finds that the articles on your website are not original and can also be found on other websites. Some SEO companies might make the mistake of adding articles to your website that appear on other websites. Don't let this happen as Google rewards sites with original articles and penalizes websites that copy content from other sites.

 

4. Cramming keywords onto your web pages. Some SEO companies will tell you to list many cities and towns on your website as a way to boost search engine ranking and traffic. Or they will tell you to list many products and services on your website. This is called keyword cramming and unfortunately, the search engines caught on to keyword cramming. If you make the mistake of listing many cities as your service area but you don't really have a store or office in those cities, or if you list products and services you really don't have you could be severely penalized in the search results. How do the search engines know if you are keyword cramming? They know by comparing the keywords you have with the content of the articles you also have. If you list in your "cities served" the town of Pearl River, New York but there is no other mention of Pearl River, New York on your website they will consider this to be keyword cramming.

 

Every week or so some company owner calls me with the same basic question: who can I hire to help my SEO? And I say the same thing: don't hire anyone. Instead, add your own articles and videos to your website and that is the best way to improve your search engine optimization. If you want to hire someone -- hire a writer and not an SEO expert.  The changes at Google and the other search engines have made "SEO experts" obsolete.

JULY 16, 2014
 

Every business should do everything possible to boost it's website's traffic. In today's economy, your website is your front door on Main Street. Getting customers to see your website and to walk in your front door is the first step to making a sale. Unfortunately, the search engines including Google pretty much decide if your website will be seen when a customer does a search and so you have to play by Google's rules to earn a higher search rank or result. So what is Google looking for now? It's an important question because frequently Google changes what it looks for on websites to determine how they should be ranked on Google's search results. The latest intelligence is that Google is looking for two things:

 

1. Relevance to the local community. It is important that you put on your website -- and especially on your home page -- where you are located including your actual address and phone number with area code. If you have a furniture store in Sherman Oaks then be sure you use on your home page and on every page the keywords "a Sherman Oaks furniture store" because that will help Google match you up with customers in your area. Use a map on your home page to help show where you are because Google likes websites that use its maps. And by all means put this information on your home page and don't bury it on a "contact us" page. In fact, the info you have on a "contact us page" should be on every page of your website. Make it easy for your customers to call you and visit you. In your articles, and videos, and photo captions, emphasize your address and location. Key words such as Sherman Oaks should appear on each page a minimum of three times.

 

But do not make the mistake of keyword cramming on your site. Google has caught on to sites that cram their websites with locations or cities and might list twenty or thirty or more cities that it serves. Your site will be penalized in search engine results if Google thinks you are keyword cramming locations. And what if you do serve multiple cities -- what do you do? Well if you legitimately serve ten different cities then you will have to have content (articles or videos) on your website that show you really do serve ten different cities. This means if you have a store in Santa Barbara then you need an article about your store in Santa Barbara, and if you have a store in Irvine then you need an article about your Irvine location. Just listing Santa Barbara and Irvine could damage your search engine results. And in your aricles about each branch location, remember to use the city name (key word) a minimum of three times in the article. And if you have five different stores in Los Angeles then be sure you list the five stores with their actual addresses and actual phone numbers.

 

2. You need to add new videos. This is something I've been telling you over and over again. The search engines favor websites with videos and putting new videos on your website will help your search results even more. The public is looking for videos and if you have videos you will be rewarded with a higher search engine ranking. Make the videos interesting by showing the public what your company is all about. What are your products and services? What makes you better than the competition? What's new at your business? You want the videos to run at least one-minute long, and longer is better. Why is longer better? Because the longer you can keep a website visitor on your website the higher the search engines will rank your site.

 

So there you have it: the two essentials to improve your web ranking. Do these now: make your site have more location references, and add videos.

JULY 14, 2014
 

Did you know that in 2013 some 315-billion coupons were published in all media? And for most media, the coupon redemption rates were horrible. According to a published study by NCH Marketing coupons that were printed in newspapers had a 0.4% redemption rate. And it wasn't much better for advertisers who printed an insert that went into mailboxes as they had a 0.5% redemption rate. But did you know what coupons had the highest redemption rates? Paperless coupons (where a code is used) had a redemption rate of 4.1% and Internet coupons that could be found on websites had an 11.1% redemption rate.

JULY 9, 2014

 

There is nothing wrong with late night advertising on TV and on radio -- but just know what you are paying for. In general, the audiences for both late night radio and late night TV (between the hours of midnight at 5-AM) are small, which is why the prices for air time are low. The low prices appeal to many small businesses but if they are just buying the "low prices" without realizing that they are reaching a small audience, they could be paying too much per viewer or listener.

 

First, let me tell you how low prices can be.  On radio here in Southern California it is not unusual to find radio stations offering 60-second spots for as little as $10 each -- but remember you get what you pay for. And on TV here in Southern California the general price for a 30-second spot is $100 but there are special prices as low as $50.  And again you get what you pay for.

 

And if you want a half hour TV Infomercial running at say 1:30-AM expect to pay $1,000 for the full half hour which works out to $35 per minute (there are 28.5 minutes in a half hour Infomercial).  And need I say it again -- you get what you pay for.  TV Infomercials that run at 3-AM or 4-AM can be considerably less, and even as low as $400 for the half hour.

 

But this late night advertising could be ideal and an excellent buy if your target audience is in the car or watching TV during those overnight hours. So who is in the car, and who is watching TV? There are the late shift and the very early shift workers. There are the elderly who can't sleep at night, and those with health and financial problems and find they can't sleep well. Bedding companies might do well advertising in the overnight hours if they are trying to reach those who are tossing and turning on lumpy mattresses.

 

Besides the small audience that is available in overnight broadcasting, another potential problem is that the TV or radio is on as "background sound" with viewers and listeners really trying to fall asleep. But then there will be those who are in bed who are watching and will not be distracted by children and might really see your commercial.

 

I can't tell you if overnight advertising is right for you -- and you will have to decide that. Just be aware that low prices generally mean small audiences -- but if it's your audience then it's a deal.

 

If you did want to consider several overnight TV spots in one evening at $100 each, then perhaps your own half-hour Infomercial at $400 to $1,000 for a half-hour might be the best choice.

JUNE 24, 2014

 

It surprises me how many business owners don't keep up with the changing marketing environment and keep advertising and marketing the same way they did ten years ago, or five years ago... or even just last year. Consumers have changed, and if you are not keeping up with the change you are wasting your money. Here is some of the latest information about where consumers are getting their information from -- and where you should be advertising.

 

According to the latest research "5% of consumer time is spent in print media" but at the same time, marketers are spending "19% of total advertising budgets on print." That means that businesses are spending nearly four-times what they should be spending on print ads.

 

I've been telling you how YouTube has become the second largest Internet search engine in the world.  I've also told you how more businesses are putting promotional videos -- even long-format videos -- on YouTube because that's where more and more consumers are looking for information and for entertainment. Well, there is some new research about YouTube and it comes from Nielsen, the same company that tracks TV ratings.

 

Nielsen says that YouTube reaches more U.S. adults ages 18-34 than any cable TV network. So the next time a Cable TV company talks to you about advertising think about putting your video on YouTube instead because YouTube doesn't charge you anything and you don't pay for views or clicks. Can you beat that deal?

JUNE 17, 2014

Forget about everything every advertising sales person ever told you about advertising because it was probably all a lie.  There is only one secret -- one truth -- about advertising and this is it (and it won't cost you a dime): The best adverising reaches your targeted consumer at the lowest possible cost.

That's it.  That's the secret -- the golden rule -- about advertising. You want to reach your targeted consumer at the lowest possible cost.  And anyone who tells you otherwise and tries to sell you something such as a "prestige outlet" or "premium channel" or "special event" or "special program" or if they try to sell you a list of "premium customers at a premium price" they are telling you a big lie.  Let me spell it out for you in a real world example:

A TV channel says the first 30-second commercial in a three-minute commercial break has a price of $1,000 and will reach 50,000 households.  But the TV channel also says that the second 30-second commercial in the three-minute commercial break has a price of $500 and will reach the same 50,000 households.  Which commercial should you buy?

Let's do the math: $1,000 divided by 50,000 households = 2-cents per household.  $500 divided by 50,000 households = 1 cent per household.

Here's another real world example:  A direct-mail company says it will deliver 10,000 flyers into the mailboxes of consumers in a particular neighborhood for $600. How much are you paying to reach each household with the flyers.  According to the direct mail company, $600 divided by 10,000 = 6 cents per household.  But you live in a condo complex in the targeted area and you see that the flyers are not read and end up in the trash bin by the mailboxes -- so how much did you really pay per household?

Here's another real world example:  A radio station charges you $800 to have its #1 personality read your commercial including your phone number during his morning drive-time radio program.  The radio station claims 40,000 drivers are listening to the radio show during their morning commute.  How much are you paying to reach each listener?  Well, $800 divided by 40,000 = 2-cents per listener.  But not one driver is able to write down your phone number and you get zero calls -- so how much did each call cost you?

The point is all advertising is sold with a lie and some lies are bigger than others.  You can avoid some of the lies if you pay for "results" with such things as "pay per click" or "pay per response" or "pay per order" advertising packages but the reality is that type of adverising can end up costing you a huge percentage of your actual sales.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to advertising and there is a certain amount of waste in everything you do and with every ad you purchase.  But if there is a lesson here it is this: be more aware of what you are really paying for and don't simply swallow "the big lie."

MAY 24, 2014

Every business owner and manager understands the value of having more website traffic. Traffic to your website is essential because consumers today will likely search online before they open a yellow pages book or scan newspaper ads. And with today's high gasoline pump prices the days of "driving around" to check out stores is definitely as out of fashion as a Ford Edsel. So here are three tips that will probably have the fastest impact to raise your search engine results and bring more traffic to your website:

1. Establish your website as a "local site" by providing local information including your local address and phone number. You should have a local phone number and local address on every page of your website. If you show your address on, for example, Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, then you will get a "lift" on search engines such as Google when there is a search made for your type of business in Sherman Oaks. However, avoid the "old trick" of listing many cities on your web pages. Google has been penalizing websites that "cram" and "spam" inappropriate cities and locations on their websites.

2. Add a video to your website. This is a frequent theme in my Marketing Memos but I can't emphasize enough the importance of adding new videos to your website. Websites with videos show up higher on search engine results and websites with videos get more visitors. You can't keep fighting this trend -- so get with it.

3. Be sure you are using the same "keywords" that your customers use. This means using the same language as your customers. If your customers are searching for "toilet" when they go to Google, but your plumbing supply website uses the word "potty" to list the various "can" and "loo" models you sell, then the customers will not find your website in their search results.

MAY 16, 2014

I am sure that you monitor your business carefully: you track sales and appointments; you monitor your inventory and case loads; you watch for deliveries from suppliers and look for referrals and leads.  But do you monitor your website statistics?  Your website statistics can give you a wealth of information and your website stats are a lot more than where you appear in Google's search results.  Here are some questions you should be able to answer right now:

1.  What is your bounce rate?  The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your home page who look at that page and then leave your site -- they "bounce away."  If you have a high bounce rate (50% or more is considered high) then you are losing customers too quickly.  The bounce rate for my website is 6% according to Alexa.com.

2.  What is the average time spent on your website? The average visitor to my website, according to Alexa.com, spends 30 minutes and 18 seconds per day on my site which means that they are looking at videos and reading articles -- they are doing what smart shoppers are supposed to do. If visitors to your website are only on your site for a minute they probably have little interest in visiting your store.

3.  How many pages are they looking at on your website and which pages are getting the most views? This is vital information because if you have a website for a furniture store with separate pages for bedrooms and living rooms and no one is looking at your bedroom web page you might want to find out what's wrong.  There are 360 pages on my website and over the weekend the five most viewed pages were for spas and hot tubs, men's suits, computers, bathroom remodeling, and jewelry.

4.  You also want to find out how your website visitors came to your site? Were they referred by a search engine or did they respond to a pay-per-click ad or did they come to your website directly which may mean that someone told them about it or they saw a newspaper or TV or heard a radio ad.

If you have a low bounce rate, and if website visitors stay on your site for a longer period of time, and if they visit several pages on your site, there is a better chance that they will do business with you. This is why it is important to have a website that will keep visitors interested. So remember:

1. Visitors will watch videos about your products and services so have videos.

2. Visitors will read informative articles, so have "content" that will add to your credibility as a reliable source and expert.

3. You never know which will be the last page that a visitor to your website sees, so be sure your phone number and address appear on every page of your website, and have your phone number at the top and bottom of every page and maybe in the middle of the page too.

4. Make it easy for your website visitors to look at other pages on your site. Have links from one page to other pages that boldly say "click here" to see other products and services.

MAY 6, 2014

One of the biggest fears that we have as business owners is seeing a negative review about our business in Yelp or another online consumer-review website.  What should you do if someone does write a bad review about you?  How should you respond.  My Special Business Marketing Memo about "Online Reviews" has some ideas to consider and to follow.  Click here.

APRIL 30, 2014

This Marketing Memo includes two topics: "commercial placements" and the "new marketing."

First, "commercial placements."

I was surprised the other day when a major radio station here in Los Angeles ran commercials from two different income tax services back-to-back. There wasn't even a mention of the time and temperature between the two spots -- the commercials followed each other. And this wasn't an isolated incident because about an hour later that same radio station ran two commercials for window replacement companies one right after the other. Both window companies and both tax services lost because there was no separation and listeners to that radio station probably couldn't even tell when one commercial started and the other ended. So when you book commercial spots, be sure you are guaranteed that a competitor's spot will be separated from your spot.

Now, the "new marketing."

Are you prepared for the "new marketing"? The "new marketing" consists of "inbound marketing" and "content marketing." And both are actually related. With "inbound marketing" you put information on your company website that consumers and customers might be looking for. For example, if you are a dentist you would have on your website the newest information about teeth whitening and you have that information so that consumers who do Internet searches for teeth whitening will be directed to your website. And when the consumers see the information on your site, they might choose you for the service.

With "content marketing" you share your knowledge and information in the media. For example, if you are a dentist, you might put a video on YouTube (the second largest search engine after Google.com) with information about the differences among dental implants. You use content marketing to share your knowledge and to boost your credibility and that could bring in new business. You can also use content marketing in traditional advertising. For example, instead of having a TV commercial with a jingle and fancy catch phrases, use the TV commercial to give a tip or advice related to a product or service you offer.  Make your commercial "informational." For example, if you are a furniture store give tips about how cover scratches on wood furniture using crayon or marker pens.

Both content marketing and inbound marketing are meant to do the same thing: improve your position as an expert and make consumers want to choose you.

APRIL 18, 2014

I just had an interesting discussion with an advertiser who purchases Pay-Per-Click advertisements on our website through Google.  I thought I would give him a call to suggest advertising on our TV show.  Google places his Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads on our website www.alanbestbuys.com because we meet his "search word criteria" and probably we have the website visitors that could also be his customers.  What he probably didn't know was that I knew what each average "click" costs when one of my website visitors clicks on a Google advertisement.  That cost per click or cost per eyeballs is $2.52 and to be honest, that's pretty expensive because it's just a "click" and it's not a sale.

Now, think about the pricing of PPC ads carefully.  Would you pay someone $2.52 to walk into your store?  Because with a Pay-Per-Click ad that is pretty much what you are doing.  You are paying $2.52 for just having someone take a look at your website.  To put it another way, you are paying $2.52 for eyeballs to look at your website.  So you should be asking how much does that cost compare to other advertising?  How much would you pay for someone to look at your website?  How much would you pay for someone to walk into your store?

APRIL 13, 2014

This is one of the most practical Marketing Memos I've ever written, and this one could save you lots of money.  Like you, I get flooded with emails offering to sell me Search Engine Optimization services including services to pick the best keywords to improve my website's search engine ranking and SEO.  I can tell you that all of these SEO companies have got it all wrong.  There is nothing that they can do for me that I can't do myself -- and do it better.  And there is nothing that they can do for you and your website that you can't do yourself -- and do it better.  The truth is an SEO company in Canada or in India or even here in Southern California can't pick the right keywords for you to use in your website content that will help you drive more traffic to your site.  Let me repeat that: they cannot pick the right keywords.  Only you can pick the right keywords to use on your website that will attract customers and clients.  And in this marketing memo I am going to tell you just how simple it is to find those keywords.

But first, let's review a couple of basics.  A keyword simply means a word or phrase or sentence that a website user looks for in a search engine.  If you enter "thank you for making us the most watched consumer information and shopping TV show in Southern California" in the Google search bar, the top listing will be my website www.alanbestbuys.com.

By using popular keywords on your website, you are hoping that when a customer searches for those keywords on Google and Bing and Yahoo that they will be directed to your website.

So, can a SEO company really find the best keywords for you?  Absolutely not -- so save your money.  Let's say you own a furniture company -- what can that SEO company do for you?  Well, they would probably come up with a list of the top 10 most used keywords in searches for furniture -- and they will probably charge you a lot of money for that list.  But that list might have zero effect on your business because your customers might not be using those keywords and you might not be stocking those items.

You must use keywords that directly relate to your products, your services and what your customers search for.  For example, you cannot use the keyword "squab" in your website when your customers are searching for the word "sofa."  (A squab is a sofa.)  So how do you find the right keywords to use?  Very simply: you talk to your customers and you talk to your clients.  Have a conversation with them and listen to what they say and what words and phrases they use. Are they calling a toilet a toilet or are they calling it a privy?  Are they talking to you about a vacuum cleaner or a vacuum sweeper?  Do they want to buy a bedspread or bedcover?  Do they want a builder or a contractor?  Do they want a lawyer or an attorney? Do they want an eye doctor or an optometrist? Do they want a Realtor or a real estate agent?

If you don't use the correct keywords -- if you don't speak the language of your customers -- your customers cannot find you when they do a search on the search engines.  Once you know what your customers are looking for and how they describe what they need and want and what words they use, your next step is to use those same words and phrases in the articles and content on your website.  And that is something no SEO company can do for you.  That is something only you can do.  So save your money, and start talking and listening.

APRIL 8, 2014

If you are considering an online advertising campaign you should be careful about what size and what shape your online advertisements have.  This is because certain websites will only use certain ad sizes and shapes, and certain online advertising agencies will give preference to ads that come in those sizes and shapes.  Google, which is an online advertising agency, tells publishers and owners of websites that these are the most popular advertisement sizes.  If you want to have your ads distributed by Google, and get the best placements on websites, you should be following these guidelines:

  • the 336x280 Rectangle

  • the 300x250 Rectangle

  • the 160x600 Skyscraper

  • the 728x90 Banner

If your advertisement has a different size or a different shape, many websites may not want to carry your advertisement.  Here on our website we carry for the most part 728X90 Banner ads because they fit our format.  If you want your ad on a particular website, you should look at that website to see what sizes and shapes that they currently accept.

This is really no different from the TV and radio advertising business.  In TV the standard commercials run as 15-seconds or 30-seconds or 1-minute.  If you have a TV commercial that runs 38-seconds you might have a very hard time finding a TV station to run it.  In the TV Infomercial business a standard TV Infomercial runs 28:30 (twenty-eight minutes and 30-seconds or 57:00 (fifty-seven minutes).  If you have an Infomercial that runs 4:15 then it is likely your Infomercial will be refused by most TV stations -- but you could run it on our Best Buys TV Show which is actually a half-hour Infomercial show made up of many short Infomercials.

If you are also considering an online advertising campaign be aware that some websites prefer ads that contain video.  Remember that websites depend on interesting content to drive visitors and many websites now want video ads to keep visitors on their sites longer.  So, if your ad is a static graphic it might be rejected by the website publisher for an ad that is a video advertisement.

Remember, it doesn't make any sense to invest in the creation of a certain size and shape Internet advertisement if website publishers won't accept that size and shape.  And it doesn't make any sense to invest in the design of a graphic ad if the website only wants to run video advertisements.

 

MARCH 28, 2014

The month of May is a very important month for advertising because there are some big holidays  for special sales, and that's why you should be planning for May right now. 

The first widely promoted holiday in May is May 5, Cinco de Mayo.  Do you have a restaurant or do you sell party supplies?  How about new appliances or a new sofa to entertain your party guests?  There is Mothers Day, of course, and Mothers Day falls on May 11 and it is one of the biggest days of the year for restaurants because Moms should never cook on Mother's Day.  It is also a day for special gifts for Mom ranging from jewelry to that new dining room set she wanted to a designer handbag.  And this year Mom might even want a new computer.  And the biggest holiday during May is Memorial Day and this year Memorial Day falls on Monday, May 26.  But as we all know, there are sales all weekend, and some businesses start their Memorial Weekend Sales a full week early.

Also during May -- there are high school and college graduations -- and this is a big time for buying gifts ranging from watches and cufflinks to automobiles to furniture for the graduates who are moving out and starting their new careers.  And for the relatives of the graduates this is the time to have a new dress or a new suit for the graduation event and the graduation party.  Your graduate might also need new clothing and a new computer.

May is also the start of the home buying season and this is the time to start advertising real estate, mortgage and home buying and selling services.

MARCH 24, 2014

Spring is here and it's time for some Spring cleaning of your company website.  Changes that you make this Spring will help your search engine optimization and help bring in customers and improve your sales.  For my Special Business Marketing Memo on "Website Spring Cleaning" click here.

MARCH 20, 2013

In my March 13, 2013 Marketing Memo about advertising on the news (click here to see it) I pointed out that the actual news reports could undermine and destroy your commercial message because "news" is generally "negative" and placing your commercial message during the delivery of troubling news could hurt consumer confidence as well as how your advertising message is received.  For example, you just don't want to advertise new furniture after a report about a wildfire destroying a neighborhood.  And that's why some of you asked about advertising on "talk radio" which, like the news, is often filled with "negativity" and doesn't provide an upbeat message environment.

 

So here's what I'd like to say about advertising on talk radio:

 

1.  I don't like advertising on the radio at all -- any kind of radio show.  Remember that about 95% of the radio audience is in their cars and they can't write down a phone number or website while driving.

 

2.  Radio doesn't really have the full attention of those in a car who might be concentrating on their driving, or they might be engaged in a conversation with a passenger, or they might even be on a cell phone (hands-free hopefully).

 

And there are more problems with talk radio:

 

3.  If the host of the talk radio show is controversial, you run the risk of being identified with that host and his controversial opinions.  Of course if the host is "loved" by his audience, your support of that host can help you with his audience.

 

4.  The subject of the talk show can undermine your product and service.  If you are a plastic surgeon and the talk show is about botched plastic surgery or even the high cost of medical care, or ObamaCare, your commercial is immediately in trouble with the audience.

 

5.  Does the audience of the talk show match your customer base? When I listen to talk radio I am usually just hearing men calling in on the phone. Does your business want to reach men or women?  Most talk radio shows are political and do critics of the government make up your consumer base?

 

6.  Will your commercial message get lost in the "talk" of the radio talk show?  One of the problems with advertising with commercials is that TV viewers and radio listeners do not tune in to a program for the commercials -- they tune in for the program.  So will the audience of a sports talk show or a political talk show even care about your commercial spot on a radio talk show?

 

Radio talk shows do have a large and loyal following and if you can somehow get featured on a radio talk show to discuss your business or how government policy affects your consumers and your products by all means get the free publicity of being on the talk show.  But I would think twice about having to pay for a commercial spot for your business when the audience is actually tuning in to discuss topics ranging from the Lakers to Russia to taxes and ObamaCare.

 

I honestly don't think that paying for a commercial spot on a radio talk show is the proper environment for selling a product or service except for some rare exceptions which I would like to mention:

 
1.  There is a talk show on the weekends about computer news.  If you sell computers or related services this show is ideal for you.
2.  There is a talk show on the weekends about food and cooking and if you have a restaurant this is ideal for you.
3.  There are sports talk shows and if you are selling sports equipment these shows are ideal for you.

 

If you are selling furniture, or windows, or swimming pools, or suits, do you really want your commercial spot in the middle of a talk show about ObamaCare or whether or not there will be a war over Russia and the Ukraine?  But if you are selling furniture, or windows and you can find a radio talk show about home improvements then that's the place for your commercials.

MARCH 13, 2014

You might want to advertise on the TV or radio news because you watch and listen to the news a lot, and you think your customers are also.  But will your commercial get the right reaction when it is on the news?  Will your promotional message be damaged by the news reports?  Are there other advertising outlets and times that are better suited for your pitch and to reach consumers in a better state of mind to react to your message?  My Special Business Marketing Memo "Should You Advertise On The News?" looks at the problem and offers some solutions.  Click here to read it.

MARCH 11, 2014

 

Wal-Mart is already advertising for Easter: candy, gifts, baskets, decorations, jewelry, clothing, housewares, furnishings, food and dining.  Easter Sunday is April 20.  Is it too early?  Of course it isn't too early.  You should also be marketing and advertising for Easter now.  The main reason for advertising early is that consumers plan ahead.  Several weeks before consumers do their actual shopping they already know what they are going to buy.  If you wait to advertise and market a week before a holiday (and too many businesses do advertise at the last minute) you will miss the "decision making period" that consumers have.

 

Also, you should avoid advertising in the last week -- the "media rush" days -- before a holiday.  If you advertise in the "media rush" before a holiday your advertisement will get lost in the flood of advertising from all other advertisers.  This is important so think about it carefully.  A week before Easter everyone will be advertising Easter candy, and Easter suits, and Easter clothing sales.  You are likely to hear or see commercial after commercial about Easter a week before -- and if you are advertising then your commercial will get lost in the crowd.

 

The third reason for advertising early is that you are likely to get a better value for your advertising dollar. When you advertise on "peak days" you will have to bid high for the best ad placements, and you will likely pay more for advertising in general.  But if you advertise before the "peak days" you are likely to get a better price and better placement for your ads.

 

So let me sum it up: 3 reasons to advertise and market early for Easter:

 
1.  You reach consumers during their "decision making period."
2.  Your ad will not be lost in the flood of last minute advertising.
3.  You will get better prices and placement for your advertising when you advertise early.

 

Also remember that if you are selling clothing or jewelry or dinnerware or furniture as part of an Easter promotion consumers are not likely to make these purchases without planning and comparing.  Big ticket items need a "promotional lead time" and the bigger the ticket price the more time a consumer needs to decide to make the purchase.  These ideas aren't limited to Easter, of course.  They will also apply to Mother's Day and Father's Day and Graduation advertising.


MARCH 6, 2014

You might be spending a lot of money on invisible advertising.  By invisible advertising I am talking about newspaper ads that are published, TV commercials that are broadcast, radio advertisements that are read by disc jockeys and announcers, and banner ads and display ads that are published on websites but are not seen or heard.  Are you spending money for ads that are, in reality, invisible to the audience you think you are getting?  My Special Business Marketing Memo "Invisible Advertisements" looks at the problem and offers some solutions.  Click here to read it.

FEBRUARY 25, 2014

Look closely when you are presented an "advertising package" by a media outlet.  If you look closely, and examine the individual parts of a media package, the package might not be as attractive as you think.  Click here for a Special Business Marketing Memo that looks at the risk of "Advertising Packages" that are sold by media outlets.

FEBRUARY 16, 2014

Your telephone number is vital for your business success and it must be prominently advertised and marketed.  Too many times you sabotage your own business success when you follow the suggestion of your own advertising agency and use different phone numbers in different media.  Read more about this in my Special Marketing Memo "Advertising Your Phone Number" by clicking here.

FEBRUARY 11, 2014

This is the time of year when business owners start to worry about their income taxes and their income tax bills.  Some business owners cut back on their advertising and marketing fearing that taxes will cut into consumer spending just as income taxes will cut into their own spending.  Well, that's wrong.  This is actually the time of year when consumers have more money to spend.  Are you going to get your share of those extra shopping dollars?

First of all, about half of all consumers will be getting a refund from the IRS.  You, as a business owner might be worried about paying your tax bill -- but many consumers already have their refunds.  The IRS says refunds will be issued between 9 days and 21 days after tax returns are filed -- and you know that the consumers expecting refunds were the early bird filers.  And that means they have their refund dollars now.

Second, many consumers still have gift cards from Christmas.  I still do.  In fact, I have about $250 of gift cards I haven't used yet.  Some of those gift cards are for specific stores and some are "Visa" gift cards that can be used anywhere.

Third, the holiday shopping is over and the holiday bills have been paid, and consumers have new money to shop with.

Those three elements can create a positive shopping environment during March.  Are you prepared for it?  There really aren't any notable holidays in March for marketing, so you might not think about advertising. But because there is no big "holiday advertising" in March, here is your chance to advertise and promote yourself when the big companies have no holiday sales to promote.  If you want some kind of "holiday hook" you could try these three:

March 15:  An Ides of March Sale.  Tell your customers to "beware the Ides of March -- because you can't afford to miss these deals."

March 17:  A St. Patrick's Day Sale.  Tell your customers to "save your green with these best buys."

March 31:  Cesar Chavez Day.  This is an official holiday in California and yes, there are companies that have Cesar Chavez Day Sales.

Make your plans now to have your sales and to advertise them.  Remember the marketplace now is not made up only with the residents in the immediate vicinity of your business.  Consumers will travel to save money.  Especially if you are selling big ticket items including furniture, appliances, high end clothing and jewelry, and home improvements you must take a regional approach to finding customers and for advertising.

FEBRUARY 5, 2014

Do you know what you are really paying for that advertisement on the radio or TV or in print?  Do you really know the price of reaching a viewer?  And what is the cost of reaching a viewer who actually becomes a customer?  You know the phrase "there are lies, damned lies and statistics" and that certainly applies to the advertising business.  Here are five things to watch for:

1.  Some advertising agencies add a premium or otherwise increase the price of the advertising time or space sold to their own clients.

Advertising agencies are traditionally paid a commission by the media outlet, but some advertising agencies actually "double dip" and also charge their own clients an additional fee.  There are also some advertising agencies who buy "discounted" or "fire sale" advertising time from a media outlet but sell it at "regular prices" to their own clients.  

Several years ago I produced a half-hour TV Infomercial for a company I will call "Company A" who bought air-time through another advertising agency. "Company A" thought their program would air one early morning and they had their staff come into the office early to be ready to answer the phones.  But the program was not on TV at the scheduled time.  Why? 

Well, it turned out that the ad agency for "Company A" had purchased a "fire sale" time at a discounted price which could be "cancelled" but the ad agency charged "Company A" the full "non cancellable" price. But when another ad agency offered the TV station the "regular price" for another advertiser (we'll call them Company B, then Company B's program was broadcast and Company A's program was cancelled.

Yes, Company A's ad agency tried to pull a fast one: they not only collected a commission from the TV station, but they also tried to charge their own client with the price of a "non cancellable program time" while the agency was paying a "fire sale" price.

2.  Are you buying the "ratings" for the show or the ratings for the commercials shown during the show? 

Let's be realistic-- not everyone who watches a TV show or listens to a radio program also watches or listens to the commercials.  When commercials come on consumers often change channels or go to the bathroom or zap through them so should you be paying for the same ratings as the actual show?

3.  What is "homes passed" and should you care?

"Home passed" is a term that cable TV companies use to sell advertising.  The "homes passed" are actually the houses and businesses that have access to the cable TV's cable system.  It literally means that a cable passes by them.  But it doesn't mean that these families or business people are watching anything.

4.  Is "ROS" or "run of schedule" really the best price for a commercial?

When you buy commercials with a "ROS" or "run of schedule" pricing plan it means you are literally letting the TV station or radio station or cable TV company decide when they will run your spots.  There is no guarantee when your spots will run unless it is specifically detailed in writing.  I've heard of promises that ROS spots will run during the news and in prime time and on special cable TV networks and advertisers were disappointed to find out how few "good spots" they actually got and how many spots actually missed their target audience.

5.  Who is clicking on my Pay-Per-Click Internet ads?

The Internet advertising companies that run the PPC or Pay-Per-Click systems try to prevent false charges and false clicks to protect their advertisers.  But they can't protect you from "unqualified customers" from clicking on your PPC ads.  If you PPC is very appealing anyone "window shopping" could click on it and cause you to pay a fee for that click.  But there is no way to know if that window shopper might ever become a real customer.  There is also the risk that your own competitor is clicking on your ads -- running up your advertising cost and using up your budget. You can avoid some "wasted clicks" by being careful about what websites your PPC ads appear on and by being careful what targeted keywords you use for the placement of your PPC ads.

It's important that you find advertising professionals you trust to handle your accounts.  Anyone can place ads for you.  Any sales person working for a media outlet can quote a price.  But not everyone will look out for your best interests.

 

JANUARY 29, 2014

Every business wants to find a way to drive traffic to their website at the lowest possible cost.  After all -- your website is the front door to your business and the Internet (remember when it was called the information super-highway) will lead consumers to that front door.  So what is the best way to bring consumers and possible customers to your website?  Good content is the best way but there is also a magic bullet from driving eyeballs to your website.  For a special Marketing Memo called "A Magic Bullet For Web Traffic" click here.

JANUARY 20, 2014

Just about every business owner has heard about Pay-Per-Click advertising on the Internet.  The big website operators are pushing PPC ads.  Giant ad agencies are pushing them.  There are now specialty advertising firms who will write your ads for you and monitor the clicks and provide guidance about how much money you should pay for each "click" that you get.

The fact is, Pay-Per-Click or PPC advertising is complex and expensive and can backfire -- just as it can also be a simple advertising solution that is relatively cheap and can have great success.  How do you know if PPC advertising will work for you?  What issues are involved in setting up a PPC ad campaign?  Click here for my Special Business Marketing Memo about "Pay Per Click Ads" and how to properly use them.

 

JANUARY 8, 2014

 

"Native Advertising" is a relatively new term, but it is not a new idea.  "Native Advertising" is not about advertising to Native Americans -- rather it is about placing "paid content" on websites and social media so that it doesn't appear as "paid content" or a commercial.  Our site www.alanbestbuys.com is filled with "native advertising" -- the videos and articles that are about our TV show advertisers.  (There is a disclaimer on each page of our site in accordance with FTC regulations.)  These articles and videos are all examples of "Native Advertising" as they are actually marketing messages in the form of informational articles and news.  (It's also an added value I give to our TV show advertisers since we have a very high number of website visitors.)  You can also use "Native Advertising"  and many big companies are using it now.

 

For example, the auto makers are giving video cameras to car buyers and asking them to video tape their road trips and put them on YouTube.  That's Native Advertising and shows off the car in the context of folks on the road and having fun. 

 

Do you own a restaurant?  Hand a video camera to a group of diners and ask them to video tape their meal and reactions to it and put it on YouTube.  That's Native Advertising.

 

And for your store -- ask a frequent shopper to take around a video camera or even use their cell phone camera and point out what they like about your business.

 

A report I just read estimated that by 2017 (three years away) "Native Advertising" will account for 42% of all the advertising and marketing money spent on social media.  There are other forms of "Native Advertising" that you can use.  You can pay to have your article placed on a website.  You can pay to have someone send out Tweets on Twitter about your business.

 

I've been telling you for a long time about the YouTube form of "Native Advertising" which is to record some tips and advice about the products and services you offer and put that video on YouTube. For example, if you are a lawyer record some tips about having a will or a living trust.  If you are plumber, record some tips about how to unstuff a sink drain or plunge a toilet.

 

"Native Advertising" is growing because of one simple, basic fact:  consumers don't watch traditional tv commercials anymore.  If they don't tune them out subconsciously, they change the channel or zap through them using their digital recorders or simply go to the microwave or to the bathroom or pick up their cell phone to make a call.  Or maybe they pick up their laptop or tablet computer.

 

More of us are spending more time on computers and on social media -- so embrace "Native Advertising."  And spend your dollars wisely... like a native.

 

DECEMBER 30, 2013

 

Even business owners and advertising managers need New Year's Resolutions.  I was reminded of that Sunday morning when I saw a large newspaper advertisement for a chain of bedding stores.  The chain of stores is not large.  They have seven locations -- and it is not a household name.  And it's ad in the newspaper had some major flaws, including: the addresses of its stores were not on the ad, and the phone number and website address of the company were in small print.  Most of the ad was taken up by a large illustration of a mattress, and that was space that could have been used to give their store addresses and phone numbers.  Also, the name of the company appeared at the bottom of the ad -- not at the top.

 

So, with those blunders in mind, click here for a Special Marketing Memo with New Year's Resolutions for 2014 advertising and marketing.

 

DECEMBER 26, 2013

You should seriously considering coordinating the names on the front door of your business and on your website and what phone number you are using.  The magic bullet for retail and business marketing might be to have the same ID for all three of your public faces: your phone number, business name and website address.  For more about this, read my Special Marketing Memo "Reinforce Your Identity" by clicking here.

DECEMBER 23, 2013

Are you using Twitter to promote your business? Twitter is the new "hot button" in online marketing. One marketing company sent me a report that promotes Twitter that says "you are what you Tweet." But Twitter has its good points and its weak points, so here are the points I think are important:

1.  You can't follow the whole universe of Twitter users and all the Twitter users in the world can't follow you. The marketers will tell you to follow other Tweeters so other Tweeters will follow you -- but what they don't tell you is that people don't sit at their computers all day reading Tweets.  It really doesn't matter if you have a dozen Twitter followers or fifty-thousand. What is important is that you want a high percentage of Twitter followers who will actually read your Tweets. This also applies to Facebook friends. It's not the number of "friends" but it's the percentage of your "friends" who actually read your messages.

2.  Make it easy for your customers to find you on Twitter and to sign up to follow you. Put your Twitter link on your website and on other advertising messages but don't be discouraged if you don't have thousands of followers. Remember: it's the quality of the followers, and not the number of followers.

3.  Do check Twitter to see what others are saying about you. This is perhaps the most important thing about Twitter. Just as you check to see what is said about you on Yelp -- check to see what is said about you on Twitter. Go to the Twitter Search tool (http://search.twitter.com), to see what people are tweeting about your company and products, and also your competitors.

4.  Use Twitter not only to promote your company and your deals and products and services, but also use Twitter to share news and helpful information. For example, your accountant just told you about a tax deduction that many filers overlook -- share that tip. Or, you just saw a great movie -- share that too. By sharing these tips and thoughts you will actually build followers and that's how social media will bring customers to your business. Here's another example: your son's team won its soccer game -- so tweet that and soccer moms and dads will at the same time discover your business.

5.  Have a link in your Twitter messages (your tweets) to your company website because this will help your search results on both Google and Bing. Google and Bing both use Twitter links for their ranking of websites in search results. Both Google and Bing actually use tweets from Twitter in their search results, too. Remember: Twitter can help your company website get a higher result on search engines Google and Bing so use "keywords" in your Tweets as carefully as you use "keywords" on your website.

Those are five key points about Twitter. Yes, it's one more element of "social media" that you will have to make time for. It doesn't have to take a lot of time out of your day but five minutes a day to check to see what is being said about you and your competition and to tweet a tip could pay off.

 

DECEMBER 16, 2013

Some businesses just don't have a "face for TV" and need to limit their advertising to radio.  But if you are better than a business with a "face for radio" don't limit yourself to radio.  If you have a face for TV make use of the TV power that your competition can't.  Click here for more in my Special Marketing Memo.

MONDAY  DECEMBER 2, 2013

It's time to plan for your January marketing and advertising.  Yes, January.  I realize we just went through Black Friday and the rest of the Holiday shopping season is ahead, but this is the time to plan for January.  And for some businesses January advertising can be more important than Christmas advertising, and for many businesses the shorter Christmas shopping season will make January advertising essential to make up for December's lost business.  For more of this Special Marketing Memo, click here.

MONDAY  NOVEMBER 25, 2013

Everyone wants to find a way to acquire new customers at a lower cost.  The cost of customer acquisition can impact the growth and success of a company.  This past week, I took on a new TV Infomercial client. The client wants to acquire new customers and realizes that a TV Infomercial offers a low cost option for acquiring a new customer.  If you haven't considered a TV Infomercial to expand your business, let me tell you some of the reasons a TV Infomercial can also help you acquire new customers for less money than what other media can cost.

1.  On a cost per minute basis, TV Infomercials cost much less than a traditional commercial.  

And here is a real example of what I am talking about: On late night television in Los Angeles the lowest price for a 30-second commercial is fifty dollars ($50).  That price is available between 2am and 5am. But the cost of a half hour TV Infomercial starting at 2am is $800.  An Infomercial actually runs 28 and a half minutes, so the per minute cost of the broadcast is:

$800 / 28.5 minutes = $28.07 per minute

So, it is clear to see that the cost of airtime for an Infomercial is about half the price of a thirty-second spot.  And some of the TV stations in Los Angeles charge $100 or even $150 for a thirty second spot overnight so an Infomercial offers even a lower cost per minute when you consider what those other stations are charging.  And there is more to consider.

2.  Will your 30-second TV commercial be seen?

It really doesn't matter what time of day or night your 30-second commercial is broadcast because the chances are it will not be seen.  Do you watch commercials, or when they come on do you change the channel, or go to the bathroom, or pick up your cell phone, or do something on your computer, or zap through them on your DVR?  But a well-crafted Infomercial doesn't look like a commercial and you actually have a chance that the viewer will "stay with it" and watch your message.

3.  Can a 30-second TV commercial tell your story?  

I have said it over and over again for years -- the only companies that should be using 30-second spots are companies such as McDonald's and Bank of America and Southwest Airlines. The reason why these giant companies can get away with using 30-second spots is that we all know where McDonald's is, and where Bank of America is, and how to buy a ticket on Southwest.  We also know that McDonald's sells fast food, Bank of America is a bank, and Southwest is an airline.  But can you tell people what your company sells and how to find and contact you in 30 seconds?  If you have competitors, can you also tell the audience in 30 seconds why they should call you for energy-saving replacement windows and not the first window company listed in Google for energy-saving replacement windows?  An Infomercial gives you 28 and a half minutes to tell your story over and over again to make sure that when you convince a viewer that they need your product and service that they call you and not your competitor.

4.  Will your Infomercial be seen?  

There is no guarantee how many hundreds or thousands of people will watch your half-hour TV Infomercial but the fact is you don't need a lot of viewers to have an effective program.  A TV Infomercial is best suited for companies with big ticket items because only a few sales can present a big return on investment.  Some of the most successful Infomercial advertisers include law firms, mortgage companies, plastic surgeons, and home improvement companies.  In these examples, one client could be worth ten or twenty times the cost of one broadcast.

5.  Infomercials build respect and authority in the mind of the viewer.  

All sorts of companies have 30-second commercials on TV, but few companies can make the claim that they have their own TV show -- and that's what a half hour TV infomercial is.  A TV Infomercial also gives you an opportunity to show the details of your product, your service and present your endorsements.  For those of you who are concerned about your Yelp reviews -- Yelp can't come close to the impact of having your satisfied customers appearing on your own TV show to talk about what a great job you did or what a great product you have.

This is an excellent time to consider producing an Infomercial.  The price of Infomercial air time drops in various day parts (time periods) starting in January when the holiday advertising boom is over.  However, that doesn't mean you can wait till January and expect to produce (plan, shoot and edit) an Infomercial and get it on the air right away.  This week, the various TV stations in Los Angeles are starting to book (sell) their Infomercial slots for the first quarter of 2014 -- and the best time slots always sell out first.

For more about our Infomercial services, including production, planning and buying the air time at the lowest possible cost, please see my website www.AlanMendelson.TV which also has some examples of Infomercials that are currently being broadcast in Southern California and around the country and are also being used on websites and on YouTube and other social media.

 

MONDAY  NOVEMBER 18, 2013

I'll get right to the point: the number one problem this holiday shopping season is that it is one week shorter.  This year, Thanksgiving and Black Friday come late in the month.  Thanksgiving is on November 28 and Black Friday is the 29th.  If you include Sundays, that means there are only 25 shopping days this holiday season.  Last year, Black Friday was on November 23 and there were 31 shopping days during the holiday season.

Your #1 problem is that there are six fewer shopping days this holiday season and that's a drop of more than 18-percent in the number of shopping days.  I don't care what business you're in -- a drop of more than 18% in the number of shopping days is going to hurt.  So what are you doing about it?  Here are some options:

1.  As we get closer to Christmas you can have longer shopping hours.  Consumers tend to do a lot of their shopping at the last minute, so longer shopping hours during the last few days might make even more sense -- and dollars -- this year.

2.  You can start your discounts earlier than normal to boost unit sales as much as possible.

3.  You can advertise more in an attempt to lure shoppers to your store and beat your competitors in the shorter time you have.

Unfortunately, when talking to many business owners, I have discovered that many of them have overlooked the shorter holiday shopping season.  These business owners are expecting good sales but seem to be overlooking that there are fewer days to make those sales.  And that brings us to another option:

4.  You can accept that the holiday shopping season is shorter and start planning now for the biggest and best post-Christmas sale ever.

Unfortunately, the business owners who don't utilize options one, two and three above just might be forced to have their biggest post-Christmas sale ever.   And when it comes to post-holiday sales consumers won't buy unless prices are really dirt cheap so that won't help your bottom line much.  So your only real options are options one, two and three.

FRIDAY  NOVEMBER 15, 2013

I am very optimistic about holiday sales because of the rise in stock market prices and the drop in gasoline pump prices.  Both of these are critical indicators for the general public.  Gas prices are the constant reminder on every street corner about "inflation" or lack of it and gasoline pump prices are clearly moving lower.  This has got to have a positive impact on the minds and attitudes of consumers.

And the stock market as measured by the Dow Industrials and the S&P 500 has been setting record highs.  Even for families that do not invest directly in stocks, this is viewed as a positive barometer of the economy.  In fact, the stock market is considered by the governent as a "leading economic indicator" and historically what happens on Wall Street usually reaches Main Street six months later.  Stock prices have been setting record highs over the past several months and that bodes well for the holiday shopping season.

I am also seeing some very positive traffic on my website www.AlanBestBuys.com that also indicates that shoppers are ready to spend.  Over the past week, the most viewed pages on the website were those for:

 
1.  Furniture and Appliances (tie)
2.  Jewelry
3.  Perfume
4.  Fashions and Clothing
5.  Computers and Electronics

Most of those pages include big ticket items.  And missing from the list of "most viewed pages" are web pages for "negatives" such as bankruptcy and financial help.  A year ago there was a lot of traffic for the bankruptcy and financial help pages.  Yes, the trend has definitely changed.

TUESDAY  NOVEMBER 12, 2013

If there is one time during the year when you must change your website home page this is it.  You must change your website's home page for the holidays, and if you make the right changes it will help your search engine optimization, it will help more customers find you, and it will help you make more holiday sales.  For five changes that you should make right away to help your search engine optimization (SEO) and to bring in website visitors and motivate customers to make a purchase, click here for a special report called "Change Your Home Page."  These tips and changes are vital for the critical holiday shopping season -- but you should make these changes several times during the year.

MONDAY  NOVEMBER 4, 2013

The other day an advertisement caught my eye.  It wasn't the product that caught my eye -- it was the "action word" that caught my eye.  The "action word" was claim and the sentence in the ad said "call to claim your copy...." 

Claim is a pretty powerful word.  By telling a customer or prospect that they can claim their free report on an insurance plan, or they can claim their free report on how to sell their old jewelry, or they can claim their free catalogue about home decorating and design tips the business is actually giving the customer or prospect a sense of empowerment. That sense of empowerment makes the customer feel that they are in control and could make them trust the business more.

When you choose the right action words in your advertisements your ads can have a bigger impact and lead to more sales.  So here is a list of the ten most powerful action words that when used in your advertising can help sell your service and your products:

1.  Absolutely 
2.  Accomplish 
3.  Achieve
4.  Benefit
5.  Best
6.  Clear-cut
7.  Compelling
8.  Convenient
9.  Critical
10. Dependable 

Missing from this list of the top-ten power action words are "free" and "call now" and "limited time" and other traditional but trite advertising action words that consumers have become immune to.  Frankly, I am surprised that the action word "absolutely" is number one of the list.  But that's what the research shows as being the top power word for advertising.  And of course, power words for your business' ads might be different. 

MONDAY  OCTOBER 28, 2013

The start of the holiday shopping season is also the start of the holiday searching season when consumers go to their computers and search for the best products and services for the holidays.  If you show up higher in search results on Google and Yahoo and Bing you can beat your competition and improve your own sales.  So here are five tips to improve your search results.

1.  Update your website now.  Websites are that frequently updated tend to show up higher in search results.  The search engines want to present the newest information first.

2.  Add a new video to your website now.  I can't say it enough: consumers want videos and search engines will promote websites with videos.

3.  Have articles and copy on your website that directly mention the holidays and holiday gift giving. Words such as "holiday gifts" and "gifts" and "seasonal gift" and "Christmas" and "Hannukah" are strong key words that can help drive traffic to your site and raise your search engine results.

4.  Add to your website now a holiday "guide" that gives advice about what you sell.  For example, "how to buy the right diamond jewelry" or "how to buy the right pair of ski boots" or "what fashion colors are in for women's clothing" or "what tie patterns do men prefer" or "what fragrances are trendy this year" or "the right way to wrap a gift" or "how to package a gift for mailing" or "what to do with gift receipts," and so on.  A lot of people search for this kind of information during the holidays and if you have this info on your site you will get the web traffic.

5.  Make your home page look like you are celebrating the holidays.  No one wants to shop for the holidays on a website that doesn't look like it has holiday products or the holiday spirit.   This means have a holiday look for your site and a holiday angle to your products and services.  If you are a dentist, advertise "a new smile for the holidays" and if you are a plumber advertise "prevent a mess at your holiday party" and if you are a realtor "start a holiday tradition in your new home."

 

MONDAY  OCTOBER 21, 2013

It's time to plan for your January marketing and advertising.  Yes, January.  I realize we haven't had Black Friday yet, nor have we made it through the Holiday shopping season, but this is the time to plan for January -- because for some businesses Christmas comes in January, and not in December.

First, there is the New Year's Sale -- often called the clearance sale -- where you repackage and sell the holiday returns.  Frankly, consumers including your customers have caught on and now many consumers set aside a portion of their budget to go shopping starting on New Year's Day -- so you should be ready to advertise to capture your share of that consumer spending.

Second, there are the January White Sales -- which today means sales on "white goods" which are consumer durables including refrigerators, freezers, stoves, washing machines, and similar large appliances.  The "White Sale" time is also big for bedding, and furniture, and dinnerware and TVs because of the Super Bowl.

Third, there are now big Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday sales.  The holiday is the third Monday of the month which gives you time during the month to advertise.

Fourth, a lot of consumers have New Year's resolutions for losing weight, fixing their teeth, stop smoking, save money, buy a house, pay down their credit cards, start a college fund and this is when you should be advertising to reach those consumers who have New Year's resolutions.

Fifth, the weather changes in January.  The weather is colder and it rains and it's when consumers really spend more time indoors and are more concerned about leaky roofs and winter sports.  This is the time for advertising to those markets.

Also, for those of you who wanted to have your own half-hour TV Infomercial program, keep in mind that the prices and demand for half-hour shows drops in January and January is a good time to test your program.  But also remember it can take several weeks to produce your half-hour Infomercial program.

MONDAY  OCTOBER 14, 2013

If you already have a website for your business -- good.  But having one website for your business is not good enough.  This will surprise you, but having two or three websites is better and today having more than one website is probably essential.  If you are worried about the bottom line, having multiple websites for your business does not mean you have to spend more money to create them.  These other "sites" can be created and maintained for free.  In addition to your company's main website, here are some of the "other websites" your business needs and why you need them:

1.  You need a YouTube channel or a page on YouTube.  This is where you will put your videos about your company and your products and services.  Remember that YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world.  You need a YouTube channel and you must have videos not only on YouTube but of course also on your own website.  Customers want them and expect to see them and search engines will rank you higher if you have videos.

2.  You need a Facebook "page" which is essentially a website.  Facebook allows you to quickly update information about your company and it allows you to answer questions from customers.  It also allows you to quickly reach your customers.  However, don't make the mistake of putting too much emphasis on your Facebook page as your Facebook page is really out of your control.  We could wake up one day to find that Facebook has changed the rules and what was free could now be very expensive to operate.

3.  You need a "blogger" page which is a "blog" on www.blogger.com and this is free to have and to set up.  You can use your blogger.com page the same way you use your Facebook page.

4.  You need a second website for a branch of your business.  For example, if your main business is selling custom windows but you have a side business manufacturing picnic tables you need a second website for your picnic table business.  With the second website for your picnic table business you can give more attention to your picnic table customers and make your picnic table information easier to access.  At the same time you don't want your window customers distracted by picnic tables.  You want to appear as a specialist in each business and the way to do that is to have a specific website for each business.

And if you have a second website, you can have links from one website to another and this cross-linking will actually improve your search results and your search engine optimization or SEO.

WEDNESDAY  OCTOBER 9, 2013

This is the second part of my report on why your company website should have a blog.  And in this section of the report I talk about having a video blog.  And because the report is about having a video blog I recorded a video blog with the information.  To see the video blog and to see the original report about having a blog for your company website click here.  My video blog follows the text report.

FRIDAY  OCTOBER 4, 2013

Many companies now recognize the importance of having a website not only to attract new customers but also to generate sales and provide customer service.  There is new research about the importance of having a company "blog" or "news feed" on your website both to attract customers and to generate sales.  For the points you should keep in mind about your company blog and how they can help your SEO or search engine optimization and marketing and sales click here.

MONDAY  SEPTEMBER 30, 2013

A few days ago, Google -- the biggest search engine company in the world -- announced Hummingbird which is a system for showing consumers the best results based on their search requests.  The new system interprets the search request and at the same time scours websites for the best results.  Gone are the old days when a consumer would type in a keyword such as "plumber" and Google would list websites with the word plumber.  Since  consumers are now more likely to type in a search request such as "I am looking for a good plumber in Covina with 24 hour emergency service and low prices" Google will now read and interpret those search requests and match it up with the best results it can find on websites that most closely fulfill the query.

So what does it mean for you and your business and your website?  And what should you do about the change?  Well, some publications and analysts have said "do nothing" but that is the wrong advice.

Because of the new Google Hummingbird system it is more important than ever that your website be up-to-date and rich with information. And here are some steps to take right now:

1.  Have more information on your website.  If you are a plumber with 24 hour service you want more than a graphic that says you have 24 hour emergency service.  Now you also want an article about your 24 hour emergency service.  What can you do?  List your emergency service and what products you carry, and what you can fix right away.  You want to do this because consumers might be mentioning these specifics in their search requests.

2.  Use more of the phrases that your customers use.  I told you about this before and I am going to say it again:  Google is matching search requests with web content.  So if a consumer makes the request for "good plumber in Covina with 24 hour emergency service" and your website is the best match for that phrase, you will be at the top of search results.

3.  Talk to your customers and find out what "keywords" and what "phrases" they use when they talk about your business -- and those are the words and phrases you want used on your website.  If a customer uses the word "bathroom" you don't want to use the word "lavatory" because Google will be looking for "bathroom" and not "lavatory."

4.  Have videos on your website.  Again, Google owns YouTube and Google, I am sure, has given extra "points" for search results to websites with YouTube videos.

Google is more than a search engine.  Google is becoming a "standard setter" for the Internet, and if you want to do well in Google search results you have to do things Google's way.  Google is now rewarding websites with rich content -- sites with more information and videos -- and if you want your business website to be prominent in search results do what Google wants.

And it's not just "content" that Google is rewarding.  Google also appears to be changing how it views the importance of style.  Google has just changed its own style for its Google text ads and this is a good clue that Google will also reward websites that are clear and easy to read.

Here's what Google wrote about how it changed the look and style of its text ads -- ads that you might buy through Google's Adwords product:

Our new design puts a strong emphasis on readability. We've introduced larger and clearer titles, more generous white space, and a flat circular button design, which complements the colors of other elements in the ad.

Now, that should give you a lot to discuss with your website designer and website manager.  Once again the rules are changing and if you want your website to help your business pay close attention to what Google is doing.

WEDNESDAY  SEPTEMBER 25, 2013

It's the season for advertising scams and I am afraid that the crooks are already out there.  This is in fact the busiest time of the year for advertising so it shouldn't come as a surprise that this is when the scammers go to work.  Two of my clients fell victim to scams, one of which I call the "print scam" and the other I call the "TV scam."

In the "print scam" a con artist picks up a free "lifestyle" type magazine in a supermarket or convenience store, and then on a home computer creates blank invoices for ad space on the lifestyle magazine.  The con artist walks into your store, shows you the magazine, quotes a remarkable price for full page ads, writes up the contract and takes your check (written to third party shell) for the December issue.  The con artist might even take out a digital camera and snap photos of your store.  He might even have business cards that were printed on a home computer or bought through mail-order for $9.95.

This just happened to a business owner I know.  He said he thought the salesman was legitimate because he had the magazine's current issue in his hand.  And that's the last he'll ever see of him and his money.

In the "TV scam" a con artist walks into your business with a video camera, tells you the name of his program which is "broadcast locally" and convinces you to buy six or eight appearances on his program for a remarkable price.  He shoots a video and takes your check.

This just happened to another business owner I know.  The price he paid for "six or eight" segments was less than what I charge for one segment.  So when he told me about this deal, I needed to know more about this program.  My conversation with the business owner Joe (name changed) went like this:

ME:  What station is the program on?
JOE: I don't know.
ME:  What's his website?  I want to see the show.
JOE:  I forgot to ask him.  Wait, he said he doesn't have a website.
ME:  So when is the show going to be on?
JOE:  I don't know.  But he spent about ten minutes here taking pictures.  I was in a rush.
ME:  How could you do this, Joe?
JOE:  Well, you're honest and your show worked for me.  So I thought I could spend some money with him and do well too!

Scams like these have been going on for decades.  I remember the door to door salesman who came to my family's restaurant in New York selling ads in the program for the "policemen's benefit ball," and the salesman who was selling ads in the dinner program for the blind children's fundraiser.  But there was no policemen's ball or a blind children's fundraiser.  The scammers are still around, but now they are selling full page ads in slick fashion and lifestyle magazines and time on "local TV programs."

MONDAY  SEPTEMBER 23, 2013

The age of your customers can help you determine which forms of advertising and marketing are best for you to use.  Research shows that different age groups most likely will react to different forms of marketing and you should use this marketing psychology in your advertising.  Here are some of the basics.  It is pretty much accepted that seniors seek out trust and authority and they value face-to-face communication.  This is what makes the senior market ideal for long form TV advertising including Infomercials because this is a variation on face-to-face advertising.  Seniors not only have time to watch longer advertising messages, but they want to investigate products and services, so your long form and Infomercial advertising becomes more essential for seniors.  Long form advertising is almost essential for selling home improvements, retirement services, health care, investments, legal services, insurance and any other products and services targeting older consumers.

Boomers (those 40 to 65) appreciate high quality, and first-class service, and again long form advertising is needed to show quality and first-class service.  You can't show quality and define service in a 140-character Tweet or in a 3-line pay-per-click advertisement, or even in a 30-second TV commercial or 60-second radio spot.

Gen Xers (those between 25 and 40) value time and money, and they might be more likely to be using the Internet and willing to click on Internet advertising.

And then there are the Millennials or those under 25 years of age.  Generation Y consumers respond well to social media marketing and perhaps this is because it is all they know.  They don't read newspapers or anything to do with print.  Chances are they don't listen to conventional radio stations or even watch TV -- they get their music and movies online.  To reach this demographic you want to have your ads online.

MONDAY  SEPTEMBER 16, 2013

Do you have your marketing and advertising plans in place for the 4th quarter?  You should.  And if you haven't made plans for TV let me give you some highlights of the current market conditions:

1.  The economy is improving and that means there are more advertisers bidding for air time.  Advertising budgets are the first to get cut when business slows, and the last to be restored when business is good.  Well, they're being restored.  So if you're not advertising make note that your competitors are.

2.  The cost of TV air time, specificially Infomercial time, is going up in the fourth quarter.  We've already been notified of price increases.  And I am trying to absorb the price increases by being more efficient in the coming three months.

3.  The TV stations are quickly cancelling spots and Infomercial time that is not paid for in advance.  The TV stations have a waiting list now, so when they say cash in advance they're not kidding.  I know of one advertiser who had a full week of spots cancelled when his payment to a TV station was one day late.  Infomercial time, in particular, must be paid for two weeks in advance.

4.  If you haven't planned for TV advertising for the 4th quarter yet consider this:

A.  It takes at least one week to shoot and edit a TV video assuming that the script is written, and you have a production company lined up and ready to go.

B.  TV stations have already asked for bids for airtime in October and big advertisers already have made their bids for time for the holiday rush in November and December.

C.  If you want an Infomercial to run during the 4th quarter, producing a half hour show will take a minimum of two weeks, plus the process of closed-captioning will take an additional week, and the TV stations will need one or two weeks to view and approve the finished product before clearing it for broadcast.

D.  Of course there are advantages with booking air time early including getting preferred air time and lower prices.  Also, production schedules for holiday advertising are usually very busy and trying to get a video produced in time could be difficult.  Even our Best Buys show requires videos to be shot and edited ten days prior to a broadcast, and the lead time for other forms of advertising can be much longer than that.

THURSDAY  SEPTEMBER 12, 2013

Just about every day I get a call from a business owner asking for help and guidance with their company's website.  So, in this Marketing Memo I am going to review some of the elements that you must have.  There is no debating these elements and if you have a web designer who says they will mess up the artistic look of your home page then fire your web designer.

1.  On the home page of your website you must have your company name, address, and phone number.  Believe it or not there are still web designers who don't put this vital info on the home page and put it instead on a "contact us" page.  Well, if you are selling to consumers you don't want to trouble them to find the "contact us" page.  You want that information right in front of them and easy to find.  In fact, you want your phone number on every page -- top and bottom.  Make your number big and bold.

2.  You must have on the home page of your site a description of what you sell or what you do.  For example, say if you are a discount store selling kitchen appliances, or you are a dentist specializing in cosmetic dentistry, or you are a furniture store specializing in leather furniture that came from factories with over-production.  You need this kind of description in plain text and not in flash to help your search engine optimization or SEO.  And remember, search engines read text and cannot read flash.

3.  Have on your home page a short text that describes who you serve, how you serve them, and how you are better than your competition.  This will also help in search engine optimization because these keywords can show up in searches.  You want to use your keywords at least three times.  Here is an example for a furniture store:

Our discount furniture store has a great selection of contemporary furniture for new families who need furniture to get started in their first home.  We can bring you these deals because we carefully shop furniture companies for their excess production and orders cancelled by other stores.  We always offer value pricing and we beat the prices of other stores selling these same furniture brands.

4.  Throughout your website you must write using the same words and phrases that your customers use.  This is essential for SEO.  When you write articles on your website that use the same phrases and keywords that customers use when they use a search engine, your site will come up higher in search results.  So if your customers use the term "pool tables" you want to use "pool tables" instead of "pocket billiards" on your website selling home game room equipment.  How do you know what keywords to use?  You talk to your customers and make note of the words and phrases they use.

5.  You must have videos on your website.  Not only are consumers used to seeing videos and expect to see videos, but the search engines rank websites with videos higher on search results.  Remember, Google owns YouTube and while Google is the #1 search engine in the world, YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world.  But having videos is not enough.  You also must have a description of the video's content on your site.  Ironically, while the search engines rank websites with videos higher than websites without videos, the search engines still do not have the technology to know what is in your video to fulfill search requests.

MONDAY  SEPTEMBER 9, 2013

In a previous Marketing Memo I told you about an industry survey that showed that Pay Per Click online advertising has a very high cost per lead.  Indeed, Pay Per Click ads or PPC ads, can be very expensive.  But, if you do PPC advertising correctly the cost per lead and the overall cost of PPC ads can be very low.  You need to know the right way to structure your PPC ad so that your advertising message gets across without your customers having to actually click on the ad.  If you can get your message across without a click, PPC ads could essentially become free advertising.  For more about this, click here for a special Marketing Memo.

MONDAY  SEPTEMBER 2, 2013

How you allocate your advertising and marketing dollars often is determined by the cost per lead that each form of advertising and marketing has.  The cost per lead for different media can vary among businesses.  I just received a research report (and I am allowed to make this public) which shows the survey results from many companies about which methods have the highest and lowest cost per lead.  Nine major marketing and advertising methods were ranked with Trade Shows ranked as #1 and having the highest cost per lead.  For the survey results and my own thoughts about why, click here.

THURSDAY  AUGUST 29, 2013

Communicating with your customers seems to be a lost art.  It is an art that wasn't lost recently.  American businesses have been losing touch with customers and losing the art of communicating with customers over the years.  It seems that the easier communication gets and the more diverse communications are, the more we lose touch with our customers.  And the reason we lose touch with customers is that not all of our customers adapt or use the new media.  Some are still using traditional media.  And there can be a dangerous mismatch when a marketing director embraces the new media and overlooks that the existing customer base doesn't.  Click here to read more.

MONDAY  AUGUST 26, 2013

There is a danger of association in all of the marketing and advertising that you do.  Media companies know this and sometimes they will tell you -- and sometimes they won't.  Some of the big industries have "agreements" with the giant media companies about when to run and when not to run their commercials.  Perhaps you should have some similar arrangement?  You might have been approached about endorsing a supplier or another company in exchange for being promoted in their marketing or commercial -- but should you?  And you might be attracted to the low prices of some type of advertising but could that advertising vehicle (literally, a vehicle) cause you more harm than good?  For more click here.

MONDAY AUGUST 19, 2013

It can happen to any business at any time: someone writes a negative review about your company on the Internet.  Or, someone goes to an online discussion group and makes comments that are critical about your business.  Or, someone goes to a review site and gives your business poor marks or a low grade.  What can you do about these negative remarks, and negative posts and complaints and critical reviews?  Can you get them removed from websites and from the Internet?  Read more by clicking here.

MONDAY  AUGUST 12, 2013

I had a phone conversation with the owner of a start-up in the real estate industry who asked me for help with his new marketing.  My first advice to him was to use the lowest cost marketing possible -- after all, he is a start-up and doesn't have much cash.  Of course, my advice to him was a surprise to him.  He didn't expect what I said.  He called me up asking about radio spots.  Why radio?  He told me he wanted radio because he hears lots of other small companies and start-ups advertise on the radio.  Then I told him how radio can be a waste of time and money, especially for a start-up.  Read more by clicking here.

MONDAY  AUGUST 5, 2013

This is a special Marketing Memo about the blackout of KCBS and KCAL on Time Warner Cable.  I don't want to get involved in the dispute between Time Warner Cable and KCBS, KCAL and CBS about their fee dispute.  However, I do want to point out the reality of the situation as it faces all advertisers.  The best estimates available are that Time Warner carries KCAL and KCBS to about 25% of the stations' audience.  That is a big chunk of the TV viewing audience that is not seeing KCAL and KCBS programs and commercials.

If you are advertising on those stations now, you should know that your potential audience has been cut by 25-percent and in some cases the impact could be even bigger.  I have to think that consumers who watch TV via cable as opposed to "over the air" are higher-income viewers.  So depending on the products you are advertising, the "hit" you are taking by this blackout may have an impact that is greater than 25-percent.

Also, if your business is in certain geographic areas where Time Warner Cable is prominent -- Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, West Los Angeles, Orange County, South Bay -- this 25% loss of audience can have a greater impact.

It is likely that the TV stations will offer some compensation to advertisers for the reduction in audience -- but you will have to consider the worthiness of the compensation.  If it means a reduced price only during the blackout, but your customers are not being reached, then a lower price is meaningless.  If there is a reduced price for future broadcasts when the full audience is back then it might make sense.

I have several clients that have Infomercials scheduled on the CBS stations and I am carefully monitoring the situation for them.  I urge you, if you have another ad agency representing you, to discuss this with them.  In the meantime, I am very happy that our Sunday Best Buys show is on KCOP and I have no doubt that we are getting extra viewers because of the blackout of KCBS and KCAL.  I also know that three of our competitors use KCAL for their Infomercial programs and I hope that they are being open and honest with their clients.

And most of all I hope both sides will resolve this dispute quickly because we are all losing.

 

MONDAY  AUGUST 5, 2013

I just read a report that said that as many as 40-percent of small and mid-sized businesses don't have their own website.  This is a crucial mistake.  Even if these small businesses have their own Facebook page, it is not the same as having their own website.  I wrote a Special Business Marketing Memo about the essentials for your business website and to read it, click here.  It includes tips about building links to your site, and how to make your site more interesting and appealing not only to customers but also to the search engines, and how to improve business contacts and sales with simple rules to follow.

THURSDAY  AUGUST 1, 2013

I keep close tabs on www.AlanBestBuys.com -- the website for our Best Buys TV Show -- to see if there are any particular website visitor and traffic trends for what consumers want and what they are looking for.  Perhaps this data can help you in your planning.  In July the most visited pages were, in this order: Discounters and Outlets, followed by Jewelers in downtown Los Angeles, and then Furniture stores in Orange County, followed by our pages for Computers and then Beds and Mattress stores and then AppliancesIn fact, all of the home improvement categories were very strong during July including pages for windows, window treatments, and kitchen and bath remodelingVisitors on average spent up to 3:15 (three minutes and 15 seconds) per visit on each of these pages.  For the complete report click here.

MONDAY  JULY 29, 2013

Should you pay a SEO company for backlinks to your website or buy backlinks to promote your company's website?  A backlink is a link to your company's website that appears on another website.  For example, I have a backlink to www.3dayflooring.com on my website www.alanbestbuys.com and that backlink helps this client, 3 Day Flooring and Kitchen and Baths, get a higher search engine ranking on Google and other search engines.  It also helps them get traffic from my website.  Backlinks are good to have, but should you pay a SEO (search engine optimization) company to get you backlinks?  The answer is absolutely no.

First, the search engines have changed their formula for rating the importance of backlinks and they just aren't as important as they used to be.  In the past, backlinks were an indication of the importance of a website and its content.  But now Google and the other search engines rate websites based more on their own original content including articles and videos.  So it really doesn't matter how many backlinks you have -- what really matters is the quality of the original articles and the videos that your site has.  So, save your money buying backlinks.

And here's another reason to save your money: the quality of the backlinks that many SEO companies will give you are only slightly better than absolutely worthless.  Here are some of the "junk backlinks" that SEO companies try to sell you:

1.  They create websites which are nothing more than pages and pages of backlinks.  The search engines now ignore these websites.

2.  They have "backlink mills" in countries such as India where hourly employees make posts on Internet discussion forums asking questions about your company.  A typical post from these backlink mills might look like this: 

Hello, has anybody searched out information about website www.alanbestbuys.com and what did you find? 

Yes, the search engines ignore these backlinks also.

3.  They also have employees in backlink mills who go on Internet forums and make "nonsense posts" with a link to a website.  I recently saw a post that said "I like this movie."   And under the signature of the poster "Robert" was a link that said "Great Mattress Deals."   And you guessed it -- the search engines ignore these types of backlinks also.

So what kind of backlink is a good backlink?  Well, an article about your company that gives information about your company and includes a link to your website is a valid backlink that will be recognized by the search engines.  Take a look at the backlink we have for 3 Day Flooring and Kitchens and Baths by clicking here.  On this page you will find several articles about 3 Day Flooring along with their videos from our TV shows -- and the backlinks to their website on this page of our website will be considered valid backlinks by the search engines.

MONDAY  JULY 22, 2013

Your advertising agency and your marketing manager probably are telling you to use different phone numbers and different website addresses on different media outlets to track their effectiveness when you advertise.  I think that's the wrong idea.  What I am about to tell you will make most advertising agencies cringe.  In fact, my partners in the advertising business vehemently disagree with me.  But I think they're all wrong.  The conventional strategy in advertising is to use different phone numbers and even different website addresses in different media outlets to allow for the tracking of responses to see which ads are most effective.  That's the conventional strategy.  And not only do I think it's wrong and ineffective, but I think it's a waste of money for you the advertiser, and it's a way for advertising agencies to boost their own profits.  Let me explain why.

 

Consumers today don't listen to only one radio station, or watch one TV station, or read one newspaper, or go on one website.  So a consumer might see ads for "Company XX" on four different media outlets and each media outlet might have a different phone number.  But how will you know which media outlet the customer was watching when she decided to call?  You might never know.  A consumer might see your commercial on Channel 5 fifteen times, but she might decide to call after seeing your commercial with a different phone number only once on Channel 13.  Does that mean Channel 13 is a more effective media outlet for you?  Of course not.  The consumer might have been convinced to buy your product from the commercials on Channel 5, but she misplaced that phone number.  It was when she saw the commercial just once on Channel 13 with that different phone number that she made the call.

 

The same is true with website addresses.  Some companies use different website addresses on their ads in an attempt to track which media outlet delivers the most leads.  But the consumer might  use the website she found during a Google search when in reality it was your ad on a TV station with a different website address that convinced her to shop with you.  Advertising agencies probably won't tell you this.

 

So why would advertising agencies urge you to use different phone numbers and different website addresses in various ads?  Well, the reason is ad agencies get paid for producing your various ads and different versions of the same ad with different phone numbers and website addresses. And you have to pay for each different ad or version of the ad that the ad agency creates.  Create two different versions of a TV commercial each with a different phone number and you pay for two different versions of the commercial.  Create two different print ads with different website addresses and you pay for two different print ads.  Create two different billboards and you pay for two different billboards.  Meanwhile, the ad agencies say they are doing "research" about which ads get the most responses while their production departments churn out different ads and you pay for the work. 

 

There is another problem with using different phone numbers and different website addresses on different ads.  And that other problem is you confuse the audience.  Don't you think it would be more efficient to have the same phone number for your company and the same website for your company appearing on all media?  It's hard enough for a motorist to remember a phone number he hears on the radio.  Don't you want to reinforce that phone number that was on one radio station with the same phone number heard on another radio station or seen on TV or on a billboard?  Of course you do.  So why hurt your own branding by using different phone numbers and different website addresses?

 

So how do you find out which advertising outlet really gets the customer in the door?  If you ask me, the best way is to ask the customer.  You just might find out that they saw your company advertised on different radio stations and different websites and different TV shows -- and when you press them they might not even remember which station or sign made them shop.  You might find out it was all of the media outlets combined that made them shop.

THURSDAY  JULY 18, 2013

This Marketing Memo is about why you need to put your TV commercials on your website -- and why video ads on your website and on the Internet in general work well.  One of the benefits that my Best Buys TV Show advertisers have is the ability to use their Best Buys TV Show report on their own website.  There is a huge value in doing that because a recent advertising industry report showed that "viewers who watch a product video online are up to 85% more likely to make a purchase."  There are various reasons to support this idea.

First, consumers who go online and choose to watch a video really want to watch it.  YouTube.com is the second biggest search engine because consumers go to it to search for information about businesses and products and services.  These consumers who go to YouTube to look for information about a plumber or about an air conditioner are motivated and because they are motivated they will watch the video.

TV commercials, however, do not enjoy that luxury.  TV commercials are mostly an interruption in what consumers want -- which is the program that they tuned in for.  No one turns on a TV show looking for commercials except in the rare exception of consumers who tune in shopping channels, or my Best Buys TV Show.  With these specialized programs, consumers who tune in are motivated.  But consumers who tune in to see the crime drama of the week, or the talent competition, or what bachelorette will be picked are not tuning in to watch commercials.

Now let's compare a "video ad" on the Internet versus a "video ad" on a network TV showThe Internet video ad has a smaller potential audience -- and there is no debating that.  But each consumer who actually chooses to watch is a motivated customer and is up to 85% more likely to buy, according to that survey.  Now, that TV video ad.  It certainly has a bigger potential audience -- but is anybody really watching?  Do you watch TV commercials or do you change channels when the commercials come on?  Do you run to the bathroom or dash off to the microwave?  Do you pick up the phone to make a call or text a message when the commercials come on?

I don't doubt that TV commercials reach some viewers and make a connection with some customers -- but the reality is advertisers who use standard TV commercials are also paying for a lot of consumers who are not watching and are not connecting to that TV commercial.

And there is something else for you to consider when you compare Internet video ads with TV video ads.  It doesn't cost anything to put your Internet video ad on YouTube.com or on your Facebook page or on your own company website.  But conventional broadcast TV?  You easily can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for one airing of a standard 30-second TV commercial on the various local TV stations here in Southern California.

The bottom line is this:  Internet video ads are likely to reach fewer consumers but the consumers they reach are more likely to respond with a positive result.  TV video ads might be broadcast to more homes at a higher cost with no guarantee that they will make a connection.  And the same can be said for radio ads -- they can be broadcast, but is anyone making a connection with them?

 

MONDAY  JULY 15, 2013

Mini-Infomercials started a long, long time ago.  Unlike the traditional half-hour Infomercial program, a mini-infomercial had a duration of 15-minutes or 5-minutes or two-minutes.  In the industry, a commercial that has a duration of two-minutes is considered an "Infomercial" and not just a "commercial."  Recently, here in the Southern California radio market, one advertising agency has been using radio mini-Infomercials for its clients.  Read more about the pros and cons of radio mini-Infomercials by clicking here.

MONDAY  JULY 8, 2013

This Marketing Memo is about "shared advertising" and it is about a solution for small businesses who can get more punch by pooling their dollars with neighboring businesses.  If you are a small business in a strip mall, or small shopping center, or office park, consider getting together with your neighbors to advertise all of your businesses at the same time.  By pooling your money you will be able to buy more media than by acting alone.  It really is all about the whole being able to do more than the sum of its parts. 

 

Shared advertising can be used to purchase display ads in magazines and in newspapers and also on radio and TV.  Shared advertising can also be used for TV Infomercials.  If your company needs perhaps ten minutes to tell your story then a full half hour Infomercial is not for you.  So, how about sharing a half hour Infomercial with another business or two businesses?

 

A shared Infomercial is what my Best Buys TV Show is.  But the Best Buys TV Show is on at fixed times, and you might want to reach TV viewers on different days and at different times.  Two businesses, for example, could share their own Infomercial -- each getting half of the air time -- and broadcasting the Infomercial at times both companies agree on.  The businesses could choose to advertise weekday mornings or late night -- it's up to them.

 

If you would like to consider a shared Infomercial for your business, let me know.  I will try to match you up with another business.  Of course you don't want to share an Infomercial with a company that competes with you.  But a clothing retailer could share an Infomercial with a kitchen remodeling company.  And a furniture store could share an Infomercial with a dentist specializing in cosmetic dentistry.

 

And, of course, a shopping center or a strip mall could have its own Infomercial with the tenants sharing the costs and the air time.

THURSDAY  JULY 4, 2013

This Marketing Memo is called Christmas In July because you should be planning for your Christmas and holiday marketing now -- in JulyIf you have a retail business you are probably deciding about now what to order for the holidays.  You should also be planning your holiday marketing and advertising now.  What will you be doing different this coming fall to set you apart from your competition?

Will you be having in store promotions and customer appreciation days?  Will you be getting your email alert system up and running?  Or will you finally start collecting the emails of your customersWill you be introducing a new product line?  And if so, have you estimated how much time you will need to let your customer base know about it?  Have you started to plan for your advertising?  Placing orders early with media could get you better prices and better placement of your ads.  Will you try some new type of advertising this year such as an TV Infomercial?

Or will you try the newest, hottest category of advertising that uses customer videos and endorsements of your store posted on YouTube?  These videos of customers at your business and talking about how they like your business are now becoming more effective than Yelp reviews.  And these customer video testimonials aren't just for retail stores.  They also work for service companies.  Consumer videos talking about the work done by a plumber, or the work done by a roofing company, or the work done by a dentist can have a huge impact on your reputation and your business.

There are two ways that you can get these customer video testimonials on YouTube.  You can cross your fingers and hope that a consumer will post a video that is favorable about you.  Or you can ask some of your favorite customers to shoot a video about your business and post it online.  Don't be bashful -- this is marketing and this is business.

And then, there is even a better form of endorsement -- you get yourself on the TV news as an expert about your business, or you get your business on the TV news as being a great business for consumers.

All of these marketing ideas need planning and need time.  Yes, it's only July -- but you need to be planning for this Christmas in July.

MONDAY  JULY 1, 2013

This week's Marketing Memo is about getting free Internet advertising by using "pay-per-click" ads.  Now, you must be thinking "pay-per-click" ads are not free -- because when someone clicks on the ad you are charged.  Well that's true.  But if web users see your advertisement but do not click on it, then it can be free.  Most "text pay-per-click ads" are free until someone clicks on it.  However, display ads that feature a photo or graphic or video usually come with some kind of up-front charge plus there is a "click charge" if someone clicks on it for more information.  So for this Marketing Memo, I just want to talk about the "text ads" that require a click in order for the advertiser to be charged.

I encourage you to use "pay-per-click ads" but be sure that your pay-per-click ads are written so that no one has to click on it.  It's easy to do.  Just put enough information in the pay-per-click ad that the web user gets the message.  For example, I have a client who sells gold as an investment and he had a daily pay-per-click budget of $1,000.  I looked at his ad and said to him "why don't you put your phone number in your ad?  If someone sees your phone number they will call you and they won't have to click on your ad for more information."  The client followed my advice -- he put his phone number in his pay-per-click ads and as a result the number of clicks dropped dramatically, his daily expense for clicks fell by half, and because he was getting more phone calls his gold sales surged.

There is a tremendous advantage when a customer calls you after seeing your ad because when you have them on the phone you can make a deal.  When a potential customer only clicks on your ad and sees your website you don't have the opportunity to close the deal.  When a potential customer only clicks on an ad the decision-making process rests with the customer.  You want the customer to call you and not click.

I've used pay-per-click ads but my ads were written so that no one had to click on them.  One ad said "Watch the Best Buys TV Show Sunday 9-AM KCOP" and because the information was in the text, my click through rate was very low.  Yet, my ad had tens of thousands of placements and my monthly expense was less than $50.

Now -- here's the key to getting your pay-per-click ads shown a lot without being clicked on, which is essentially free Internet advertising.

If you have sufficient information in the pay-per-click ad so that no one really has to click on it, you can increase your "bid" or the amount you are willing to pay for clicks.  When the pay-per-click ad agencies see that you are bidding high for clicks, they will give your ad lots of exposure and placements.  But because there is no need to click on your ad you will have lots of placements at a very low cost -- or even for free.

Remember, the key thing to have is enough information so customers will not have to click on your ad.  What information in your pay-per-click ad will inhibit costly clicks?  Well, phone numbers will inhibit clicks so will your store name and address.  Avoid "teaser ads" that give only a little information and force a website visitor to click.  Avoid phrases like "Great deals on bathroom remodels" because that will prompt a click.  Instead have an ad that says "Great bathroom remodels 800-555-5555 Los Angeles" because that gives an interested website visitor the information and the phone number without a click.

And remember, you really want potential customers to call you and not to simply read what's on your website because your website just can't close a deal the way you can.

MONDAY  JUNE 24, 2013

When I started this business about 7 years ago, I received two basic reactions from businesses that I approached about advertising on my TV show.  Thankfully the most frequent reaction was something like this: Yes, Alan, we know you have a following from your years on the TV news -- so count us in.  But some small business owners told me no, because they said "advertising doesn't work."  Well, I can understand why many small business owners will say advertising doesn't work for them.  And the reason is they spent their money on the wrong type of advertising.  Chances are they paid too much to reach too few customers who are looking for their products or services.

Unfortunately, business owners want to advertise in the media that they use -- on the TV shows they watch, and on the radio stations they listen to, and on the billboards they see, and on the newspapers they read.  It is unfortunate because their customers might not be using that same media.

The first rule of advetising is to spend your money where your customers are.  If you follow that rule and only that rule you are likely to save yourself a lot of money.  And let me give you a simple example:  if you buy a commercial spot on a TV show about hunting but you are selling kitchen housewares you are probably not going to reach a lot of housewives.

The second rule of advertising is not to pay more than you have to in order to reach your customer.  Let me give you a basic example.  If Channel XX charges $2 per viewer because it is a network affiliated station, but Channel YY charges only $1 per viewer because it is not part of a network, then you should spend your money with Channel YY because the cost of a viewer is lower.

The third rule of advertising is to try to get your message in front of potential customers when your potential customers are ready to buy.  And here are some examples of do's and don'ts:

1.  Do use specialty advertising publications and media such as The PennySaver and Home Shopping TV Networks and even my program The Best Buys TV Show.  Consumers who read the PennySaver and watch Home Shopping TV Channels and my Best Buys TV Show are ready to shop, buy and spend.

2.  Don't use general advertising such as regular TV shows and regular radio shows for advertising because the viewers and listeners of those shows aren't tuning in for commercials -- they are tuning in to watch a movie, hear music, watch the news, or watch which singer will advance to the next round, or which couple will lose this week's televised race.

3.  Do take part in special events for sellers such as home shows and swap meets.  Consumers who go to a home show are in the market for home improvements -- otherwise they wouldn't go to the home show.  Consumers who go to swap meets are shopping for deals -- otherwise they wouldn't go to the swap meet.  (I know that many business people are critical of the high prices charged by home shows for display space but you have to consider the value of each potential lead.  The bottom line is that some home shows deliver an audience and some don't.)

4.  Don't do mass mailing or distribution of flyers and doorhangers because they could be going to consumers who have no interest in what you are promoting.

These are basic tips that will help you target your advertising budget and help you get a better return on your advertising budget.

WEDNESDAY  JUNE 19, 2013

Your company website should do more than show your company's products and services.  It should also inform and entertain your website's visitors and it should generate income for your company as a profitable online magazine.  In my special report "Make Your Website A Profit Center" I tell you about a proposal to turn the website of a hotel and entertainment company into an online magazine that would not only generate direct revenue for hotel bookings but would also generate income from advertisers who the hotel's guests would also likely buy from.  This is something you could do with your company's website whether your company sells furniture or lighting fixtures or if you are a dentist or a lawyer.  Your company website can also be a profitable, online magazine generating additional revenue and adding to your company's total value.  Click here to read this special report.

MONDAY  JUNE 17, 2013

I have been telling you about the importance of having videos on your company's website, and just to review here are the key reasons:

1.  Having videos on your website will improve your search results because consumers are searching for videos.

2.  YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world with consumers looking for video reviews and reports about products and services.  There are about 1.5-million searches on YouTube each week for business-related videos.

3.  Websites with videos get higher search result rankings than websites without videos.

I just discovered a few more statistics about the importance of having videos on your website:

A.  81% of online marketers are now using video. 

B.  Having video on your website can triple the number of other websites that link to your site.  This will improve your search engine optimization (SEO) at no additional cost to you.

C.  Online viewers of a video are 64% to 85% more likely to buy after watchig the video, according to a private study.

D.  If you combine online videos with mobile and TV advertising you can improve your brand recall by 9-times.

E.  Video appears in 70% of the top 100 online searches.

F.  If you are reaching a male audience either because they are your customers or the decision makers for the purchase of big ticket items, consider this report from Nielsen:

"Although a larger number of women view online video on social networks and blogs, men are the heaviest online video users overall streaming more videos and watching them longer."

MONDAY  JUNE 10, 2013

This past week we shot a video for a new advertiser on our Best Buys TV Show.  We also talked to this new client about a nationwide Infomercial since he has online ordering and his product will appeal to customers across the country.  But when I looked at the traffic statistics for his website I realized he had a big problem.  He had very low web traffic.  While advertising will help fix the problem, advertising is only part of the fix that's needed.  The website itself needs some big changes.

The biggest problem was that he didn't have a "purpose" or a "summary" on his site.  Someone coming to the site wouldn't know what is there and how the information and products and services on the site would help them.  You need to have a "purpose" or "summary" on your site and on every page of your site.

For example, if you are in the furniture business you would want to have a "purpose statement" on your site that might say something like "here you will find the newest natural wood furniture that is ideal for baby and small children because it is made without chemicals and uses the latest safety designs."

If you are in the travel business you would want a "purpose statement" that might say "because of our 30+ years in the travel business we can get you the best prices on the best cruise ships even if you decide to book last minute.  And we know how to get free upgrades."

If you are an attorney you might say "we have years of experience handling claims for clients who have been injured in traffic accidents when they were hit by drunk and impaired drivers.  We will handle your case from start to finish and you don't have to pay us anything until after we get a judgment or reach a settlement and hand you a check for your injuries and pain and suffering and medical bills and lost wages."

There are three purposes here.  First, you are telling the website visitor what they will find on your site.  Second, you tell the visitor what your company offers.  And third, this is what the search engines will read and will use to rank you in search results.  Do not skimp on these "purpose statements."  Put them on every page of your website.  Having page titles and listing products and services is not enough.

If you are a furniture company have a purpose statement for your dining room page, and another statement for your bedroom page, and another for your office furniture page.  If you are a travel agent, the purpose statement for the air travel page would be different than the purpose statement for the European tours page.

Of course, the purpose statement is another term for "content" or "articles."  It's the content and articles that determine if you will be found by consumers searching the Internet, and it's the content and articles that will determine how the search engines will rank you.  If you take a look at www.AlanBestBuys.com you will see that at the top of every page such as "Antiques" and "Carpet and Rugs" and "Home Improvement / Kitchen" there is a purpose statement.  Each purpose statement includes keywords that help search results.

WEDNESDAY  JUNE 5, 2013

One of my clients called me the other day to tell me that he was ready to start advertising on radio.  My first reaction was "great" because this client has a real estate office and I've been pushing for Realtors to do more advertising outside of what is their industry norm which is signs, newspaper ads, and bus benches and doorhangers and direct mail which are all relatively more expensive and less effective than TV.  But radio?  Why radio?  Radio can be more expensive and less effective than all of those other forms of advertising for many businesses.  Read more of this Special Business Marketing Memo called Starting To Advertise On Radio by clicking here.

MONDAY  JUNE 3, 2013

One of the most important things to have on your company's website is your "call to action" or how customers should contact you.  There are several tips to follow to maximize the "call to action" on your website.

First, be sure your call for action stands out on your web pages.  You want it to be bold, surrounded by white space, with a contrasting and bright color, and with text that is larger than the text of your articles.

Second, you want a simple and direct call for action such as "Call us now for the best prices on a diamond engagement ring at 800-555-5555."

Third, I suggest you use a phone number instead of an email address.  When a customer is interested in you -- the customer wants to talk to someone right away and the customer could lose interest in between the time it takes for an email to be sent and a response to be sent back.  when you can talk to a customer as soon as they call you, you are in your best position to make a sale and to close a deal.

Fourth, you want the call for action to be on every page on your website and you want it at the top and the bottom of every page.  And remember, you want to keep the same format and the same style for the call for action on every page of your site.

MONDAY  MAY 27, 2013

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves why our websites are so important.  Your company website is the front door to your business.  Before a customer will drive to your store, or call your store, or walk into your store -- they will look at your website.  That is just how people do business these days.  They look on the Internet before they call, before they get in the car, and before they walk in.  So if your website attractively shows what you have to offer you can be ahead of your competition.

I've been telling you about ways to make your website appear higher on Internet search engines including having new content, videos and photos, and updated articles about your current merchandise or services.  But now I want to give you some ideas for having your website visitors return, because a returning website visitor is more likely to become a paying customer.

You should offer on your website tips to help customers.  If you have a furniture store, for example, give tips about furniture care -- like how to cover scratches and nicks with crayon, or how to clean spots from fabric.  If you are a professional such as a dentist you might want to give tips about the newest cosmetic procedures, or if you're a lawyer some ideas about powers of attorney.  This will help establish and boost your credibility.

No matter what kind of business you have, you should invite questions and you should have a place on your site to post answers.  By establishing yourself as a source for good information in your business or industry you will boost your credibility and when you have credibility customers will feel more confident about buying from you and doing business with you.

And your website doesn't have to have information that is just about you and your store or your service.  By putting news about your industry on your website, you will also boost your own credibility.  News about your industry will make customers and potential customers come back to your website where they will also see what's new about what you have to offer.

So to sum it up, to keep customers coming back to your website:

1. Offer tips and advice to establish credibility
2. Respond to questions to establish credibility
3. Report news about your business to establish credibility

MONDAY  MAY 20, 2013

I just received an Internet-industry report on "inbound marketing" which is all about how when you have a good website customers come to you and you don't have to pay anybody to go out and find your customers.  And it's true.  A good website will attract customers because your next customer is going online every day to look for businesses, service providers, retailers and suppliers.  So the question becomes are they finding you?

The biggest mistake for businesses today is not having a website.  And the second biggest mistake is to have a website that is not updated with new content -- new information, new pictures, new videos.

The industry report that I just looked at said that 82% of companies that update their websites with "blogs" see a positive ROI.  Quite frankly, that's not amazing because the cost of updating your website with your own blog should be zero.  Every business owner should be writing daily updates on the home page of his website telling customers what's new in their stores today.

The industry report also says that 43% of companies with blogs do get new customers from the blogs.  That's a pretty good return.

There are several methods for "inbound marketing" but you must be careful.  Many companies are now using Facebook pages as their websites.  Unfortunately you have no control over Facebook.  One day they could pull the plug on your Facebook page or start charging you huge fees.  Even worse -- Facebook could put competitors ads where your customers will see them.  The report also says that only 15% of companies report getting a new customer using pay-per-click ads such as those provided by Google.  But 43% of companies with their own website, and their own blog, report securing a new customer.

So what are the elements of a successful website?  Clearly they are these:

1.  Current information about your company and what it offers to customers.

2.  Videos because website visitors want to see videos to tell them a story and they would rather watch than read.

3.  An easy way to contact you which means having your phone number on every page at the top and bottom.  Too many companies ask customers to contact them via email and in the time between an email is sent and when it is answered that potential customer could have found another company to do business with.

4.  Remove old pictures and merchandise from your website.  I know of a clothing company that still has pictures of fashions from a year ago on its website and that is sending a message to potential customers that its merchandise is old and out of date.

TUESDAY MAY 14, 2013

There are certain forms of advertising that have become so familiar to us that we feel we are obligated to use them.  These forms of advertising include coupons and pay-per-click advertisements and now coupon codes on cell phones that a customer shows to a cashier at check-out.  Read more in our Special Business Marketing Memo called Click Through and Redemption Rates by clicking here.

MONDAY  MAY 13, 2013

This Marketing Memo is about the importance of planning ahead.  It appears it is easier said than done because this past Wednesday -- just a few days before Mothers Day Sunday -- I received an email which proves that companies fail to plan ahead.  The email was sent to me by accident, and it came from a company that I did some work for about a year ago.  I am not going to reveal the name of the company -- but I will tell you that it is a national company involved in long distance travel.

  

The email that was sent to me in error was supposed to go to the company's Internet marketing manager asking him to come up with a web banner ad to promote Mother's Day travel.  And I said to myself -- on Wednesday?  Not only was it just a few days before Mother's Day but this company depends on reservations made in advance and most consumers using this company do reserve travel in advance.  What were they thinking?

 

Well, here we are in the middle of May and have you made your marketing plans for June and July?  You should have.  June is important for marketing for Dads and Grads, and for the home improvement season, and for vacations.  And mid-June is when you should start advertising for your 4th of July Sales.  This year the 4th of July falls on a Thursday so it will be a long holiday weekend and while there will be fireworks on Thursday, there can be plenty of shopping on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

 

It was interesting to hear that home prices are moving higher and that opens the door to more home improvements for families that can't afford to move up and for families wanting to get their homes ready for sale.  That might make home improvement advertising more important this June.

TUESDAY  MAY 7, 2013

One of my loyal TV advertisers told me the other day that he wants to try direct mail.  He knows that with our Best Buys TV Show he can reach a household for about one-half of one cent, and he knows that with his own TV Infomercial he can reach a household for about 3-cents.  The direct mail package, he told me, will cost him about 37-cents per household and even then there was no guarantee that his direct mail piece wouldn't end up in the trash.  Read more in this Special Business Marketing Memo called The Cost of Good Advertising by clicking here.

MONDAY  MAY 6, 2013

If you have a website for your business that is used to promote your business and your products and services it is important that you have Google Analytics tracking your website visitation.  Google Analytics is free and easy to use and provides important information to help you see who is on your website, what pages they are looking at, how long they are on your site, and even where they are when they are looking at your website.  It is free to have Google Analytics and to sign up go to http://www.google.com/analytics/ and get started.  You should review your traffic reports every day. 
 
And now, Google Analytics has a new tool that is extremely beneficial for anyone who is actively advertising in the media, or online.  The new tool is "Real Time Data" and by clicking on the "Real Time" report on your Google Analytics report you will be able to see second-by-second how many visitors are on your site, what pages they are watching, their geographic location and how they came to your website.
 
When our Best Buys TV Show was on this past Saturday at 5:30-PM on KTLA Channel 5, I had my Real Time Data open and I saw second-by-second which pages on my site were being viewed.  And the Google Analytics Real Time Data surprised me -- and taught me something new about audience reaction.
 
First, I saw something that I've known for a long time: home improvement companies and computer companies get the most immediate web reaction.  We have a lot of home improvement companies advertising with us including companies for kitchen and bathroom remodeling, roofing, home decorating and furniture companies.  Those web pages along with our computer page get the most traffic.
 
Second, I found that our website visitors during the TV show looked at many other pages on our site for information about companies that were not advertising on that particular show.  For example, there were a lot of visitors looking at our reports on men's clothing.
 
But I discovered something else while watching our Saturday TV show: there was an immediate rush to the web pages of our brand new advertisers.  We had three new advertisers on our show this past Saturday -- a used car dealer in the San Fernando Valley and an outlet for department store clothing in Commerce, and a real estate service, and while our show was being broadcast on Saturday the traffic to their pages on www.AlanBestBuys.com was huge.
 
So how should you use the Real Time Data of Google Analytics?  Well, if you do TV or radio advertising, you can immediately see what traffic goes to your website when your ad runs. 
(If you advertise on radio you should not expect much traffic to your website when your commercials run because drivers are not in a position to go on the Internet.  So companies with website businesses might want to think twice about radio advertising since most radio listeners are in their cars.)  Also, if you make posts on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn you will be able to measure the reaction to your posts and determine if they really drive traffic to your site.

 

MONDAY  APRIL 29, 2013

I received a call the other day from the owner of a large chain of retail stores.  He was asking me about doing a TV Infomercial.  His company never did Infomercials or "long form advertising" before, in fact he only did "short form advertising" and the advertising was very short -- just 15-second and 5-second commercials on TV and radio.  I don't know if I landed his business because I was brutally honest with him.  I told him he was wasting his money with 15-second and 5-second commercials.  Here's what I told him:

About 95% of the radio audience is listening in their cars.  If the driver is alone there is a very slight chance that a 5-second or 15-second radio spot will even be noticed by a driver.  And if it is "noticed" by the driver then the chance that the driver could write down information about a store or price or address or phone number or website are less than those of a snowball surviving on Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles at noon this coming August 15th.

And if there is someone else in the car with the driver, it's likely the radio is only "background sound" and the occupants are having a discussion.

Then we discussed 5-second and 15-second TV commercials, and I asked him, do you watch commercials?  "Well no," he admitted, "we have a DVR so we zip through the programs.  I can watch a half hour TV show in about 20 minutes," he told me.  And with a DVR that is about right.

The newest industry statistics which were released last week show that 46% of American homes now have a DVR and by the start of the fall TV season, 50% of homes will have a DVR.  Wait -- it gets even worse for advertisers when you consider which homes have DVRs.  The new statistics show that upper-income families earning $100,000 and up have the highest concentration of DVRs at 76%.  That about kills the potential high-income audience for traditional commercials, doesn't it?

But still, about half of American homes don't have a DVR and what do they do when commercials come on?  Well, ever since the invention of the hand-held remote these DVR-deprived families have found that they can change the channel without getting up from their seat or getting out of bed.  But TV viewers have other options besides changing channels when commercials come on: they can go to the bathroom, go to the microwave, yell for the kids, look at their computer, or (and this might sound unbelievable in this day and age) talk to their spouse or another family member about something.

There is another problem with 5-second and 15-second commercials: you can't tell much of a story in that short period of time.  Short commercials are good for companies like McDonald's that can say "Big Macs are on sale this week, just 29-cents."  McDonald's can get away with that short message because everyone knows McDonald's and what a Big Mac is and where the restaurants are located.

But how do you squeeze a sales pitch for one-half carat total weight, E-color, very slight flaws, diamond stud earrings, set in 14-karat white gold, at a special sale price that is 30-percent below the competition's price and is perfect for Mother's Day, and also give the name of your store and the shopping mall you are in, when you only have 15-seconds -- and have it make sense?  As my grandfather the grocer used to tell me: you can't stuff ten pounds into a 5-pound bag.

Fifteen-second and 5-second commercials are good for some businesses - but they are very few in number.  Everyone else needs to consider something different.  Even 30-second and 60-second commercials don't have the impact they had in the "pre-remote control" days of the 1960s and early 1970s.

I summed up our conversation this way:  half-hour TV Infomercials won't have the potential large reach that commercial spots might have, but when someone does watch your Infomercial you have a real chance at getting your message across.  And I asked him, do you want to spend so much money on commercials that no one will see or remember, or would you rather spend less money reaching a smaller number of customers who might really be interested and get the point you want to make?

TUESDAY  APRIL 23, 2013

Several clients called me in the last week to give them a free “review” of their website.  This is something we offer to our clients – a free review of their website to help them get the best search ranking from Google and other search engines.  I found that they are still making the same mistakes.  Actually, the business owners aren’t making the same mistakes but their web designers are.  So I have to say this again: web designers are great for creating web page designs, but few know what to do right when it comes to putting content on a website to improve search engine results or search engine optimization.

So here are the main points, again, to help everyone:

Your content – meaning your articles on your website – must be written in text and not in graphics.  If you can’t run your mouse over the words on your home page and copy and then paste those words in an email then the search engines cannot read what is on your site.

You must have videos on your website.  Sites with websites get higher rankings – period.

You must change the articles on your web page and if you don’t update the content at least once a week (daily is better) you will be penalized in search results and ranking.

Your articles must be original.  If you copy and paste your articles from other websites you will be penalized.  As a Google executive once said at a very pricey seminar for website owners “the most important person on your staff is your writer and not your web designer.”

You will be penalized for loading your pages with “irrelevant keywords.”  What does this mean?  Well, if you have a website for your plumbing company and at the bottom of your home page you list 100 different communities or towns in Southern California you have loaded your site with irrelevant keywords and that will penalize you in search engine results and ranking.

And here are some “new ones” that you should not use.  These are considered to be “dirty tricks” and they include:

Don’t put “irrelevant keywords” on your site in “white over white” thinking you will fool the search engines – you won’t.

Don’t put “irrelevant keywords” on your site in “0 size text” thinking you will fool the search engines – you won’t.

Don’t use “scraped content” meaning articles from highly reputable websites thinking it will improve how the search engines view the credibility of your site.  The fact is the search engines know who published what firsts.

Don’t pay anyone to create “artificial links” to your site.  There are link farms which are websites which have nothing but pages and pages of links to other websites and if your site is caught on one of those link farms you will be penalized.  Only real links where another website refers to your website for having something important will actually count.

Don’t use “phony keywords” in your “meta tags.”  One of my competitors put my name “Alan Mendelson” in their meta tags in an attempt to steal traffic.  The search engines caught on – and that site’s search engine results and web traffic has dropped dramatically.

MONDAY  APRIL 15, 2013

YouTube is going to replace Yelp and Angie's List -- the two websites where you can see consumer reviews about businesses including your business.  Many business owners are concerned and carefully monitor what is said about them on these sites. 
 
However, YouTube is rapidly replacing Yelp and Angie's List as the "go to" website for consumer reviews.  I've been telling you for years that video on your website and videos about your business on YouTube are crucial to have -- and now this information and strategy is becoming public and big companies are using it.
 
I was recently tipped off that the big auto companies are now pushing for consumer video reviews of their cars on YouTube.  The auto companies are even providing video cameras with the "test vehicles" they lend to consumers so that there will be more "video reviews" posted on YouTube.  The strategy is simple: people believe what they can see -- and at the same time consumers are becoming wary and even disbelieving of all of the "likes" and positive text reviews they read.
 
Let's face it -- it's easy to get a relative or an employee to post a favorable review about you on a website and consumers know that.  But when a consumer can see "Sally Shopper" of "Anytown, California" talking about her new dishwasher in a video on YouTube or the bad installation that the plumber made that video becomes believable.
 
Videos are also more entertaining as well as more convincing.  A consumer is more likely to watch a full video about a company or product than read a lengthy review about a company or product.  So what should you be doing as part of your marketing strategy?  Obviously you should adopt this strategy of having videos on YouTube about your business.  If you can't get your customers and your shoppers to post their own positive video reviews on YouTube, then you have to get your own videos on YouTube talking about your company. 
 
Remember, YouTube is now the Number Two search engine in the world and YouTube is rapidly becoming the first reference tool for consumer endorsements.  The major search engines also rank websites with videos higher than websites without videos.  Also, consumers when they do their searches on the Internet are more likely to search for videos than just text.  And this is why we allow all of our advertisers to use our TV show videos on their own websites and why we also put them on YouTube and it is why our website www.alanbestbuys.com has more than 500 videos on it.

TUESDAY  APRIL 9, 2013

This Marketing Memo is about a marketing and website error I hope none of you ever make.  One of our advertisers a few months ago, and against our advice, hired a marketing company to manage their website.  I told the advertiser that they could easily do it themselves -- but they insisted on hiring a "website professional" to manage and maintain the website for them.  The reason why I knew that they didn't have to hire an outside company was because we built their website for them.  But no-- what we did wasn't good enough.
 
So, the "website professional" was hired and several thousand dollars was paid out.  A couple of weeks later I checked my advertiser's website and all the "website professional" did was make some cosmetic changes.  The articles that I wrote for the advertiser and the videos we produced for the advertiser were still on the website.  There was no new content -- the changes really were just cosmetic.
 
But the situation got even worse for our client, the advertiser.  Even though the "website professional" continued to be paid a monthly fee, the "website professional" put this client on the back burner.  And no other work was done on his site -- for several months.  And then came the really big disaster. 
 
Just last week, I decided to see how my client's website was doing with the new "website professional" that he hired.  And when I looked on the Internet for the website, I couldn't find it.  That's right -- it was gone.  It turns out that a few weeks ago, the annual renewal fee for the website URL (the website name) became due.  The "website professional" failed to pay the bill.  My client told me he was certain that the "website professional" would pay it, but he didn't. 
 
And the bottom line?  Some other company snatched the web address (it was a good one) and now if my client wants to buy it back it could cost him thousands of dollars.  Not only did he lose a website that his business has been operating under for two years, but he also wasted all the money he paid to a "website professional" who said he would manage the website and maintain it.  Don't let this happen to you.  Your website can be just as important as your company name.

MONDAY  APRIL 1, 2013

May advertising is a must for every business.  Advertising in the month of May is something you must do because May is a critical month for holidays and seasonal activities.  The holidays include Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, and the big Memorial Day and Memorial Weekend sales.  You should be adverting in May to also get a lead on the big sales in June which include Father's Day and Graduations.  Don't forget that May is when the home buying season gets underway and that means it is also home improvement season.  Sellers want to have their homes in tip-top shape, buyers will be making changes to homes they buy, and homeowners who aren't moving want to improve the home they're staying in.

May also kicks off the vacation season and the outdoor living season so it's a time for travel, for outdoor furniture, for sports equipment and driving.  And May is when the summer weather arrives so that means it's time for new fashions and new styles, and for exercise and for beauty and for looking good.  When you think about it, only December is a more important month for advertising. And this is why you have to make your plans now for May advertising.

You might find that TV stations and radio stations will be raising their prices for ads in May.  And you also might find that there are fewer commercial spots available during May and this is because May is the important TV "sweeps" or ratings period.  Some TV stations might limit the number of commercials during newscasts so that they don't have viewers "tune out" during long commercial breaks.

Oh, if you are still buying traditional commercials on TV I am sorry to remind you that people do change the channel or go to the microwave or go to the bathroom or pick up their cell phone or look at the computer when the commercials come on.

MONDAY  MARCH 25, 2013

A Search Engine Optimization company has been advertising its services on a major radio station here in Los Angeles and I want you to know that the radio commercial is misleading.  The company is trying to sell its SEO services -- and it says in the commercial that it can help raise a business' rank on search engine results.  The radio commercial says that when consumers search for a plumber on Google there are more than 62-million search results.  The commercial asks if consumers will scroll through the list of 62-million to find your company if you're a plumber?

Well, that is really misleading. It is misleading because the days of the "one word search" ended about 15 years ago.  Yes-- about fifteen years ago consumers figured out that if they used several words to find something on the Internet their selections would be narrowed down.  So in fact, consumers don't search for "plumber" when they need to find a plumber.  Consumers are more likely going to type in a phrase or a sentence such as:

"I need a plumber in Santa Monica who makes emergency house calls for flooding."

Or, the search might be for:

"I need a low cost plumber in Santa Monica for emergency service."

The radio commercial that indicates a search only uses the word "plumber" is just using an Internet scare tactic.  In fact, when I did the searches using the phrases above, Google returned about five results for plumbing companies in Santa Monica -- not 62-million.

I've told you this before and I need to say it one more time: you do not have to hire any SEO company or pay any SEO outfit a dime to improve your search results on the big search engines such as Google and Bing and Yahoo.  I give 100% FREE SEO advice to my clients and in just about five minutes I show them how they can immediately improve their search results.

In case you haven't had a free consultation with me, here are the four basic facts that I give:

1. You should have text copy on your home page that matches what consumers are looking for.
2. Talk to your customers and ask them why they came to your business? Remember the words they used when they tell you, because those are the "keywords" you want in the copy on your website.
3. Have videos on your website because websites with videos have a higher search result than sites without videos.
4. Update your website and your home page with new articles at least once a week, and every day if you can. Stale websites get a lower search result.

That's it -- four steps.  Four points.  And you can do it all yourself:

1. You should always be talking to your customers.
2. You should always be listening to their feedback and remembering what they say.
3. You can put videos on your website yourself using your computer's webcam or even your cell phone camera, then uploading them to YouTube and then putting the YouTube video on your site.
4. You should have a blog or space on your website where you can update the site yourself, without having to pay a web designer to do it for you.

THURSDAY  MARCH 21, 2013

Advertising and Marketing are a science, and an art. You want to advertise and market to your target audience and you want to send a message that will motivate your target audience to respond.  Some advertising and marketing professionals do it better than others, and as a company owner you need to be sure the right message is being sent to the right people.

I've been hearing a new commercial for a luxury car dealer on the radio.  I am sure they are spending a lot of money for these spots but unfortunately their commercial was undermined by some sloppy copy writing.  In particular there is one line in the commercial that says something like "we dusted off our inventory."  Wow, did they really mean that?  Does a luxury car dealer really want to give the impression that cars have been sitting on their lots, collecting dust?  It's not exactly the image you want for a luxury car dealer, is it?  Hearing about cars covered with dust probably sent a subliminal message that discouraged customer interest.  What I want to hear is that the new luxury cars are gleaming in the show room, ready for me to slip behind the wheel and drive up the coast or pull up to my house to impress my wife.  I don't want to hear they're covered with dust.

On the other hand, some companies are doing smart things.  For example, several new retailers are now making their names on their brick and mortar stores the same as their website addresses.  For example, (and this is not a real business), "SantaMonicaFurniture.com."  By putting the name "SantaMonicaFurniture.com" on their store front they are also advertising their website so that potential customers who are too busy to park and walk in can go to their home or office and see what's inside via their computer.  That is smart thinking.  And right now along La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles there are several different furniture stores that have already adopted this strategy using their web address as their store-front name.  Good for them!

MONDAY  MARCH 18, 2013

I just had a visit with one of my most successful clients. He started advertising on our Best Buys TV Show about five years ago and his business grew from having two employees to more than thirty employees.  He has a professional service company.  During my visit with him we discussed future advertising and he also discussed an idea he had to relocate his business closer to the new home he just bought in a wealthier community.  Relocating his business would mean a shorter commute for him.

But I immediately asked him "what about your clients?"  I then pointed out to him that the area he was considering for a new office has costly parking lots and limited free parking and a certain amount of traffic congestion.  He quickly realized what a mistake it would be to move his business closer to his home.  But we continued our conversation and discussed that he open a satellite office closer to where his customers actually live.  He told me that many of his clients/customers commute 60 miles or more to meet with his staff.

I am afraid that many business owners make the same kinds of mistakes.  They think about their own locations, their own commutes, their own travel time, but not the needs of their customers and clients.  And when they buy advertising and do their marketing, they make similar mistakes and make their advertising and marketing decisions based on their own preferences and not the preferences of their customers.

Here are some of the "bad calls" that I've run across lately (and thankfully I am not responsible):

** A law firm that specializes in auto accidents was running commercials on a music radio station that appeals to teenagers who probably aren't old enough to drive.
** An auto auction company that sells used cars was running commercials on a stock market and investment show on a radio station that appeals to high-end investors who probably buy and lease new cars on a regular basis.
** A trade school that recruits high school graduates advertises on an "oldies" radio station that appeals to listeners in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

It is important that you know who is watching, listening to, or reading the media you choose to advertise with.  It doesn't matter if you like the radio station or if you like the TV program.  What matters is if your customers like those media outlets.  I know there are many business owners who listen to stock market reports and all-news radio and want to hear their commercials on those outlets.  But are their customers also listening?  There are business owners who like a certain type of music -- but do their customers like the same music?

When it comes to your advertising and marketing dollars, put them where your customers are -- not where you are.

TUESDAY  MARCH 12, 2013

This marketing memo is about the coming retail rush.  You might call it a retail bubble.  And you should be getting ready for it.  Consumers are going to start spending again and soon and the evidence is very clear about this.  Among the indicators:

home prices are up, home sales are up, sellers are getting multiple offers.  Any kind of business associated with real estate sales will see the benefits and these include furniture, appliances, home improvement, pools and spas, and decorator and design services.

The stock market has set record highs and economists know that what happens on Wall Street affects Main Street six months later.  That doesn't mean Main Street will see a boom six months from now -- because the rally on Wall Street actually started this past November, and that means the benefits hitting Main Street will be starting in May.

Tax refunds which were delayed at the start of the year are now arriving and this means more consumer spending too.  Ironically, a lot of store owners complain about "tax season" because of their own tax problems and they say April is not a good time to advertise.  But while you -- a store owner -- might be having a tax problem, 76% of your customers are getting a refund this year (based on IRS statistics).

And the economic news has been getting better: the economy did not collapse because of Congress' stalemate over the budget, and unemployment is going down, and more jobs are being created, and another sale tax increase in Los Angeles was voted down.

TUESDAY  MARCH 5, 2013

Don't make the mistake of having a website with features that are designed to make you stand out for Search Engine Optimization because Google has caught on to all of the tricks that SEO companies use and now Google is penalizing websites that use SEO tricks and techniques to try to improve their search results and ranks.  Google has actually published a warning to website owners about using SEO tools and tricks and the key points in the warning include these strategies:

1. Make your pages for your website visitors and customers, and not for search engines.  This means don't overload your web pages with keywords, or by listing dozens of cities to try to boost your search results.  If you are a plumber, for example, don't put on your website a list of thirty cities where you do business.  Having a list of cities is a well-known SEO trick and if you have such a list Google will penalize you for having it. Instead of putting a list of cities where you do business use that same space to give a tip about how to keep your drains clear or some other helpful consumer tips.

2. Don't try to trick the search engines.  Simply, don't put "search tags" on your website for content and articles that you don't really have.  If you have search tags that don't match your actual content, you will be penalized in search results.  As an extreme example, don't have search tags for "Jennifer Anniston wedding" when your website is for your plumbing business.

3. Make your website unique and different from other websites.  Google rewards new, original, fresh content which means having videos and having new articles appear on your website as often as possible.  If you can put a new tip, or a new video on your site every day you will do much better in search results and ranking than a site that hasn't changed its home page in a month or two months.  Google and the other search engines know that consumers want to see videos on websites, so websites with videos are getting higher ranks.  There is a reason why Google bought YouTube -- because it knows the direction of the web is to video.  And the search engines know that the way color TV replaced black and white TV, video websites will replace text websites.

4. Don't let a Search Engine Optimization Company convince you that it is important to have "back links" from other websites.  Back-links or links to your website from other sites are not as important as they used to be.  Google is more concerned with what new information you have on your site, and not who else links to your site.

5. And don't make the mistake of having "pre-packaged articles" on your site.  SEO Companies are now selling "editorial services" to website owners.  If Google finds that the articles on your site were also used on another website, you will be penalized.

MONDAY  FEBRUARY 25, 2013

You can't use the same "advertising copy" or "advertising message" for all media, and too many ad agencies and advertisers make this mistake.  The wording and the graphics that work for a newspaper ad won't necessarily fit on a TV screen or a computer screen or a billboard.  The words that can be put in a newspaper ad may not be appropriate in a radio ad or on TV.

Recently, a prominent jewelry store started to advertise on billboards.  Unfortunately, the jewelry store is using its logo on the billboards and the logo is not designed for billboards.  Billboard messages -- especially those on freeways -- must be very clear and concise and use simple words in large, bold text or else they aren't going to be read at speeds of 55 miles an hour or faster.  This jewelry store had too many words on its billboard and the prominent words said it buys gold.  But the name of the jewelry store only appears in the logo and the logo is relatively small, and the name of the store in the logo is surrounded by a design that makes it difficult to read.  Frankly, I drove by these billboards several times before I could figure out the jewelry store's name.

With newspaper ads you can include a lot of information with graphics and text.  But there is a limit to the content you can put on radio or TV because of time restraints.  For example, if you have a radio ad or a TV ad, remember that it takes about 12 seconds to say your company's name, address, website and phone number and that doesn't leave much time for "advertising copy" or the "pitch."  This is why 30-second spots don't work for any company that isn't already well known.  The only companies that should be using "thirty second spots" are those such as McDonald's, Bank of America and American Airlines -- because consumers already know where to find the Golden Arches, a BofA branch, and how to call American Airlines.  (The average spot on our Best Buys Show is two-minutes and we won't accept thirty-second commercials.)

Most radio commercials are 60-seconds long but the important thing to do with radio ads is to repeat the message several times in that sixty seconds because 95% of radio listeners are in their cars, and the "radio" is sometimes nothing more than background sound.  The drivers could be talking to someone else in their car, or paying attention to traffic, or distracted by a horn, or even talking on their cell phone.  So with a radio ad, you have to repeat your message several times within the sixty seconds to give the driver a chance to hear your message.

Again with radio you have to repeat your name and phone number multiple times.  How many times have you listened to a radio ad but quickly forgot the phone number or website or the business' name?  I would venture that very few drivers listening to radio ads are prepared to write down a phone number or website that they hear.

The standard TV commercial is 30 seconds long, but on the Internet, if you have a commercial that runs longer than 10 seconds you run the high risk that the viewer will "click off" it.

On the other hand, while a 10-second video ad works well on the Internet because a web user can click to view it again, it is too short for a TV viewer who might be changing channels or distracted by the microwave or is taking a bathroom break during a TV show.

While advertising can work, each medium has its own challenges, and an ad that "works" on TV might not work on radio, or an ad that works on the Internet might not work on TV or in newspapers.

MONDAY  FEBRUARY 18, 2013

False advertising isn't just a problem for consumers.  As a business owner, and marketing professional, you might be a victim of false advertising.  And the false advertising can come from well-known and well-respected media outlets and their sales representatives.  There is nothing criminal in the false advertising but it can rob you of your marketing dollars and hurt your business.  So what is this false advertising? Well, it's the claims made by the media about their effectiveness or reach.  Let me give you a few things to watch out for:

1. A TV show claims it is #1 in viewers. Well, what kind of viewers? If you are a beauty salon is it #1 in reaching women between 18 and 49 years of age? If you are selling kids furniture, is the show #1 in reaching young parents?

2. A newspaper or magazine claims it has a circulation of 200,000. Well, you might want to ask if that is paid circulation or if its a free publication that might be trashed? If you take an ad in that publication on page 6 how many readers will see page 6?

3. A bus bench company says 8,000 cars pass by an intersection every day. Well, how many of those drivers are stopped at the intersection so they might be able to see your bus bench ad and how many drivers are moving through that intersection and are unlikely to see your ad? Do motorists really have time to read billboards on freeways?

4. A radio station says it has 50,000 listeners. Again, it's a matter of demographics -- how many of the listeners are your potential customers? And more importantly, what percentage of the listeners are in their cars and unable to write down your name and phone number and website because they are driving -- or they can't really "hear" your message because the radio is only "background sound" during their drive with others in the car?

5. A direct mail company says it delivers your flyer or coupons to 25,000 homes. Are the flyers read and are the envelopes with the coupons opened? Or, do they go directly into the trash?

The only real advertising number that counts is what I would call the "actual connect rate."  The actual connect rate is the percentage of potential customers who actually see or hear your advertisement and take action.  This connect rate is always very tiny.  For an example, consider the coupon business.  The coupon industry estimates that fewer than 1% of coupons are actually redeemed.  Keep that in mind the next time a mass media company tells you about its wide reach.

Is there something you can do better?  Yes. If you target your potential audience better, you can increase your own "actual connect rate."  Some examples: Beauty salons should advertise in media more likely favored by women. Kids furniture companies should advertise in media more likely used by young parents.

Unfortunately advertising isn't sold that way, and businesses don't buy advertising that way.  They buy total audience and not their targeted audience.  When you advertise on a #1 prime time TV show you don't know if the viewers are there because they will buy your product or service.  The viewers are there to see the TV show -- and they may not be interested in buying anything at all.

On the other hand if you were to advertise on a program such as the Home Shopping Network you know that everyone watching that program is a potential buyer -- or else they wouldn't be watching the shopping channel.  I am happy to say the same is true about our Best Buys shows.  The only people watching are those who are looking to buy something and they are shopping.  I am pretty sure that our viewers are not there for my sex appeal.

MONDAY  FEBRUARY 11, 2013

If you own a business, you probably have an exit strategy for your business.  The exit strategy probably includes building up your business so you can sell it to raise money for your retirement.  And if you have an exit strategy that does include selling your business, be sure your website is included in your exit strategy.  This is because the person or company that might buy your business might want to know what your web presence is -- and if you don't have one, or if your web presence is not very strong, that could hurt the value of your brick and mortar business.

The reality is that new business leaders, and new, younger business owners, are more in tune with websites than business owners of the last two generations.  So while you ignored a website for your business, not having a website could seriously affect your business' value when it comes time to sell it.  If your exit strategy is a five year plan to sell your business, you have plenty of time to start and build up your online presence.  But don't delay, because in five years this "new generation" of business owners will put even more value on online business and websites than there is today.

And in five years websites will be even more dynamic than they are today with more videos and photos. So if you are starting a website now, or catching up with the rest of the cyber world, be sure catch up with the others and put more videos on your site along with your own daily blog and report to customers.

TUESDAY  FEBRUARY 5, 2013

I just saw another media outlet pull a dirty trick on an advertiser.  The media outlet did not put the advertiser's address in the ad they ran. Unbelievable?  Of course it is unbelievable.  When you pay for an advertisement you want your name, your address and your phone number and website to appear in the ad.  That is what you are paying for, isn't it?

But this really happened to a furniture store.  They advertised on a TV show and the store's address was not included in the ad.  Even the city where the store is located was not mentioned.  It's phone number was but what good is a phone number?  In Southern California area codes such as 909 and 714 cover huge areas.

Was it a mistake that the address was left off the first time this business advertised?  Perhaps.  But the ad appeared a second time a few weeks later. And then a third time a few weeks after that.  And the store's address was never added.

Why would this happen?  Well, I can think of one reason besides incompetence.  And the reason is that the TV program wanted to drive traffic to its own website.  You see -- while the TV program did not give the address or the location of the furniture store,  it did give its own website address on that commercial.  And that is like saying -- "hey, this is a great place to shop, but to find out more you will have to visit our website and drive up our web traffic statistics in order to find out where this store is."

I can't for the life of me understand how the advertiser would tolerate the TV show not putting its address in its ad?  I can't for the life of me understand how the advertiser didn't demand a "make good" on the ad which means, simply, free replacement ads?

But this also raises something every advertiser must now look out for: you have to make sure that you are not paying some advertising medium to help them promote their own website.  When this furniture store paid for an ad that featured the TV show's website and not it's own address it actually paid to promote the TV show's website.

MONDAY  FEBRUARY 4, 2013

A crazy thing happened the other day. I tried to call a hotel/resort to ask about some special arrangements and the first thing I did was to go to the resort's website.  I looked all over the website -- at the home page, at the page for reservations, at the page for information about facilities, and even on the "contact" page and I couldn't find a phone number.  There were plenty of links for making an online reservation -- but there wasn't a phone number.  No where was there a phone number.

What's ironic is that this company prides itself on customer service -- but it appears that before you are a customer (meaning, before you get there) there is little customer service.  Even in this age of online order forms, reservation forms, and email, consumers still want to call someone.  There is always a measure of reassurance from a phone call that you can't get from an email.

So you must make your phone number prominent in all of your advertising and you must make it prominent on your website.  The best advice is to put your phone number -- and your address -- on every page of your website at the top of the page and at the bottom.  Make it big and make it bold.  Your phone number is every much a part of your brand and your name and your identity.

Ironically, we have one client who stopped advertising his phone number after I put him on TV.  He says he got so many phone calls it blew out his phone system.  And while he rejects to this day the suggestion to put his phone number in his ads and on his website I can't imagine that he isn't losing business because no one can call his stores.  If your phone system gets "blown out," then get a better phone system.

There is another advantage to talking to a customer who calls you with a question.  Besides answering their questions directly, you can immediately determine if there is an objection to doing business with you and you can immediately deal with that objection.  If a customer has an objection and can't tell you about it, how will you ever correct a problem?

MONDAY  JANUARY 28, 2013

Are you ready for the spending bubble?  Yes, a spending bubble, and it is likely to start just after Valentine's Day and continue till about the middle of March.  This spending bubble will be the result of delayed income tax refunds being sent out from the IRS.

In normal years, the spending bubble starts about early February -- but this year, because of last minute changes to the tax law -- the IRS was unable to process tax refunds and tax returns quickly and so the checks and refund payments will be made about February 15th according to the IRS.  I've seen estimates that put the average IRS refund at around $3,000. Will your business get a piece of that?

The refunds will be sent out right before and during the Presidents Weekend shopping period which puts more importance on advertising and marketing for Presidents Weekend.

I've always advised my clients to advertise early and to get your message "out there" before the usual Presidents Weekend crush of ads.  Consumers shop around for big ticket items so if you are selling something with a price tag of greater than $100 you have to advertise early to get your message implanted in the minds of consumers well before the actual holiday.  Shoppers are not going to watch a TV ad over Presidents Weekend, or read a newspaper ad over Presidents Weekend and immediately rush out to buy a new dish washer, or a new bedroom set, or a new watch.  Those shopping decisions were probably made days or even weeks before the Presidents Weekend sales.

So this means you should be advertising those big ticket items and your Presidents Weekend Sale now -- and at least one week before your competition starts to advertise.  And on Presidents Weekend you should do "last minute advertising" with only a fraction of your original budget -- because the bulk of your budget should have been spent a week earlier.

MONDAY  JANUARY 21, 2013

In this marketing memo, I want to discuss why TV Infomercials are a bargain for your marketing dollar.  As you know, I am primarily in the TV Infomercial business.  Our weekly Best Buys TV Show is, in fact, an Infomercial that we sub-divide among many advertisers with some taking a spot for one-minute and some taking a spot for as long as 5-minutes per show.  Together, all of the advertisers take up the 28-minutes and 30-seconds that comprise a half-hour TV Infomercial.

The truth is, TV Infomercials can be a great bargain and our show certainly is because we price the time on our show at much less than half of what a traditional commercial would cost in the same time period.  And we also include the cost of producing the video commercial in our "spot price."  If you were to buy a stand-alone commercial you would also have to pay to produce your own commercial which could be hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  And we have "real ratings" for our TV show while many consumers don't watch commercial spots.

I'm often asked to explain the economics of a half-hour infomercial. So, consider this:

Right now here in Los Angeles, the "going price" for a thirty-second commercial on overnight TV ranges between $50 and $150 -- but we'll use the $50 low price for this example. You'll find that $50 for 30-seconds low price generally between 2-AM and 4:30-AM.  But during that same time period of 2-AM to 4:30-AM a half-hour of Infomercial time sells on major stations for prices ranging from a high of about $800 to a low of about $400.  So in effect, you could have your own half-hour TV show for the cost of as few as 8 of the $50 thirty-second spots.

Now, compare what you are getting in terms of air time:  8 of the $50 thirty-second spots gives you 4 minutes of air time for $400.  One half-hour infomercial at $400 gives you 28 and a half minutes of air time or a price of $14.04 per minute which is $7.02 for each thirty-seconds.

Of course the big question is "will I reach as many viewers with an Infomercial as I would with a thirty-second spot on a regular TV show?"  And that is a valid question.  The answer is you will probably reach fewer viewers but your Infomercial will give you a greater impact on each potential viewer who watches your program.  Consider these factors:

1. Many TV viewers don't watch commercials and during the commercial "breaks" they go to the restroom, go to the microwave, check their cell phone, or change channels.

2. There is a limited amount of information that you can put into a 30-second commercial and if your business is not well known 30-seconds is not long enough to introduce your business, motivate the viewer, and tell the viewer where to find you.  Go ahead and time how long it takes for you to say the name of your business, the address, the phone number and your website.  How much time does that leave for you to tell your story in a 30-second spot?

Infomercials give you a lower cost of air time, the opportunity to reach more viewers in the span of the half hour time period (all those viewers changing channels), and the chance to provide more information to viewers who are willing to watch you for several minutes at a time.  Half-hour Infomercials are also ideal for explaining important or complicated subjects such as mortgage financing, foreclosure help, plastic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, financial issues and they are ideal for demonstrating products and even for doing a complete walk-through of a home for sale.

The best half-hour TV Infomercials are structured so that a viewer only has to watch for five-minutes or less to get the complete story about your business.  And a well produced Infomercial can keep viewers watching for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes or even the full half-hour and that is a lot of "convincing power at a low price."

By the way, some of our competitors charge a lot of money to show their copycat shows at "off hours" such as 2-AM or 5-AM.  Some of our competitors actually charge as much as $1,200 per minute for air time that literally costs $800 or less for the full half-hour.  I want you to remember that.

THURSDAY  JANUARY 10, 2013

This marketing memo is about common mistakes advertisers make.  Let me start by asking two questions:

1. Would you try to sell caskets at a bridal show?
2. Would you pack the ten pounds of groceries your customer just bought into a five pound paper bag?

The answer to both questions is of course "no" but this is what many businesses do when they advertise.

Let's talk about selling caskets at a bridal show.  Can you think of anything more inappropriate than trying to sell caskets or funeral services to women who are shopping for bridal gowns, honeymoon trips, and wedding favors and caterers?  Of course not.  Selling caskets at such a venue would be horribly out of place.  Yet, there are many businesses who put their ads in media that are terribly out of place.

The other day I got a call from an advertiser who asked me about placing a business-to-business advertisement on our Best Buys Show.  I told him I would not accept his advertisement or his money because I knew that my audience was not the audience he was trying to reach.  He wanted to reach business owners, and our TV show is made up of consumers.  I wished him well and suggested he try a trade magazine for the industry he was targeting, or perhaps direct mail.

It amazes me that so many businesses who want to reach "business owners" spend their advertising dollars in the wrong medium and often in a medium that reaches the wrong audience.  Just about every day I hear radio commercials from businesses trying to reach other business owners when in reality business owners make up only a tiny percentage of any radio station's audience.  This often happens because the business owner who is doing the advertising thinks other business owners listen to the same radio station he listens to.  Well, they might -- but while he is paying good money to reach those few business owners he is also paying out good money for a message that is being broadcast to a larger audience that doesn't care about his business-to-business services.

Now let's talk about packing ten pounds of groceries into a five pound bag.  Many advertisers do the same thing when they try to compress too many details into a TV or radio commercial that is too short.  Commercial spots have time limits. A sixty-second commercial can only run 60-seconds yet there are business who have a three-minute story to tell and think that it can be compressed into 60-seconds.

The other day an advertiser called me and said he wanted to purchase a sixty-second spot on our Best Buys show to advertise a financial product -- and it is a financial product that is not well known and needs explaining.  I told the advertiser that a one-minute spot would not inform or convince anyone to buy his financial product and the result would be that the money spent on the 60-second spot would be wasted money.  Either he would have to bite the bullet and buy a longer advertisement or spend his money elsewhere because I would not be responsible for his ad campaign falling flat because he was buying an ineffective 60-second spot.

Unfortunately, many small businesses think that they can advertise the way the "big boys" advertise with short 15-second and 30-second spots.  The reality is, small businesses that are not known need to invest more time and more money into longer TV and radio spots that help to build their brand and establish their identity.

Companies such as Bank of America and American Airlines can get away with short commercials because consumers know where to find a Bank of America branch and how to reach American Airlines.  But will they know where to find Margo's Pet Supply?  Keep this in mind if you are considering 30-second or even 60-second commercials: it takes 12-seconds to say a business name, address, phone number and website and in a 30-second commercial that doesn't leave much time to tell consumers why they should be doing business with that company.

THURSDAY  JANUARY 3, 2013

You should be newsjacking your advertising.  You are familiar with hijack, carjack and now be familiar with newsjack especially when it comes to your advertising.  When you newsjack, you put your advertising message in terms that relate to the latest news.  Why?  Because by linking your advertisements to the news, you are more likely to catch an extra glance or an extra listen from those following the big news of the day.

The latest big news was the "fiscal cliff" and you easily could have advertised your own special sales to keep shoppers from falling off their own fiscal cliff.  When Kate Middleton has her royal baby, you can easily advertise your best buys fit for a royal family and affordable for everyone.  Let's say you have a newspaper ad running at the same time the royal baby is delivered, don't you think that the words "deals for a royal family" headlining your ad might gain a glance?  Suppose your ad is on the radio, using the words "a growing royal family needs" just might give you some extra attention.

These are examples of newsjacking.  To be a successful newsjacker you cannot use "the same old ad" that you've been running for weeks and months. To be a successful newsjacker you have to be ready to change your ad copy on short notice.  With some media you can do this, but with others that require a lead time of weeks or months newsjacking is impossible.  So if you want to adopt a newsjacking ad campaign you will have to stick with media that will allow you to change your ads and your copy and even your visuals quickly which is probably difficult or impossible with things like coupons, billboards, magazines and even some newspaper ads and supplements.  TV and radio are perhaps the best ad media for making changes and for newsjacking.

And just a quick note about Valentine's Day advertising and marketing.  For those of you with best buys for Valentine's Day I strongly suggest you advertise early. Consumers need time to shop for jewelry, fragrances, clothing and other gift items.  But if you are selling flowers and candy, last minute advertising is okay.  In fact, the only last minute advertising for Valentine's Day should be for candy and flowers because it is too late for everything else.

MONDAY  DECEMBER 31, 2012

Happy New Year!  Here's a new year resolution for your marketing budget.  I want you to resolve to save money in your marketing budget for the new year.  How?  Resolve not to pay anyone for "search engine optimization" or anything related to it.  The truth is -- and I am one of the few people who will tell you the truth -- anything a search engine optimization company can do you can do yourself.  Oh, I admit that in the past "search engine optimization" was important, and SEO companies could pull out their tricks to help boost your online presence.  But the search engines including Google and the others have caught on to those tricks and now they've outsmarted the SEO companies.

I think SEO companies are doomed and they are going to have to reinvent themselves if they intend to keep making payments on the fancy offices and the fancy cars and the fancy houses that you and others have been financing for the last decade or so.  I know that SEO companies today can't do anything that you can't do yourself and I know this because I have suffered through their sales pitches -- and I've suffered over and over again to find out what "tricks" are left.  And there aren't any tricks left.

The tricks of years ago including keyword stuffing, and link building, and heat map page placements, and page titling just don't work anymore.  Sure, they used to be vital -- but in a year from now those strategies will be as dead as the dinosaurs if they aren't already.  Today, and to an even greater degree over the next few months, the only thing that will matter to the search engines is what new and interesting and unique information you have on your website -- and that all boils down to "content."

So very simply you have to have new and interesting articles and videos to make you stand out and if you don't stand out you go to the bottom of the list.  That means the only SEO that will count starting now is the new, unique information that you can put on your website -- and no SEO company can do that better than you.  And if your SEO company did a great job for you in the past to get you to the top of search results now -- in six months you'll be scratching your head and wondering what happened if you keep doing business the same way.

It's all over for the SEO companies.  Thank you for your service and hard work Mr. SEO Expert, and best of luck finding something else to do.  And the SEO companies are finding other things to do.  Now they are offering to write articles and to produce videos.  Unfortunately, they are writing the same sort of articles for everyone -- and Google doesn't want to see the same article on more than one website.  And, the SEO companies are also starting to produce videos but what do they know about producing videos?  I can already expect them to say that their SEO experts are now also video production experts.  Listen-- they'll say anything.  After all, their Range Rovers and beach front homes and fancy offices and platinum credit cards are on the line here.

So here's what I want you to do right now: start writing weekly articles on your website and be sure at least several paragraphs of the article start on your home page.  And if you can, write a new article every three days.  The best articles to write are articles about your business and your products and your services and what you can do for your customers.  After all, that's what your customers are searching for when they look for you on the Internet.

And start adding videos to your website -- at least one a month and one every week would be even better -- and have at least one video on your home page.  The videos should show your products, and your business, and they should explain to your customers what you can do for them.  After all, that's what your customers are searching for, isn't it?

And putting those two things -- articles and videos -- on your website sums up the trick for SEO for 2013.  And it's the only trick, and you didn't have to pay me a thousand dollars a month or five thousand dollars a year to find out.  Happy New Year!

THURSDAY  DECEMBER 27, 2012

This Marketing Memo is about a business owner I met the other day.  On the business owner's desk was a stack of freshly printed door hangers.  You know what they are-- brightly printed vertical signs with a cut-out to go over a door handle advertising his business.  He told me what they cost and I figured that with delivery his cost per home was about 8-cents.  A price of 8-cents per home including printing and placement on doors isn't really a bad deal, except when you start asking certain questions.  Here are the questions I thought about:

1. Will the door hanger company really put out the 1,600 door hangers that were ordered and printed?
2. Will the door hanger company place them on the doors of the best potential clients?
3. Will the homeowners who find the door hangers on their doors read them, or simply toss them?
4. Will the homeowner become hostile towards the advertiser because of the presence of the door hanger?

I really wanted to know if the door hanger strategy would be a hit or even a home run for the business?  Since that meeting with the business owner, I thought about possible answers to my questions. Here are some of them:

1. Can you trust the door hanger company to print and distribute the 1,600 door hangers?  Well, you hope you can, but without following around the door hanger employees how can you verify the job was done?  It's not like looking at a page of a newspaper or watching TV at a scheduled time, or even driving by the location of a billboard, is it?  Strike one.

2. Will the door hangers reach the targeted customer?  In this case, I can almost guarantee you the answer is no.  This advertiser wants to reach high-income clients who probably live in exclusive condos or expensive homes and access to their front doors are probably restricted.  Someone distributing these door hangers to reach the true clients of the business would have to gain access at condos with doormen, and would have to walk long distances in areas with gated homes or homes on large lots.  And there are probably housekeepers who throw things like door hangers directly into the trash. But since the employees of the door hanger company have to distribute the door hangers, are they more likely to go to neighborhoods with easier access even though they are not the targeted clients?  What do you think?  Strike two.

3. Even if the homeowners get the door hanger themselves will they read it?  You tell me -- do you read door hangers or do they go into the trash? Strike three.

4. Will the homeowner become hostile towards the advertiser?  This is actually a real danger that the advertiser faces.  When you advertise in an unpopular and unfriendly medium, you run the risk of being associated with the medium and your message being overlooked.  Your advertisement could even be held responsible for door hangers and the homeowners anger could be targeted on the ad appearing on the door hanger.  Remember Marshall McLuhan's book "Understanding Media: The Medium Is The Message"? Putting a classy business on a medium such as "door hangers" can undermine that advertisement and that business.  Yep, strike four.

I remember when Fidel Castro played baseball in Cuba as President after the revolution.  News reporters noted that when Fidel Castro was at bat he had four strikes before he was called out.  Well, I am afraid that this advertiser has four strikes with his door hangers and this business owner can't make up the rules the way el Presidente did.

FRIDAY  DECEMBER 21, 2012

Here is some news that could put some search engine optimization companies out of business: it is no longer important that you are on top of the search results on Google and other search engines. Now, how is that for shocking news!  Some new research that I just saw says that websites that are ranked lower on a page or are even listed on the second page of search results can do better than the sites that are ranked first or second or third. So what does this mean?  It means save your money and don't pay a dime to a SEO company that says that they can get you at the top of the page for search results.

So what happened?  Well, what happened is this: the search engines started to add snippets or clips of the "content" or article that was included in the search result.  And consumers started to read those snippets of content, and if the first website on the search page didn't have an interesting "snippet" then the consumers went down the page to find a website with a "snippet" they were interested in.

Aha!! This changes everything. Let me repeat: this changes everything.

Now, it is more important than ever before to have interesting and original articles and videos on your website, because being at the top of the search results does not carry the weight it used to.  This means you have to write interesting, original articles about something new and this means you have to have new videos and keep updating.  The new content will make the search engines list you higher on the search results, and the new content will attract consumers as they scan the search results for the information they really want to see.

And if a search engine company tells you that they can get you at the top of the page of search results, now you can tell them that the new research shows being at the top of the page of search won't impress anybody anymore.

FRIDAY  DECEMBER 14, 2012

Make a New Year resolution to change something on the home page of your website every day.  When you change your home page on a daily basis, you are forcing the search engines to look at your site every day, and if the search engines see that your site changes every day they are more likely to give you a higher position in search results.

So what should you change?  This is easy.  Put something new on your home page.  For example: you just got a delivery of new polo shirts.  Or, you just mixed some custom paint in a shade of green that surprised you and you think other customers should check it out.  How about this: your mortgage company just financed a family that had a foreclosure two years ago and they are going to be homeowners again.  Or, you might put on your home page an introduction about a new employee.  And of course, if you have a sale or promotion or a discount on a certain item that definitely belongs on your home page.

This "news" can be in a dedicated box on your home page that your web designer should allow any designated employee to change.  Insist that your web designer does this.  Of course web designers don't want anyone to touch "their websites" because they want to get paid for every little change. But 2013 is a new year and it's time for you to take control -- do some updating yourself without having to pay a web designer an hourly rate to do something that should take five minutes or less.  Remember, your company website belongs to you and not to your web designer.

MONDAY  DECEMBER 10, 2012

I just read a fascinating report about the newest marketing trends from a respected marketing company.  I won't go into all of the details of that report, but I do want to point out what I think is the most important point for you -- and for me.  It concerns your website and the importance of content -- pictures and words and video -- on your website.  The report says that mass marketing gets a 2% response rate, but Inbound marketing via your website can produce conversion rates of 20% or more.  In case you never heard the phrase before, "inbound marketing" is when consumers come looking for you. What does this mean and why is it significant?

What it means is simply this: all of that advertising you do, if you're lucky, will get a response from 2% of the people who receive the advertisement. But when people come to your website, you are likely to get a response from 20% or more of those website visitors.  Why?  Here are two reasons why I think websites get better responses than traditional advertising:

1. Visitors to your website are already motivated.  Chances are they looked for the product or service you are selling.  They want to buy -- that's why they came to your site.

2. Websites can have more information to persuade a potential customer.  Websites can have articles and pictures and videos to help sell your product or service -- and there is much more content on a website than you can ever squeeze into a 30-second or 60-second commercial, or even in a newspaper or magazine advertisement.  Even a full page ad in a newspaper cannot hold all of the information that you can put on your website.

So how do you improve the effectiveness of your website?  First, you have to be sure that your website has the information consumers are looking for and you have to be sure you have enough new and original content including video and articles so that the search engines give you a higher position in their search results.

This means you must follow the golden rules of website management:

1. You must put new content (information) on your website on a regular basis.  Search engines rank websites that add new content higher than websites that don't have frequent updates.

2. You must have videos on your website because search engines rank websites with videos higher than websites without video.  The search engines know that consumers want to see videos on the Internet, so if you are not adding new videos to your site, the search engines will push you lower on their "search result lists."

3. Your website must use the "keywords" that consumers are searching for.  Talk to your customers when they come into your business and ask them what they are looking for or how can you help them and then listen to their response and remember the words they use.  Then use those same words and same phrases in the articles on your website because those are the "keywords" that those customers will use when they make a "search."  If consumers are coming into your bedding store asking for "fuzzy blue pillowcases" be sure you not only stock "fuzzy blue pillowcases" but be sure the phrase "fuzzy blue pillowcases" is used on your website.

MONDAY  DECEMBER 3, 2012

This is the time of year when many businesses shoot themselves in the foot. They shoot themselves in the foot because they have a great product, or a great service, and they have a great price -- and no one knows about it.  The fourth quarter is notorious for business people shooting themselves in the foot because they fail to advertise -- or fail to advertise enough and lose out to the competition.  When you lose out on a sale to your competition you lose twice.  First you lose out on the current sale, and second you lose out on future sales.  You lose out again, because your competition that gets the sale also gets stronger and they will be able to advertise more in the future.

If you haven't already done it, it's probably too late for you to set up any advertising now for Christmas.  Air time and page space has been sold, art work and production has been completed, schedules for broadcast and print have been made.  You should have planned your holiday advertising two months ago.

Now, you should be looking at January advertising for February events including Valentine's Day and the Presidents Weekend sales. If you're not already planning your January advertising and setting up your January advertising now, you are shooting yourself in the foot again.  You might not think you have to advertise early, and plan for it early, so here are four basic reasons why you must be early:

1. Your customers decide in advance how they are going to spend their money.  The tough economy has destroyed a lot of impulse shopping.  Today, consumers have budgets and plan who to buy for and how much and where and shop for the best price.  Impulse buying is pretty much in the history books.

2. Media have their own production schedules that require ads to be purchased and produced days, weeks or even months in advance.

3. Even if you can get in just under the wire, those who plan their advertising media early tend to get the better prices and better placements for their advertisements.  If you want the entire back cover of a magazine only one advertiser can buy it -- and it's going to be the advertiser who places the order first.  If you want to buy a spot in the first commercial break in the evening news, the first advertiser who orders that spot is going to get it.  If you want to run your TV infomercial at 7:30-AM on Tuesday on a particular station, the first advertiser to lock in that time slot is going to get it.

4. When you advertise at the last minute, your advertisement can be lost in the flood of other last minute advertising.  Your sale ads will be lost among everyone else's sale ads.

So let's talk about February again: we have Valentine's Day and Presidents Weekend.  The more expensive your merchandise the earlier you have to start advertising it.

If you are selling diamond tennis bracelets you have to advertise earlier than the florist selling a single red rose.  The single red rose is a last minute impulse item (buy it, and you'll look cheap guys) while the tennis bracelet requires shopping and planning and very few shoppers -- if any shoppers -- will respond to a last minute ad the day before Valentine's Day to buy one.

The florist selling the single red rose might get by advertising at the last minute, but the jeweler selling the tennis bracelet needs to advertise early or they'll be shooting themselves in the foot.

And this idea about advertising early goes beyond selling merchandise.  It also involves selling services.  If you are a tax preparation company it's too late to advertise tax services on April 15th.  If you are selling home mortgage services it's too late to sell your service after a family has decided to work with a real estate agent because chances are the real estate agent has already recommended another mortgage company.

There is a good reason why the phrase "the early bird catches the worm" is so engrained in business.

MONDAY  NOVEMBER 26, 2012

Before you know it, everyone will be talking about New Year Resolutions, and this is an ideal opportunity for you to do some creative marketing for your business.  You can make your business part of your customers' resolutions -- and you can do this no matter what kind of business you have.  Certain businesses are a "natural" for New Year Resolution Marketing and they include:

Cosmetic dentistry
Plastic surgery
Health and fitness clubs
Stop smoking treatments
Weight loss programs

Other businesses can easily promote New Year Resolution Marketing, for example:

Resolve to get that old roof fixed.
Resolve to give your home that new kitchen.
Resolve to replace those leaky windows.
Resolve to repaint and wallpaper.
Resolve to have a will and estate plan.
Resolve to get new furniture for the home office.
Resolve to get the kids better mattresses.
Resolve to replace that living room furniture.

MONDAY  NOVEMBER 19, 2012

Do you know what makes investors successful?  It's diversification -- they don't put all their eggs in one basket.  They put some of their investment dollars in mutual funds, and some in bonds, and some in CDs, and even a small percentage goes into hard assets including gold. Diversification is proven to work in the world of investing.

Do you know what makes advertisers successful?  It's concentration -- they don't take a shotgun approach to the world and instead look to reach their specific target audience as closely as possible.

Unfortunately, too many advertisers use an approach that is similar to "diversification" and they buy a "shotgun" approach.  For example, they put advertisements all over the Internet instead of on specific websites.  Or, they put billboards up all over a region instead of where their specific customers might be.  Or, they buy wide-circulation newspapers of which only a small percentage of the circulation reaches their target customer.  Or, they buy a "run of schedule" for their radio and TV commercials and those spots might run when their target audience is at work or sleeping and not listening to radio or watching TV.

Advertising today is really a science -- and there are statistics that can help an advertiser find the best advertising method to reach the specific audience that represents their customer base.  But to make the best use of this advertising science, you can't be lazy, and your advertising agency can't be lazy.  This means you can't do things the old way. You simply can't buy the same newspaper ads you bought five years ago.  You can't buy the same TV commercials you bought five years ago.  And you can't do business with an ad agency that conducts business the same way it did five years ago.

Media has changed, demographics have changed, audiences have changed, living patterns have changed.  And anyone still doing advertising the same way they did five years ago is without a doubt missing the "moving target" that is today's advertising industry.  There are still businesses who buy full page ads in newspapers and newspaper inserts despite the new data that shows rapidly declining newspaper circulations and readership. There are still business who spend a lot of money on "yellow pages" ads despite the fact that Internet searches come first and fingers now tap on keyboards before they flip through the yellow pages. There are still businesses who buy traditional radio and TV spots despite the fact that the traditional radio and TV station audiences have been decimated by the growth of satellite radio and cable TV.

And what's worse -- there are still ad agencies who don't take the time, or do the research, to find where their clients' money would be best spent and still do business the old fashioned way, buying the same "old media" that has lost its audience and its punch.

Consumers don't watch TV at 6-PM with the family at the dinner table like they used to.  Reading the morning paper or evening paper is no longer a regular routine.  There aren't just three TV networks anymore.  Yellow pages books aren't read and go out of business, and even "daily deals websites" are failing while consumers have caught on and now know that "search" can be a better use of their time than clicking on paid Internet ads.

MONDAY  NOVEMBER 12, 2012

Many times when I approach a business about advertising either on our Best Buys TV Show or having their own TV Infomercial, the business owner will say to me, "I tried advertising and it doesn't work."  And the business owner cuts off the discussion -- right then and there.  I've heard the same story many times, and over the years I've been able to figure what happened -- and what went wrong -- to make that business owner say "I tried advertising and it doesn't work."

What I have found, is that the business owners who say they tried advertising and it didn't work for them either paid too much for the advertising they utilized, or, they bought the wrong kind of advertising.  The truth is, advertising works when you don't pay too much for the results the advertising will give you, and advertising works when you buy the correct kind of advertising that reaches your targeted customer.  Let me give you a couple of illustrations, first for paying too much for the results you get:

You are paying a high-priced travel and leisure magazine $25,000 for an advertisement for your landscaping business. You bought that advertisement because you read that magazine yourself, as do your friends who are also business owners.  But, you get only one new customer who orders a $5,000 landscaping job from you.  Clearly, you paid too much for too little return.

And here's an illustration for paying for the wrong kind of advertising:

You spend $800 for a morning drive-time sixty-second commercial on a radio station to advertise the grand opening of your new men's clothing store that specializes in business suits.  You bought that spot because someone told you that the radio station has a lot of listeners.  But, no one comes to your grand opening because, you later discovered that the radio station has programming that caters to young teenage girls by playing "love songs" and reading love letters on the air between junior high school students and teenage girls are calling the disc jockey on the radio station making "dedications" of songs.

The bottom line is that "buying advertising" is not simple, and it's not easy.  You have to know your target audience, you have to know if the medium you are buying reaches your target audience, and you have to know if you are paying the right price to reach your target audience.  You just can't buy a "spot" on a radio station or TV station or cable channel or magazine "because everybody knows it." You buy a spot only if it reaches the targeted customer and at the right price.

Just the other day one of my clients said "I want to do a commercial that will run on "Channel XYZ" because everybody knows "Channel XYZ" -- but we advised against it because the advertiser was selling a particular product for retirees, and its targeted customers do not watch the "youthful oriented programs" that "Channel XYZ" broadcasts.

In the media business, it's all about buying "demographics" and paying the right price for the "size of the audience."  In other words, you must know the cost per viewer or household, or the cost per thousand of households of the audience you want to reach.  If you don't know what audience you are buying and how much it costs you to reach your targeted viewer or listener or reader, you might also become one of those business owners who will say "I tried advertising and it doesn't work."

MONDAY  NOVEMBER 5, 2012

We shot a new video for one of our clients the other day, and during the course of the afternoon I asked him how his website is doing.  "Oh, it's okay," he told me, "but we're not selling anything on it."  That's okay, I thought.  Not every website has to sell a product.  Most websites are just for information and for advertising and for promotion.  Too many brick and mortar businesses think that they have to have an ecommerce website -- a website that sells something -- and really, they don't have to.

Unfortunately, when businesses get caught up in the idea that they must have an ecommerce site, they often spend too much money and waste too much time on a site that they are really not prepared to run and operate and a site that may not be right for their type of business.  You have to understand that not every business can be successful selling merchandise on the web. The web is good for selling things that consumers already have, or already tried or already used or bought in traditional stores such as makeup, perfumes, DVDs, branded shoes and ties and shirts with specific sizes that they know will fit, and movie tickets and plane tickets.

The web is not good for selling things that are unique and must be tried on, and something that might not look the same as it does in a photo.  Pricey clothing, new styles of shoes, jewelry especially with diamonds, athletic gear that has to be fit to meet an individual's height and weight, and unique pieces of furniture can be troublesome selling and buying online.

I really doubt that anyone will want to buy ski boots, or a diamond engagement ring, or custom suits over the Internet. These items need to be "tested" and need to meet exact tastes.  They are not ideal for ecommerce and if you do try to sell them via the web you must be prepared for returns, and a great deal of customer service before and after the sale.

But even if you are selling ski boots, diamond engagement rings and custom suits, having a website is critical for other benefits including advertising your store, marketing your styles and merchandise, and informing potential customers about the right way to buy these items.  Even though you might not sell your items over your website, by telling consumers how to buy these items "the right way" can earn you credibility so that consumers will come to your brick and mortar store to buy from you.

Perhaps the most important thing a website can do for a business is to sell its credibility and reliability to the public. Don't be swept up in the idea that you must sell anything on your website but your own reputation. Because as we all know, having a great reputation goes a long, long way to helping you sell in the future.

MONDAY  OCTOBER 29, 2012

An advertiser contacted me last week to talk about shooting and producing a commercial for them for the Internet.  Many Internet companies including Google are now offering "video ads" in addition to text and display (photo/graphic) advertisements. He was asking me for guidance, including how long his web advertising video should be?  Quite frankly, I've seen web commercials that have had varying lengths ranging from 10-seconds to two-minutes or even longer.  The various web portals might have their own time limits and if they do you would of course have to follow their rules.

But I did my own research on the subject and I found some interesting data.  But first, we have to separate a "web commercial" that "intervenes" in someone's browsing the web from a video that someone chooses to watch.

If someone is choosing to watch a video then you want your video to be of good quality and of sufficient length that it helps get your message across without boring the viewer.  Videos that consumers "choose" to watch could range from one minute to five minutes to a half hour or even longer.  There really aren't any "time limits" if the web user chooses to watch the video.

But there is a difference if the video is a commercial that "intervenes" in the web visitor's browsing.  The reality is that web visitors have a very short attention span, and because they can quickly "click off" a page and onto another page it is important that "videos that intervene" or videos that "get in the way" of regular browsing are short and to the point or you risk that the web viewer will "click away" and not see your message.

Now consider this: there are various studies that show that website visitors will "click away" in less than eight seconds (8 seconds) if the subject does not interest them. And when you apply that to video commercials that "intervene" or "get in the way" it means that web commercials should be no longer than eight seconds long.

Now, if you are limited to an eight-second Internet commercial just how effective can it be?  Can you get a message across in eight seconds?  Well, if you're promoting the movie "Argo" or "Diet Coke in new cans" then 8 seconds just might be enough time.  But if you are trying to promote a business that is for the most part new or unfamiliar and isn't on the same level as Bank of America, American Airlines, McDonalds or other big name corporate giants, I would suggest that 8-second Internet commercials are not for you.  They are probably ineffective and will never get your message across.

THURSDAY  OCTOBER 25, 2012

Many businesses that are concerned about improving customer service frequently send out surveys to their customers asking how they can do things better.  When I use the drive-thru service at Jack In The Box the server always asks "how was my service?"  But rather than a query about improving service a simple "thank you for your business" could go a lot farther.

When was the last time you thanked your customers?  A "thank you" lets customers know they are appreciated.  You might even try a "big thank you" that includes a coupon for shopping again.  And if you're really adventurous, you could send out a coupon that says "we want to thank you right now for your next visit, so accept this thank you coupon now."

I am going to challenge the marketing pros who suggest sending out those after-purchase surveys.  The after purchase survey will not make that purchase any better.  And it might not even get the customer back. But a "thank you" with a "thank you discount" could go a lot farther than any survey in getting customers to return.

MONDAY  OCTOBER 22, 2012

This Marketing Memo is about "marketing mistakes," and two of our clients just made these mistakes -- and I am not responsible for either one of them.  Yes, sometimes a business owner makes a move without me.  And as unbelievable as that sounds, it does happen.  So, I want you to learn from their mistakes.

THE DIRECT MAIL MISTAKE

The first business owner decided to invest in a direct mail campaign to his existing client list of 8,000 names. He thinks it's a good idea. I told him it's not, and here's why:  He underestimated the true cost of direct mail.  When most business owners look at "direct mail costs" they look at the cost of printing and sending the piece of mail.  The lowest price I found for delivery alone (does not include printing) is 19-cents per item.  This particular business owner wanted to send out 8,000 pieces which would cost him $1,520 plus the cost of printing.  Let's add five-cents per item for printing and that's another $400.  Total cost: about $1,920 or about 24-cents per piece.  And that's cheap.

But what he overlooked is the actual number of recipients who will really read the piece of mail that arrives in their mailbox.  Do you read what is commonly called junk mail?  Even if the mailer arrives in a first class envelope, do you pay attention to it or does it go in the trash with the other postcards, flyers, and inserts?  Well let's be generous and say that 10% of the recipients actually read his mailer (it's really closer to three percent).  That means the cost of reaching a household has just skyrocketed to $2.40 and that's very expensive marketing.

He made a second mistake: he is sending that "very expensive piece of mail" to his existing customer list.  Why?  His current customers already know the business.  If anything, he should be sending out an email blast costing a few cents per recipient to those customers.  He should have collected their email address, not their snail-mail addresses.

But his biggest mistake is that by sending out direct mail to his existing customer base, he is not expanding his customer base.  When you spend money on marketing and advertising it should always be targeted at reaching new customers.  Your existing customers should be retained with the least expensive marketing including emails, and emailing coupons and offers.  By the way, our Best Buys TV Show reaches a household for the cost of about one-half cent including the cost of production of the video. Compare that to $2.40 per household or even to just 24-cents per household.

THE AD PLACEMENT MISTAKE

Now the mistake made by the second business owner: he put an ad in the regional newspaper on the obituary page.  Why?  Well, it's true that a lot of people turn to the obits when they get the daily paper.  I admit when I get my college alumni magazine the first thing I do is turn to the obituaries and hope I don't see the names of anyone I know... or my own name.  That's not a joke by the way-- a few years ago the alumni magazine made a mistake and printed the names of several alumni who were still alive.

But let's get back to the ad on the obituary page.  This business owner is selling furniture and to be honest, people looking for names of the dead are not exactly shopping for furniture.  He would have been much better off putting his ad for furniture in the real estate section where homeowners and home buyers and home sellers might be interested in sprucing up their current home or their next one.  He also might have considered the page with the weather because if the weather forecast is for rain, readers might think about new furniture to make staying indoors more enjoyable.

There are other places where you don't want to place your ad.  For example, you don't want to rent ad space on the side of a garbage truck because you don't want your business associated with garbage.  And you don't want to place your TV commercial on the news when it might appear right after the story about a murder or horrible accident because viewers might either ignore your commercial, or the horror of the news story might carry over to your commercial.  Imagine for example: the newscaster just reported that five people died in a fiery crash, and the next thing the viewer sees is your commercial "for a wonderful living room sofa that will keep you happy for years to come."

WEDNESDAY  OCTOBER 17, 2012

One of our clients called because she was very concerned that she did everything we told her to do: added new content, added videos, updated her site -- but her rank on Alexa.com was still going lower. I told her to ignore Alexa.com.  Alexa.com is not fair, nor accurate, and quite frankly no one should be paying attention to it.  Alexa.com says it ranks more than 25-million websites in the world for the sites that have the most visitors. Facebook and Google and YouTube are in the top 3.  And our client was concerned that her rank had dropped from about 1.7-million to about 2-million.

Let me tell you the truth about Alexa.com.  First, Alexa gets its data only from people who use the Alexa toolbar on their computer.  If you don't use the Alexa toolbar (and few web users do) Alexa has no idea what sites you are looking at.

Alexa admits that unless you are among the top 100,000 websites in the world, the data for your site is absolutely unreliable.  And frankly, it doesn't matter what your "rank" is.  What matters is how your own traffic is and whether or not it is growing.

In fact, our client's web traffic has been growing nicely, so the drop in rank means nothing.  The drop in rank only means that some websites that may be in Asia or Europe or Africa have been getting more traffic than her website.  And quite honestly, she doesn't care about web traffic from Asia or Europe or Africa because she is selling to consumers who want her product in her geographic area.

By the way, Alexa rankings can be manipulated.  Because the "universe" of Alexa toolbar users is small, if you got your friends and employees to install the Alexa toolbar and to only go to your website using Alexa (and no other websites) you will get a bump up in Alexa's ranking.  If you want to do this, simply install Alexa's toolbar on another browser that you do not use.  Then use that browser and the Alexa toolbar only when you go to your own site.

By the way, my site www.AlanBestBuys.com has ranked from about 100,000 (the lower the number the better) to as low as about 4-million over the past year and I don't care.  Because right now, we are enjoying the highest web traffic and the most page views we have ever had in more than five years.  Our Alexa rank (we're about 779,000 in the world, and about 259,000 in the USA as I write this) means zip, nada, zero, zilch.  But it's nice to know that my rank is much higher than the websites of my competitors -- and that's about all it's worth.

MONDAY  OCTOBER 15, 2012

Three different clients this week contacted us about shooting new videos for their websites.  I am glad they realize the importance of having videos -- and new videos -- on their websites.  Here are three reasons why you should have videos on your website, and at least one video on your home page:

1.  Having a video on your home page will help you with Search Engine Ranking and Search Engine Optimization.  The reality is that consumers want to see videos when they go online. YouTube.com is now one of the top three websites in the world.  And search engines know this, so they rank websites with videos higher in search results.  Just like color TV replaced black and white TV -- videos on websties are replacing text-only websites.

2.  When a consumer views your video on your website it's as if the consumer walked into your store or walked into your business and had a conversation with you.  The video lets you introduce your potential customer to your products and services.  You might be able to showcase a new product, a new deal, or explain to the potential customer why you deserve to get their shopping or business dollar.

3.  The longer you keep a consumer on your website, the greater the chance that the consumer will do business with you.  It's true.  If a video runs two minutes, you have the potential keeping the consumer on your site for two minutes and that gives you a better chance of making a sale than if your video runs only one minute or thirty seconds.  Some "marketing advisors" say you should have short fifteen or 20-second clips on your website.  This is nonsense, because after one 20-second clip a visitor to your site can simply move on to another website. But if the video runs two-minutes, you have a chance for keeping the visitor on your site for the two full minutes and that "time investment" by the consumer could prompt them to stick around on your site and forget about shopping elsewhere.

THURSDAY  OCTOBER 11, 2012

You should know where visitors to your website are coming from.  If your business is in Calabasas and your website statistics show that your web visitors are coming from Riverside -- about two hours away -- then you know you have a problem with the branding of your website.  Perhaps you don't have enough of the correct geographic keywords used on your site.  I know that many of you have websites that list a lot of city names as places where you do business or communities that you serve.  Some web designer probably told you that by listing all of those city names it will help you in Search Engine Optimization.  Well, that used to be good information but not it is wrong information.

About a year ago, the search engine companies embarked on a new way to rank websites for searches.  And the search engines decided to ignore those "city lists" that many websites have at the bottom of their home page.  The new rule at the search engines is that if the city or geographic area is not used in the real, actual content of the site, they will ignore the use of the city names or locations.

So, if you are a plumber in Calabasas and you really want to show up in search results for a plumber in Calabasas, you need to have real articles on your website about your plumbing services in Calabasas for the search engines to take notice.  This is all part of the drive for "relevancy" in website content.  Think of it this way: the search engines are now becoming "editors" the universe of web users.  The search engines want to assure their customers that if they use their search engine that they will get the best content for their search request.  The rules have changed so make sure you follow the rules.

MONDAY  OCTOBER 8, 2012

In this Marketing Memo, I'm going to mention a few subjects.

First subject: What is it about signs? Several of our clients have delayed TV ads because they were waiting for new signage on their buildings. Meanwhile, they seem to forget that they are losing sales every day and sitting with inventory every day while they wait for the new signs.  Don't get me wrong, signage is important. But it's not important enough to put an advertising campaign on hold or to let your business grind to a halt. Just do the math. How many people will drive by your building and might see your sign? Now, how many people will find out about your business if you advertise it on TV? There might be a few hundred drive-bys that might see your sign, but that TV spot will reach thousands of customers who will see your business, your name, your address, your phone number and your website -- and your deals.  And while you wait for your signage, that inventory just sits, doesn't it?

Second subject: Is there a quick way to improve Search Engine Optimization or search ranking results? I get this question every day and yes, there is a quick way to improve your SEO and your search rank. The quick way is to make a change to the home page of your website by adding a new headline and a few lines of copy indicating a new deal, or a new tip, or the arrival of new merchandise, or a new service that you offer. Each time you change your home page you improve the chances that your search rank will rise. If you can, update your home page every day because websites that change their home page every day get scanned or "crawled" more frequently by the search engines.

Third subject: How far in advance should I advertise? I am also asked this question a lot, and the answer is as far in advance as you can without looking silly and without wasting your money. You are going to have to do some reasoning here. It is not too early to start advertising for Christmas especially if you have layaways and if you have items that will be socked-away early because they are likely to sell-out early. But it is too early if you are selling flowers for the holidays because flowers are usually ordered at the "last minute." It is not too early to advertise big-ticket items for Christmas including pricey jewelry or furniture or vacation trips -- because families plan and save and shop around for these deals. It is too early to advertise fruit cakes and wallets and sweaters and bathrobes. And it is not too early to start advertising your "brand" for the big holiday rush.

And if you think that it's okay to advertise at "the last minute" when everyone else is advertising you are making a big mistake. When you advertise during the last minute crunch, your ad will be competing with many other ads, and you will lose the competitive advantage that early advertisers get when they establish their brand and advantage pricing early. Remember this: consumers' opinions and shopping plans can be molded months in advance.

MONDAY  OCTOBER 1, 2012

I hate 30-second TV commercials, and that makes me an "outcast" in the advertising industry.  Most advertising agencies push 30-second TV commercials because they are very profitable.  Most TV commercial production companies push 30-second TV commercials because they are not only profitable, but advertisers usually order several different versions.  Of course TV stations love 30-second TV commercials because that's their bread and butter.

But I hate 30-second TV commercials and I don't recommend them to my clients.  Yes, that makes me an outcast.  Even my partners in the advertising business say I'm wrong for not pushing 30-second spots, but I just can't.  And I want to give you my reasons why I just don't push 30-second spots.

1.  Unless you are a well-known company you can't get your message across in 30-seconds.  Thirty-second spots are great for McDonalds and Bank of America and American Airlines because TV viewers know where McDonalds is, they know where Bank of America is, and they know how to make a reservation on American Airlines.  But can a company like Joe's Hardware get its message across in thirty seconds and that message includes why the consumer should call Joe's Hardware and the address and phone number and website of Joe's Hardware?  Heck no.  It takes 12-seconds to give a company's name, address and phone number and website and that leaves only 18-seconds to tell the consumer why they should care.

2.  Consumers just don't watch commercials like they used to.  And when I say "like they used to" I mean like they used to watch in the 1980s and the 1990s.  TV viewing habits have changed.  The first change came with the hand-held remote which meant that consumers didn't have to get up from the sofa or out of bed to change channels.  Then came VCRs and DVRs and consumers don't even have to watch "live TV" anymore and when a commercial comes on they can "skip it" or "scan by it" or fast-forward.

3.  And when commercials do come on TV and consumers are watching "live TV" they pretty much know that they have two-minutes (the length of most "commercial breaks") to go to the bathroom, run to the microwave, pick up the cell phone, yell for the kids, or change channels to see what else is on.

4.  And when you do have a 30-second commercial on TV, your commercial will be in a "commercial break" that has two or three other commercials in it.  This poses another challenge because your commercial is competing for attention with the other commercials in the same commercial break.  Here's an example: let's say your commercial is the last commercial in the group of four commercials.  The first commercial is about a special airfare deal which gets the attention of the viewers who immediately run to the computer to book the flight -- and takes them away from the TV so they miss your commercial that follows the airline's spot.

5.  And do I have to mention that TV commercial time is expensive?  And the bigger the audience watching the TV show that your commerical is in, the more expensive the commercial time is.  Unfortunately, no one prices TV commercials for the audience watching the commercial -- the TV commercial is always priced for the audience watching the program that the commercial is in.

From time to time you will see me in various TV commercials.  Yes, I do them when an ad agency hires me to do them, or an advertiser insists that I do one for them.  But I don't push 30-second TV commercials.  I would rather see a client invest in their own half-hour TV infomercial which has a better chance of convincing a consumer to do business with them, or to take a two-minute spot on our Best Buys show which is actually a mini-infomercial and gives you an opportunity to convince consumers that you do have a better service or a better price and product.

MONDAY  SEPTEMBER 24, 2012

The Internet business is going to go through another big change very soon -- and a lot of the money you might have spent on picking that "perfect website address" may be going out the window, down the tubes, and into the gutter.   Soon, a new group of "generic top level domains" will be approved for use by ICANN, the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers which is the organization that decides what web addresses are allowed.

Recently ICANN opened bidding for all sorts of new "top level domains" and several big companies and entrepreneurs have been stepping up, paying application fees of $185,000 or more to stake their claims on the new top level domains.  These people and businesses could have a big impact on your business.

So soon, the American Automobile Association might have a website address such as www(dot)membership(dot)aaa and McDonalds might have a website address such as www(dot)locations(dot)mcdonalds and General Motors might have www(dot)dealers(dot)chevrolet.

So what does this mean for you and your web business?  It could mean that all the money you've been pouring into search engine optimization could be money out the window or down the drain.

Let's say your business is operating a college.  Someone has already applied for (dot)college and if you've got a dating website someone has already signed up for (dot)dating.  Also, (dot)Furniture is taken, Golf is taken, Fun is taken, Ford is taken, Cadillac is taken... and you get the picture.

What this means is that what you thought was a great website address before won't be in just a few more months.  Now, someone with a website address such as InlandEmpireHomes(dot)realty could have an edge over someone who has InlandEmpireHomes(dot)com.

This will probably force the search engines to also make changes in how they operate.  Search engines have been using words contained in URLs (website names) to help list their results for searches.  But now, with so many companies that could be listed under (dot)realestate or (dot)marketing or (dot)casino or (dot)poker the search engines will have to do a better, more in-depth job of finding which sites really belong at the top of search engine results.

So what I expect is that the search engines will put less emphasis on website "names" and even more emphasis on website content.  After all, in a few more months there could literally be thousands of website addresses ending in (dot)realty or (dot)furniture.

This really puts the emphasis on the basics for developing content: more articles, more videos, updated articles, updated videos, blogs, forums and discussion groups, Q&A sections, and better writing that makes your website stand out from all the others in your field.

For example, the company or organization that controls (dot)landlord could decide what companies can have a website ending in (dot)landlord, and the company or organization that controls (dot)fashions can put great pressure on all sorts of competing businesses.

So start preparing for the new Top Level Domains.  That means, start improving the content of your website with new articles, new videos, and new and improved information.

WEDNESDAY  SEPTEMBER 19, 2012

When it comes to advertising, you are damned if you don't and you could be damned if you do.

Advertising is essential in a competitive market -- and this is a very competitive market. You have competition, and consumers are not spending their money without looking for the best buys. So you must be "out there" letting your customers -- and your competition's customers -- know what you've got.  You have to advertise whether you are selling products or performing a service.  That's just the way it is.  The only thing that is keeping you from doing more business is a combination of the amount of advertising you do and the effectiveness of your advertising.  And that's where you can be damned if you do advertise.

I was in the news business for more than 30 of my professional years and along the way I have had various stints in advertising.  I used to be a part owner of a radio station in suburban New York City and I sold radio ads.  I've owned several successful website companies.  And now, TV and Infomercial advertising is my full-time gig.  If I were still in the news business, I could do an investigation about what I know about how businesses are misled by the advertising business.  I know the tricks and I won't use them on my clients.  But let me tell you flat out that otherwise smart business people are getting misled every day in the advertising world.  They are being damned for advertising.

I had this discussion with a client the other day.  He wanted to try something "new" he said, so he decided to buy into a pitch from an ad agency that was selling him "two ad placements for one price."  What this businessman didn't realize is that while the "package price" looked cheap, the media he was buying was even cheaper and he actually overpaid by more than 50-percent which he would have discovered had he bothered to seek "a second opinion."

This is a true story:  A couple of years ago a major electronics retailer in downtown Los Angeles asked me to produce his TV commercials that would air on Cable TV.  The business owner told me he was getting a great price -- "only one dollar per spot," he claimed.  I was not responsible for buying the "media," and only for producing the commercial.  To be honest, I told him not to make the "media buy" but he insisted it was a great deal.

Well, six months later the business owner called me and said his commercials were not working.  No one was coming in from the TV spots.  Why?  I told him to call his account executive and ask for a print-out of where and when his spots ran.  He got the print out -- it was dozens of pages -- and here's what I showed him:

His commercials were running outside of the Los Angeles area he wanted to be in.  They were running on children's TV shows and networks in overnight hours, and more than 95% of the spots were not running on the main Cable Channels he wanted to be on including CNN, History, Travel, ESPN and CNBC.  And that price of "one dollar per spot" that he loved?  Well, it was one-dollar per spot per zone, and there were dozens and dozens of zones in a geographic area.  So his bottom line was this:  Six months of media, costing $25,000 per month, went down the drain.

And then there's the business owner who bought ads in a newspaper because of its wide circulation, except the circulation numbers he was looking at were from a decade ago.  And then there is the business owner who bought ads on a radio station that he listens to, but his customer base doesn't listen to all-news radio, they listen to pop music.  And there's another business owner who puts his TV infomercials on at 5-AM because he likes to watch himself on TV as he gets in his early morning workout -- then he complains he didn't get a response because his target audience isn't watching TV at 5-AM.

Advertising: damned if you don't and you can be damned if you do if you don't have the right information or make the wrong choices.

MONDAY  SEPTEMBER 17, 2012

One of our clients called me during the week to order a new video for his website.  After we discussed the project, we started to discuss trends in online marketing.

"A marketing company told me I need to list all of my products on my website," my client told me.  "The marketing company said shoppers want to buy everything online. I might as well close my store."  This started a discussion which I think is important to share.

First, everyone has a motivation for saying what they say. I discovered the marketing company builds websites and telling a business owner that he needs to list thousands of items on his website is a great way to land a contract for hundreds of hours of website-building work.

Second, it's just wrong to say that shoppers want to buy everything online.  Sure, shoppers can buy certain things online and those items that are ideal for online sales include items that are pre-packaged, have a known content, and can easily be shipped and returned at a low cost.  What's ideal for online selling? Books, DVDs, shoes (if sizes are known), cosmetics (they don't vary from package to package), office supplies including tape and ink and toners, and even electronics because a TV purchased online could be the same exact TV you buy in a store, and you can safely buy musical accessories such as sheet music and guitar strings and instrument cleaners through a website.  But anything that is custom, or must be tried or sampled by the consumer, is not a good fit for online selling.

My client who was told by the marketing company to put all his merchandise on his website sells customized building materials.  He would have wasted a lot of money putting everything online. Frankly, I'm not going to order high end plumbing fixtures for my home through an online catalog.  I'm not going to order custom window shades online, or a sofa online. I am going to want to see it, feel it, try it, and then if possible go back home to see if it really fits.  And I don't think any of the building contractors and decorators he deals with would want to risk buying his high-end items online either.

What I want to see on a website are sample photos and videos of custom merchandise that will motivate me to go to the store or company to "see for myself."  That's the true value of video -- to get customers to come to your business, to call or visit for more information so you can close the deal.

MONDAY  SEPTEMBER 10, 2012

I can't stress the importance of advertising in advance of events enough.  Unfortunately, many business people still "don't get it."  This past week I had a discussion with a company that was having a special event on a Sunday afternoon and thought that advertising on our Sunday morning TV show -- on the morning of the special event -- would get them good results.  Well, I made it clear to them that while our Sunday morning show has a good audience and would reach the demographic they wanted, it was unlikely anyone watching our show at 9-AM would get in the car and drive to their event on such short notice.

Consumers plan their days in advance.  Consumers make plans for what they will do on the weekends as well as weekdays.  And when it comes to buying big ticket items, they also plan in advance and they shop around.

The holiday shopping period will soon be here and car dealers and jewelers and furniture companies will all be competing for holiday shopping dollars.  Well, you can't advertise at the last minute and expect to win the race into the hearts and minds and wallets of consumers.

Anyone planning to buy a major piece of jewelry, or a bedroom set, or a car could spend days over several weeks looking and comparing and deciding.  And advertising your business and your deals at the last minute will miss this long "decision making process and time period."

This might strike you as coming out of left field, but advertising your brand, your deals, and your merchandise for the Holidays starting in October is not a bad idea.  You don't have to start advertising "sales" or "prices" in October.  But you should start promoting that you are the place to go to for holiday shopping.  You could be saying, "Santa is getting ready for the holidays, and so are we.  And look what we have."

Plan ahead and start establishing your brand for the holidays now.

MONDAY  SEPTEMBER 3, 2012

The advertising businesses -- and this includes TV stations and radio stations and cable and satellite and newspapers and magazines and direct mail and billboards and bus benches -- all make claims to sell you ad space or time.  But the wording of the claims can be tricky and misleading, so here are some reminders about what the phrases really mean.

I'm going to start with a phrase that one of my competitors used last week in an email blast sent to my advertisers and to others. In the email, the competitor said it's TV show is "broadcast to 5.6 million households in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ventura counties..."  Well, every TV station in Southern California broadcasts to millions of households in the five county area -- but that doesn't mean those households are watching.

There are similar claims made by other media and here are some of my favorites:

1. "Our Cable system has (fill in the blank) homes passed." "Homes passed" means the number of homes along a street where a cable TV line is available. It doesn't mean all of the homes are signed up for the Cable service, and it certainly doesn't mean they are watching.

2. "Thirty thousand cars drive by this bus bench every day." Okay, you can get traffic reports that show that. But what if someone is sitting on the bus bench and blocks the sign? What if the driver is keeping his eyes on the road instead of your bus bench? Or these days, is the driver texting at the red light instead of looking at your bus bench? In the case of Freeway billboards it's unlikely anyone is going to see your phone number long enough to call it -- and it's against the law to pick up a cell phone and call from the car.

3. "We have a circulation of 1,187,000 in Southern California." Anything involving print can tell you exactly how many copies are mailed or delivered. That doesn't mean the piece of mail or magazine or flyer is actually read or if it goes right in the trash. In the case of an ad on a particular page of a multi-page publication the circulation claim doesn't mean anything about the number of people who will see or read your ad.

4. "We have an audience of 500,000 households when your commercial is on." This is a common claim used in TV advertising and the assumption made is that if the audience is watching the TV show that they will also watch your commercial. Of course we know that when commercials come on viewers will change channels, go to the microwave, pick up the cell phone, check their computer, and go to the bathroom. There is a statistic called the "Teleflush Index" which shows that when commercials come on TV water pressure in cities drop because so many people are flushing at the same time.

5. "We have five hundred thousand listeners during morning drive." You have to love radio. I listen to radio all the time in my car, and I never can remember a phone number or even a website even when I want to remember a number or website address that I hear. Nearly all of radio's listeners are driving and that means their hands and attention are not available to write down anything.

6. "Your average cost per commercial is (fill in the blank)." This claim is often used in radio and TV when additional "free" or promotional commercials or spots are given to an advertiser as an incentive to get the advertiser to buy expensive air time, which is sometimes called the "good air time." By giving free or promotional spots, the station does not have to lower their "rate card" or official pricing. And by giving free or promotional spots, they can literally give an advertiser time that they can't sell to anyone else, which can be called the "bad air time." When you average the cost of "good air time" with the cost of "bad air time," it doesn't affect how much you are really spending for the "good air time."

MONDAY  AUGUST 27, 2012

What is your bounce rate?  Your bounce rate is a critical measure of your website's health.  The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who come to your website and leave -- or bounce away -- after seeing only one page of your website.  If you have a one-page website you don't care about a bounce rate.  But if you have more than one page, your bounce rate is critical.  If your ordering information, or directions to your store, or product information, or sales information, or sign-up response forms are on a second page of your site then a high bounce rate means trouble.

If you have a high bounce rate, your website visitors are not getting to your secondary pages with things like directions, ordering instructions, appointment scheduling, product information, and so forth.

So how do you improve your bounce rate?  Well, you must clearly indicate on your home page where you have "click through" links to your interior pages.  Clearly have:

CLICK HERE FOR DIRECTIONS
CLICK HERE FOR TODAY'S SALES
CLICK HERE FOR AN APPOINTMENT
CLICK HERE FOR OUR NEWEST DEAL
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

And at the same time, you must take precautions in case visitors don't click to a second page.  This means having your most important information on your home page including your name, your address and your phone number.  Nothing is more important than your phone number and it should be on your home page at the top, and at the bottom, and clearly show "CALL US AT 800-XXX-XXXX."  Make it big, make it bold and if your web designer says it doesn't look good or stylish that way then fire your web designer.  This is not about "artistic values" -- this is about your business.

And if your web designer insists on having a "landing page" or introductory page for your web site -- a page with fancy graphics that says "click here to enter" -- your web designer is making a serious mistake.  Landing pages went "out" more than a decade ago when research showed consumers must be captured by your site in the first few seconds or you will lose them.  Consumers won't click "enter here" and instead will just leave.

One more thing to improve your bounce rate: the longer you can keep a visitor on your home page by providing good content on your home page with articles, blogs, and videos, the more likely the visitor will want to look at a second page.

MONDAY  AUGUST 20, 2012

Halloween is now one of the biggest spending holidays of the year.  Almost 70% of adults celebrate Halloween, and the average per person Halloween spending tops $72 per person according to industry statistics.  So when should you start advertising your Halloween business?  Of course, the answer varies with your business.

If you are a dentist who repairs broken teeth from rock hard candy covered apples, then advertising on the day of Halloween will be fine for you.  But if you are selling Halloween supplies, you have to think like a consumer in order to plan your advertising.

Halloween parties have replaced actual trick or treating in certain neighborhoods so party givers will do their party shopping early.  If you are selling party supplies you actually can start advertising your party supplies by mid-September.  If you are selling costumes don't wait till the week before.  Costumes have become big business with Halloween office parties and businesses that allow costume wearing.  In recent years Halloween Make-Up has caught on and this needs additional planning on the part of consumers so you need to advertise these products earlier as well.  So advertise early because costume shopping is done early by picky adults who also tend to spend more than they do on kids' costumes.

If you are advertising kids costumes, two weeks before is probably safe, and advertising candy can be done at the last minute.

But are you selling a big ticket item for Halloween?  Do you have high end party decorations or lighting displays?  You are safe to start advertising those right now.  If you are selling jewelry with a Halloween theme for a Halloween promotion such as black diamonds, gold pumpkin charms, and silver moon earrings you also need to plan way ahead.

Remember two things: if it costs more to buy, consumers take longer to plan their purchase.  And if your business depends on the sale (let's say Halloween is one of your biggest seasons) then you want to advertise early to establish your brand in the consumers' minds.  And these are strategies to consider throughout the year for other holidays and special events as well.

MONDAY  AUGUST 13, 2012

Professionals including attorneys, doctors, dentists, accountants and even architects are now advertising on TV and radio. Why not? TV and radio are effective for reaching a target audience. But some forms of TV and radio are better for professionals -- and that's what's called "long form" advertising or what is commonly called an infomercial.

Our newest infomercial client is an accident attorney in Austin, Texas and he is very media savvy and has been running thirty-second TV spots for several years. About six months ago he started his first TV infomercial campaign and we produced his first half-hour program.

The infomercial for The Tony Nguyen Law Firm has been running for several months and Tony just sent me a report about its performance:

"We have continually run our infomercial for quite a while, and it produces a much cheaper cost per lead than our 30 second spots," Tony said. "We are getting results, and it excites me immensely!"

That is a very important statement: "a much cheaper cost per lead than our 30 second spots." Keep that in mind.

Tony passed along a few stories about the broadcasts. "I was at the gym, and I saw my infomercial playing on one of the gym TVs. There were four people huddled in a little group, and they were watching my infomercial. They were watching it seriously, not even saying anything to one another. It was almost as if they were mesmerized by the infomercial. It seemed like I had a perfect impromptu focus group, and I thought about going up to them and asking what they thought, but, I did not approach them."

"A week later," Tony continued, "I saw the same thing at another gym. This group, I did approach. I asked them, and they were like, 'Hey! You're the guy on TV!' They were genuinely surprised it was me. They gave me some valuable feedback. The most important feedback is that they said I was an expert on the topic in the infomercial."

Tony continued: "People often ask me, 'How can you possibly have a commercial that lasts 30 minutes?' My response is that if you are an expert on something, you can talk for days on end about a topic, never mind 30 minutes. This, I think, is the most important part of the infomercial: it creates the image of expertise. It is very difficult to create this image in a 30 second spot; as in a 30 second spot, you can only come across as a salesman."

And that is indeed the benefit of long form advertising. You get a chance not only to tell people who you are, but you get the chance to convince them you know what you are doing, and in the case of a product or service, you can show them that the product or service can get the job done.

Tony continued: "It is my opinion that the infomercial works because PEOPLE DO NOT HIRE AN ATTORNEY BECAUSE HE IS A GOOD SALESMAN, THEY HIRE HIM BECAUSE HE IS A GOOD ATTORNEY."

Tony also told me that since he started running his infomercial, that the response rate for his spot commercials has also increased, as has his web traffic. Infomercials can reinforce the message in a thirty-second commercial. And an infomercial provides the authority that a commercial alone can't deliver.

TUESDAY  AUGUST 7, 2012

This marketing memo is about planning ahead.  You think you plan ahead, but you probably don't.  Even though Labor Day is about a month away, it's not too early to start advertising for Halloween, Thanksgiving and even Christmas.  This is especially true if you are selling a big ticket item.  Consumers don't buy big ticket items on impulse.  They shop around, they do research on the Internet, they think about it, and then they think about it some more.
 
If you are selling a big ticket item give yourself a chance to get the sale, and give your advertisements a chance to work.  Don't advertise on Friday for a sale on Saturday for a big ticket item such as a living room set or a home remodeling project or a diamond watch or a cruise vacation.  It doesn't work that way in the minds of consumers.  Think about this: the bigger the ticket price, the more time consumers need to buy, and the more time consumers will take to make up their mind about buying.
 
If you're selling 29-cent burgers at your drive-thru restaurant it's okay to advertise the day before or even on the day of your sale. But if you're selling a household item that may cost several thousand dollars, and the buyer needs to select a style or color and needs to schedule installation or delivery, then you have to give the buyer the chance to decide those things.
 
You should be advertising at least one week before a sale -- or even two weeks before. Three weeks in advance isn't a bad idea either. Give yourself a chance for your ads to work.
 
There is another reason to advertise early: you will get a jump on the competition. And by competition I don't mean other businesses selling what you are selling.  All businesses selling a product or service are your competition in this economy.  You are competing for disposable income.
 
Consumers are probably thinking right now about the fall and even the winter holidays. They may be thinking whether they should book a cruise or shop for a new car?  Should they buy a new dining room set or should they make-over the bathroom? 
 
And as we get closer to holidays, consumers start to narrow down their choices for impulse buying.  Should they drive to an outlet mall in the desert or should they shop at local stores?
 
Your advertising today will help consumers plan what they will do weeks from now and two months from now.  Plan ahead.  Give consumers time to see your ads, to think about your message, and time for them to decide to do business with you.
 
And remember this: if you put off your advertising, your ad message could just get lost in that flood of other advertising that we see around the holidays.  That goes for back to school advertising, Halloween advertising, Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday advertising too.  If you advertise late you won't be giving your ads a fair chance to show results.

MONDAY  AUGUST 6, 2012

In today's Marketing Memo I am going to warn you about Search Engine Optimization companies that make bogus claims.  The #1 bogus claim is "we'll make you come up as #1 for search results."  If some SEO company promises to make you the #1 search result on Google or Yahoo or Bing, you should ask them "what will I be the #1 search result for?"
 
You see, I can make any website the #1 search result on Google by creating a unique search term for that website.   If you have a phrase or sentence on your website that no one else has -- and if someone searches for that phrase, your site will definitely come up as #1 on search results.  But being #1 doesn't mean anything to you if the phrase is so unique that your customers don't know to look for it.  For example, here is a unique phrase that you will probably only find on my website:
 
"Here on our new media website Moneyman Alan Mendelson who is the original...."
 
Now, go ahead and search that phrase and my sites (I use it on more than one site) come up first among all non-paying websites.  (Paid search results always come first.)  But if you search the phrase "advertising agency" my website is way, way, way down the list.
 
The bottom line here is that SEO firms can promise you the moon -- but you don't want the moon.  If you're a dentist in Costa Mesa you want an SEO company to have you rank high for the key words "dentist in Costa Mesa" and not some hokey "search phrase" that only your SEO representative will remember or know to look for.

MONDAY  JULY 30, 2012

We just signed up several new clients for our TV show and advertising services and they asked similar questions.  These were good questions and I hope you can use my answers to help you with your own advertising plans.

Q: Should I do long form advertising right away?

A: Different advertisers need different length segments to have their story told.  Long form advertising is typically a half hour infomercial. But more importantly than the length of the TV video is the frequency that you are on TV.  If you can afford only five minutes of TV time it is better to go on five shows for one minute each than to use all five minutes on one show.  You should diversify, and you will reach a larger audience with five shows than on one show.  But remember, you don't want to have commercials that are too short.  It takes time for a viewer or listener to absorb what they seeing and hearing.  For most companies who are not well known and do not have an established brand, thirty seconds on TV and sixty seconds on the radio is too short.  Remember, it takes about 12 seconds to say your name, address, phone number and website-- and that doesn't leave much time to tell customers why they should do business with you.

Q: Should I have testimonials in my TV ad?

A: Testimonials can help but a consumer who is not a good speaker or who doesn't have a good story to tell can hurt you more than help you.

Q: Should I have a special phone number on a TV ad so I can measure the response from that ad?

A: No. You should promote the same phone number that you use in all of your other advertising.  You should promote your brand and your phone number is part of your brand.  One good, memorable phone number is worth a lot.  Phone numbers are hard to remember, so keep punching the same phone number in all of your advertising.

Q: Should I offer a special code or offer for a discount?

A: A special code may not give you a true reading of an advertisement's effectiveness.  Remember that fewer than 1% of coupons that are printed are ever redeemed, yet advertisers continue to print coupons because they send a message.  Coupons often aren't redeemed because consumers forget about them.  The same is true with "special codes" or "code words."  You don't really care about coupons coming in the door, you care about customers coming in the door.

Q: Should I as the business owner appear in my TV ad?

A: You don't have to appear, but why not?  There is no