Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An Informercial Life ....You're 'In'... No Way Out!

Reissued and updated today....  

Happy to see The New York Times agrees with an interesting article on this subject too! 
"Sponsors Now Pay for Online Articles, Not Just Ads" by Tanzina Vega (4/8/13) 

From #7). 12-step relief detailed in 'Welcome to'....public relations / advertising shift -in- REAL content for magazines and programming  has occurred in places you would never imagine ... slowly..... and sometimes not so blatant - but most are right under your nose. 

For me, an "spirit,  this was also another hard concept to fathom........funny too, discovering at a time when the new 'buzz' word 'transparency' has become a trendy term thanks to unethical practices of our elected officials.

This thought hasn't been fully revealed (I wish, though, I had known) it's when a small business with a unique brand (as in a small  entrepreneurial business) decides to connect with a printed magazine (as one example).  Yes, I know..... there still are a few of them left! 
Anyway, this is what communication looks like today in publishing;

1).  Find unique publication with an audience which matches to your customer or  ... if you're really smart you will get waaay ahead of the schedule by resourcefully looking up their official  'editorial schedule' for the upcoming year (it's usually hidden - but you'll find it!) ..... there just might be a theme planned that absolutely matches to what you are selling - and your contribution would add something worthwhile to the section so it's worth the trouble.

2). Identify that 'theme' with plenty of lead time to subtly work 'in' your product or service.  (after all, they are not going to blatantly promote for you and frankly that was never an expectation)  

It's nice when you have an item which compliments what they are doing in the magazine editorial.

3). Then, research editors who make the most sense for your brand or service in this context.

4). Begin writing to that editor to get on their radar and hope that your concise note will be forwarded on to someone who cares. (or better yet, the freelancer who may be assigned to this topic)

5). You will then begin the arduous task of follow-up and more follow-up.  First 'emails' and more emails (short, sweet and nice) then unanswered phone messages.  It's quite a process!    After months of this you will then write out of frustration to the 'Editor-in-Chief' (Big Editor) to expose the difficulty you are having in breaking through to the Editor you need to reach (in a nice way)....

6).  'Big Editor' will likely become irritated that they have read a note which requires follow- up and (knowing now that the consumer is in charge with the web they don't want you to write
anything bad about them personally) .... they sometimes will write you back -  but usually not without a trail of effort on your part.

7).  The recommendation from 'Big Editor' will be to speak to the 'lead' very special Editor-of-record (the one you have been trying to reach) - that person may even promptly call you -- and kindly offer to 'test' your product.  (oh, WOW 'please'.....and 'thank you' is your response w/ excitement as you happily package and express ship)

8).  After 'testing' (err, I mean 'gifting them) you will hear nothing .... and more nothing, follow up again..... to then find because you are a persistent squeaky wheel- (in a nice way) that you are being relegated to their website for a mini-paragraph which will have ZERO impact on your business.   Not even a mini blip in your back-end monitored traffic.  Code here: 'Go away!...see .... we helped you! You're done.... here's your bone...woof! woof!  and oh, have a nice day!

IMPORTANT note:  and here is something juicy you should know....the unspoken - behind-the-curtain stuff........

"We are not communicating OR mentioning your product OR service in our magazine (no matter how unique, different and special it is) UNLESS YOU PURCHASE AN Advertisement in our PUBLICATION. (PERIOD)" - THIS I might add .... ALSO INCLUDES FRIENDLY 'GIFT GUIDES' TOO! ---  yup, that's the God's truth.  But (sigh)  they really can't publicly 'say' that because they are national journalists and the idea that product placement and advertising fees are blending in the context of these pages is kinda smelly.

Back in the old days - which is where I proudly learned .....there was a clear division of what we called 'church and state' in advertising vs. new content (PR) in stories which is never 'purchased'
.... in the simplest of terms; that's called 'c-r-e-d-i-b-i-l-i-t-y'.  and places who 'sell' the space for $ immediately sacrifice credibility.

It used to be 'advertising' departments in one building and  'editorial content' in another building --- now thanks to our rotten economy and the hideous nature of publishing today, they've become the same thing! (wink, wink)  :)

It's also now in other places too;

Unbeknownst to me, I was recently a guest on a radio show which I presumed was a legitimate program.  Turns out, 'they' (the very talkative hosts) - I later learned,  are purchasing air time to promote their books & seminars on this particular AM radio station.  As a guest, I was adding to their 'rich content' ....but make no mistake.... the
reason for this programming smells like an infomercial (only on radio).... I was at first surprised by this revelation...but then again,  to reiterate from a previous post.....things are never as they seem In this business, it's the 'fun' house (EVERYDAY!)  :) 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kool-aid Rehab For Start-Ups Is Sometimes a 'Start-Down' for Communication

The reason for this blog is to educate 'bright-eyed' Entrepreneurs on business today and to help  'expose' or at least communicate warning signs when you are before an 'Expert'(the term 'Expert' can mean lots of things...and has sadly been waaay overused and you must be careful! . Beyond that, within these postings are real 'tips and tricks' which will give aid to the glass-shards you may walk on which litter this path.  

So put on your boots and take off your rose-colored glasses and get ready for the unvarnished truth!  It's time to get real.

Today's message is about communication. As in connecting with people who may be helpful to you in moving your business forward. 

To start,  for new readers, it will be helpful to begin with ...'Kool-aid Rehab Welcome to...' - it's important to know why becoming an Entrepreneur  is such a popular direction people are taking today. 

As a stand-alone term, being an 'Entrepreneur' even sounds like 'fun' and kind of melodic... creating your own-destiny, managing your own time - hmm?..... all I can say is BEWARE because you will be standing alone at times screeching sour notes as you pick glass out of your feet. (and those are  the pieces which have pierced through your boots! :) It is a hard route to take - and there are very few shortcuts.

#1. Frustration
After making my own path on this journey for the past 3 years - as a full-on start-up Entrepreneur - (barely coming up for air) -  I have found the  single most frustrating #1. eye-opener is lack of access to people you need to reachI'm now convinced...It's actually worse than connecting with someone at the Pentagon.  Everyone is in survival-mode for their own jobs and it's a wild time in business.

For the inexperienced, there is an allure with the Internet where it's easy to not only quickly identify the person you need....but you will probably have an immediate fantasy that this person (s)  will respond-back and even better, actually  'help' you.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  The greater the expectation the harder you will fall!  This is not a joke.

In + 98% of all cases, this is what communication today looks like; .... 

Through the genius of Linked in as just one can usually find new people - those that may be able to help you in one-way-or another .... you may even have a 2nd generation connection (who you know)  who can make an introduction.  This person might even leave a voice-mail message on your behalf  (their happy pictures may also be alluring).... you may even have (although brief) an actual phone conversation with the target person... that person, will likely then ask you to send something to advance the cause (of what you are trying to do) - which you will gladly and swiftly comply ... AND  usually that is where this effort stops. (period).   it's most unfortunate when you have created a personal detailed proposal or sent an expensive product sample.   

You will next professionally follow-up (as you should) in a timely manner..... Communication will start with polite emails, then phone messages (always indicating a benefit to them with unique ideas) to continue with .... (on the 8th message)... with a concerned parent voice.... are you 'OK' 'I was worried something might be wrong! (after leaving messages for 3 straight weeks).   This effort will then lead to months and then years.  Hopefully they haven't died or been permanently maimed

Here's the unvarnished truth... just like hitting the delete button on emails .... the delete button is activated on VM too! It's the DAILY DOUBLE!  There is no real malice intended....but  After time, the unspoken message (from the person) 'is please go away'.... I have no need for you..... nor do I have time to even have a quick conversation about my lack of interest!   It's just easier to ignore you ...!   For people on the receiving end of this..... It's really about as pathetic as it can get. Most people have a cell phone attached to their ear or a smart phone to write quick replies...... is it really that hard to respond?

I do understand the term, busy (like no-other) but come on!   This idea is not rocket science... it's basic manners. You can only hope that this is happening to them on things which they need.  Then again, to be honest, this sh** needs to STOP!!  No one likes to be blatantly ignored for any reason.

If you agree...please join Kool-aid Rehab on Facebook... (a give-away is coming for 'likers' :)   we've earned  it, right?

Have a great week!  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Secret Revealed - The New 'Fun-House' for Business

Today’s thoughts have been spurred by the spectacle of seeing old clergy creeping along in their colorful regalia for their conclave of voting for the next pope.  I think the whole thing is crazy -  It makes smoke come out of my ears.  It’s as though they don’t even trust themselves…. security is tight …..everything is an ultra secret – well, that’s one thing they have mastered with years of experience.  
Transparency today to know what is really going on is a tricky proposition.  As parishioners and business people alike know, it's a frightening world to know who to trust (besides yourself).   

In business, beautiful websites can appear to be sharp and very professional with hi-res pictures with dazzling animation and slick messages. These websites can also link to fancy talkers who can frame themselves in a backdrop that would make millionaire pastor, Joel Osteen proud.  Their ‘gift’ of gab is also impressive- enticing, magnetizing and designed specifically to capture you with the spoken word (and your email)  for ‘helping’ you move your business forward.  But, beware....

Not unlike a distorted mirror,  it has a false sense of engagement.  I am always amazed at the ‘personal’ emails I receive that follow.  Some grab me with a friendly Hey instead of the boring ‘Dear’…. and it also will mention my name in the text.  At first, I really thought I was  something special.  

So the lesson here is rooted in many things (thanks to high-quality stock photos, and progressive email platforms like Constant Contact) in many cases, they really are not what they appear to be.   

'Personal attention' is a coupling of words that have lost their meaning.  Lots of places ‘love’ to hear from you with comments or web videos which encourage engagement – but in most cases, they have so many ‘special friends' it’s not humanly possible to attend to all of them and your comment or question will go into Santa’s mail bag.  Sorry to burst your bubble.

The big divider though, is finding the talent within any type of organization.  It really is a secret to find them….and you will need to do your homework or rely on a trusted source to uncover that person(s).   If you’re like me, it’s the brains that count…. Gender, age really make no difference.   I'm all about an energy to make -things-happen in an efficient - high reward way. (period)

One way to qualify a person is their true experience. Not exaggerated pretend stuff.   Platforms like Linkedin may also be useful – the new way to ‘endorse’ someone is a simple way to see how someone ‘scales'  in a given area of expertise. There will eventually be a pattern to a unique area you may need.

Beyond that suggestion, and for those with communication with customers (B2C or B2B) ... your customers are your most valuable possession and they should be handled with great care.  It's easy today to be a shining star because expectations for service are at an all time lowIf you promptly answer a phone call or an email it is astonishing to the recipient.     
If you need to retain someone with unique expertise such as a creative jolt..... Kool-aid drinkers in particular, need to do their homeworkNetwork through people you trust to find other views of what you are looking for.  This will be a good use of your time -or- connect with me for the unvarnished truth.  :)  I hate being ripped off and that is the absolute reason for this blog.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Birds of a Feather - Flock On TV Together

Whew!... Just thinking about my last post really exasperates me.

What I didn't mention which overlaps within the mentioned characters 'Mature-Guy' and 'Brilliant CTO' (from 'Tales from the Trenches')   a continued chapter to that sad tale.

It begins during the same time period, with a 'referral' from 'Mature-Guy' - to yet another group of people who were equally incompetent.  I know... amazing! but it can happen!  Looking back.... that fact, is about the only thing that makes perfect sense here.


who are incompetent
usually know others like themself and they form  a flock together!  really!

For the vulnerable - as in a bright-eyed person.... you may be slugging down glasses of wonderfully sweetened Kool-aid....dreaming of brand awareness and that you're  in good hands -  'lesson' learned here;....... always be cautious.   

So when the referral group swooped in to conclude that they had done an 'internal test' to determine our brand was an 'absolute match' to their 'internal criteria' for development of a 'made-for-TV' commercial in which they would develop for us  -  it made sense to me!  (I must have been drunk) ... really? boy, was that amazing! - how could we have been so lucky? 

We naturally, did our due diligence and heard glowing recommendations (probably calling unsuspecting family members) we also recalled through this vetting process; 'whatever the outcome is of the 'media test' - we have major connections and long-term relationships with high-profile this can't fail.' (really?!)

Their plan, (after money was  delivered)....was to create a 60 second informercial to 'test' on a cable outlet to then determine if we could (please) bring them more bags-of-money.

The business model here now reminds me of a portrait photographer who of course, thinks you're beautiful and model-worthy...because they're interested in making an expensive portfolio for you - then... you're on your own!

For us, that meant working for weeks on an appropriate script (under their keen eye),  flying to the location of  'the shoot'.... seeing final edit .... to  understand that the media-time which would be purchased was a bundled package on cable (to millions of viewers) packed into a 1 week media test schedule.  Designated time was booked like flying standby... and not particularly trackable.... which makes sense because 'birds-of-a-feather' fly standby together.

So this is what happens when the client's best interests are not even a thought; 60 second Infomercial is produced, media schedule is paid for and from there;  it's fiddle-de-de .... all you have left is to monitor visitors to your website or designated landing page ..... when your commercial runs it's air time and when it's loose in the system it's 'air' :) 

A Slow Death?
After the first day, like torture.... I began watching a 97% 'bounce rate' on the analytics ..... panic- strickened.... I contacted 'our person' who assured me this was just fine and to wait.

For those who need a 'lesson' on 'Bounce Rates'... it means your 'target audience' is 'bouncing out’ of engaging with your website or your landing page (as in, not purchasing or even hanging around to read something new!)  - concluding in our case, that we must have been placed in an obscure time-slot-rotation in which we were ill suited.  (DUH)

Our brand for this 'test' was targeted for women over 40+ so it was a wide net to reach.... but when the 'net' is a program like the 'Happy Trout Fisherman' (or something of that nature where women are not known to watch) you will likely not see a lot of interest.   Moreover, we might as well have thrown $$$ in a dirty lake, because there was really no way to track the air time to that detail.  So at this point (when the torture began)  we knew nothing ..... later we knew even less.... so nothing was changed and we rode this ride to the end with very little results. It was what anyone would call a complete BUST!

But wait?..... didn't this group say they had 'major contacts' in the catalog world ?!.... You probably know what's coming next with that ;... when you are full-on incompetent in this area, your contacts will not be very effective. We are still waiting to be 'placed' but I'm not holding my breath (anymore)... we have moved on!



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kool -aid Rehab: Tales From The Trenches

Rabid readers of Kool-aid Rehab know that this is a respite for anyone who is in need of a place to laugh (or vent) frustration when you are a 'new' entrepreneur - ‘seasoned’ entrepreneurs are also welcome.  In fact, encouraged to join the 'fun'….we can all use help in this fox-hole trench.   Right? 

It is a wild ride and for anyone who has ever had a dream (the first sip of Kool-aid) followed later by the aftertaste (when you are well into it) an icy-cold reality of unsweetened Kool-aid (which you would love to spit out) heartbreaking and exasperated, you persevere on! Energy is high…you're never afraid of hard work. 

In most cases, whether it’s a product or a service you are on a quest to gain exposure for your small business  ‘dream’ and you may need professional  'services' – but be aware…. those that ‘look’ like they might be able to help, are lurking.  After all, they are probably a small business treading water just like you! 

It's also important to note; not unlike your brand or service, if you have a slick website it really levels the playing field. The written word is powerful along with pictures and an impressive client list... it's like judging a book by its cover.  What I have learned and more importantly for a lesson; it's about the people and it's also about the contacts they may or may not have and their resourcefulness. (period) ... those are attributes though, which are also difficult  to distinguish until you are knee deep in it.

change 'd' to 'f'
As I lift my head slowly from my own fox-hole- business-nightmare…. my story (told for the first time here) begins with unknowingly hiring a mature – fast-talking (very friendly) older-guy who owned an agency (out of state- so we never met him personally) in my naivety (I'll call him 'Mature-Guy' ) I thought his quirky -manner would be a great way to break-through in social media - an area where we needed help and I knew less than zero about the subject.   'Mature-Guy' had a slick website... but beyond that 'slick' was the optimal word.   He could really ‘talk’ the ‘talk’ …. This guy turned out to not be a ‘duck’ but substituting the ‘d’ with an ‘f’ is a good place to start.  In my own stupidity I wouldn’t even have known his abilities, so it was bad on several levels.  Like a predator after children in the park – this is a tough one  and…. To note and to repeat; it’s very tricky to qualify these-types.   

Another reason, for my #1. Non-negotiationable Rule;  always read as much as you can about a given subject….answers are everywhere, newly written eBooks, Dummy-brand books,  answer forums, smart people who are just generous with their time  (there still are a few nice people left in the world! )… you MUST do your homework!  Do not ever pay for services for something you know ZERO about.   If you are busy....too bad... you have to learn it!

To sidebar this (and from my own learning) …. start with SEO words…. And in the simplest form, begin with thinking of key words about your brand or service (as though you were searching yourself)  also, view your closest competitor  and see where they rank on Google search and what ‘words’ are ranking – it is from that point, which one begins to climb this complicated ‘ladder’ to the first search page of Google. (which is where you ultimately want to be)   It is a ‘climb’ which can leave your hands bloody (seriously).   Get ahead of the research!

Ok, so back to my sad tale of woe …. The mature-age ‘advertising/pr’ Mature- Guy I met (who didn’t know squat himself about websites, particularly social media integration) introduced us to his Brilliant CTO’ …. As in ‘Chief Technical Officer’ she was under age 30 and I believe at the time, we were all breathing a sigh of relief to know we were in such good hands.    Her ‘social’ media skills and website development skills were supposed to be exactly what was needed to propel our brand forward.   Again, be careful and trust no one (completely) …. Not unlike the Big Bad Wolf….The friendly-talk (with minimal results) actually further convinced us to do something monumental.....

…. and naturally, it would be something else we would be paying for….. the advice was to take our beautifully designed (custom & expensive) website and relaunch into a totally new web platform which was ‘socially friendly’ …. and to add, this was to have been ‘a seamless transition’  and would take only 10 days!  ‘as simple as flipping a switch’ … really?!   where do I sign!?

Ok, so here’s the reality;  after 5 weeks of full-on torture, we (all those on my side) carefully were directed to the ‘ashes of HELL’ and we obediently followed with a lame looking website with zero design elements or (even a hint of personal style)! and it was barely working-  she was amazing! (dripping sarcasm)   this resulted in the two of them (‘Mature-Guy’& ‘Brilliant CTO’)  working together (on the next phase of our march to HELL…. Fast-talking Mature Guy’ then issued a press release as this new site was launching… drum roll please... 

We got the green light from 'Brilliant CTO' and we went 'LIVE' .....High web traffic.... Higher Expectation...../ high-interest = ZERO SALES!  Quite odd, hmm?  Since we had prior sales, this made no sense!  HUH? After another quick consult with a smart-friend (the same smart-friend who hit me in the head with a proverbial brick in a prior post) she did a ‘check’ to discover that our ‘beautiful new website’ was launched WITHOUT A SECURITY CERTIFICATE!  (and I’m not making this up!)  so people who were interested in shopping with us were stopped by nasty looking ‘unsecure’ site notices!!  to never return!  Looking back, there are no words for this stupidity.     I was professional embarrassed ….. horrified ….. and really pissed. 

Sometimes (and you can only hope) when fury enters your life – you will find a new religion.  For me, it was the defining moment.... to first....and very quickly sever that relationship!  And second, start getting ‘real’ about the website…..(our first point of entry to consumers)  I began reading and asking questions about this foreign area of business and I ultimately learned it and learned it well and I learned it quickly.   Twitter, FB, Constant Contact, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Tumblr – on and on …. AND writing my own press releases (with researched hyper-linked words)   

....At the same time, during this armageddon,  I hired an independent ‘web-builder’ who was recommended to me from a friend who was currently working with him …. Together ‘Sam’ and I built the site we are still working with today through a platform called Big Commerce – ‘BC’ has design templates (to look custom if you want), it’s socially integrated, and most importantly has a quality staff of tech support available to help you.   After 30 months I have no complaints – editing is easy and my blood pressure is more under control.  ‘Sam’ is no where to be found…but that’s OK, we have it handled. 

So here’s the post script side-bar of this mess….  It wasn’t clear at first, but I later learned by putting 2 + 2 together -  that 'Mature-Guy' and young ‘Brilliant CTO’ actually cohabitate together… fueling the idea that ‘she is beyond brilliant’ and in turn, she can’t admit incompetence, certainly not to her Prince Charming – she stubbornly forged on taking on a project she had no business (whatsoever) to be working on.

… I know I’m not alone in this entrepreneurial foxhole. Comments are welcome! :)

About Me- I'm everywhere!

My photo
anywhere and everywhere, USA, Illinois, United States
I'm a sassy, very distracted older mom...with lots of wild stories (and rants) about my family and life...Daughter 20, college student, sassy, unpredictable, violin playing, animal enthusiast...Son, 17 video addict, Chess playing-star / trombone player...husband (old, tired, chronically stressed and impatient, but a good sport nonetheless) The underbelly of life for me; I’m a bright eyed ‘entrepreneur’ – just now completing Kool-aid Rehab a frightening 12 step process to figure out what I am doing with my life. On the home front, we have a gang of animals that keep the place lively too! 'Emma', dirty ungroomed Sheepdog, 'Lollipop' a smart Border Collie/Chow Chow also referred to as 'Daddy's Little Fatty', 2 cats; one eyed 'Winky' and emotionally disturbed- beyond crabby ....'Babycakes' (it's complicated,) 1 bird 'Tutu', and finally 'Templeton' (a.k.a. Little Shit)- a teeny dog who loves to 'run' .... more trouble than all put together and dumb as a stick. but we love him! :)