Category Archives: Marketing Agency

American Idol, Song Choice, and your Ad Agency

Simon said of David Archuleta, that he would be surprised if the song was chosen by him last night.

For those who do not follow American Idol because someone has held a gun to your head or tied you to the chair without passing you the RC first, David sang a really unknown song, bland melody and all that. That’s not the point. The point here, is that each singer has been told to “go with their hearts” and to understand their own vocals when making a song choice.

Very obviously, someone else chose the song for him. It was so out of character and it was such an esoteric choice, a 17-year-old could not possibly have even heard the song, much less prefer it. And the results were predictable – no one liked the song, though they still loved David.

Do you do this to your Ad Agency? Do you “choose the song” for them to sing?

If you did know better, why hire an ad agency in the first place, right? It could be an ego thing, to hire experts, and then telling them what to do. But it is hardly something that will be highly positive for the betterment of your marketing efforts.

Just as David could still be loved for his excellence in execution, so can your ads. But it would have been so much better if it was totally enjoyable rather than having to nit-pick to find something to like about the performance.

Do yourself a favour, don’t choose the song for your ad agency.


David insists that he chose the song himself, and it was in fact, his personal favorite. OK, this brings to bear an interesting counter-point. Sometimes, even the best ad agencies can make wrong choices, wrong decisions, and it is the client’s who will then suffer for having trusted them. Look at the track record. No one is perfect. But if the evidence of excellence are there, then the likelihood of you being “more right” is lesser. We all know about caveat emptor… but it’s painful…

Mission Imposible – The Missing Marketing Brief

Once upon a time, in a board room not far away, the Council met.

“You know what we want,” said the Head. “Deliver for us a creative of such excellence, none who view it can resist The Product.”

It was a daunting task. A task that would challenge the mettle of The Best. But it was not impossible. Properly targeted, armed with information, demographics, statistics and other magical tools; knowing the Final Objectives, The Product shall thrive.

“Indeed, we will!” the Leader of The Best proclaimed confidently. “Now tell us more.”

“There is nothing more to tell. You are The Best. You have the Knowing. Speak no more and go Create.” And so speaking, the Head turn and walked from the room.

For one brief horrifying moment, the Leader realised, finally, he has met the Mission Impossible.

A Good Marketing Plan for Small Business

When you think about creating a marketing plan, many people feel a huge headache come on. Everyone wants to have the “best” marketing plan.

You will always hear things like:

“We need a creative marketing plan”
“We need a practical marketing plan”
“We need an actionable marketing plan”
“We need an innovative marketing plan”

What exactly is a marketing plan anyway? If you decided to hire 10 sales personnel and go knock on the doors of all your neighbours, is that a good plan? Is that even a marketing plan?

Many people confuse the 4P’s of marketing with the marketing plan. Product, Price, Place, Promotions are essential considerations, but they are by no means the marketing plan. Most of us has learned what a marketing plan is in school and so, I will not insult all the readers by even attempting to define it. I just want to say that many people simply regurgitate the “4Ps”, add a SWOT analysis, talk a little about the competitors, put it into a nice format, and submit it as a marketing plan. Not in the real world, my friend.

I would like to venture that for the small business, an academic marketing plan is really totally unnecessary. The small business owners and managers need to understand this clearly. You do not need an elaborate, sophisticated “marketing plan'”. However, you do need one. A business without a marketing plan is simply a mom and pop shop disguised as a business. Heck, some of the more successful mom and pops do have a marketing plan – and you wonder why?

A good marketing plan for small businesses should be fun, exciting and most importantly, easily actioned upon. It is pointless to have a beautiful 99-page marketing plan that you are never going to use. Here are some simple pointers towards creating a really effective plan for your small business:

1. Figure out what you want to achieve.

This is commonly known as your objectives, or vision. It could be as simple as I would like to add one new, major customer this year that does $X of business with me. Or it could be a grand plan that says you want to have a chain of stores that circle the globe. But the most common time horizon a small business should look at is one year. Two feet on the ground, eyes lifted to the horizon.

2. Figure out who your real competitors are.

Just because you run a small eatery, McDonald’s might not necessarily be your competitor. If you are not even able to honestly appreciate who you are playing with and against, well, it’s easy to “win” when you are the only one playing.

3. Figure out why your customers like you.

If you are running a small business, you have customers. Why? They could easily have gone to the other guy. Understanding what value your customers see in you, will help you understand how to meet their needs better. It also tells you who you should target – people with similar tastes, needs, values… It is pointless to create an academic SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis at this early stage. Get the basics right.

4. Find a good agency to work with.

A mistake many small business owners make is to assume that marketing or advertising agencies do not want their business, or that they cannot afford one. Depending on your budget, there is always an agency willing to work with you and for you. I need to clarify one thing here – a freelance designer is NOT the same as a small agency. What you need is marketing and advertising expertise, not pretty pictures. Some designers do have the experience, skill and knowledge to meet your marketing needs. All I am saying is that you need to be clear about the difference between a great designer and a great marketer. Talk to them (agency/desginer/freelancer) and evaluate their track record. Then pick the one you like most. Go with your gut after all the evaluations are done.

5. Stick with it.

Stay with your plan. Give it a chance to succeed. Just because the first flyer distribution flopped does not mean your PLAN flopped. It is just one element of execution. Test. Experiment. Measure results. Adapt. But stick with your “vision”.

Above is just my view. I would welcome comments, questions and maybe, if you want to contribute, write me and I will gladly have your article posted up here.

Some resources:

Great marketing articles –
Good copywriters –;
Good designers –;

Blog Marketing As a Strategy…

Most people would love to find a method of marketing that is effective, fun and free. Well, blog marketing certainly fits the bill.

Unfortunately, not many people understand that “effectiveness” is not the same as having a lot of pages in the blog, nor is it getting listed in as many directories as possible. Actually, effectiveness of a blog marketing strategy really depends on the objectives. Any marketer will know that a marketing strategy is nothing more than a powerful sum of its parts. Hence, a blog marketing strategy cannot stand alone, that is a given. So, we will not talk about that. For a blog marketing to be deemed effective, there are usually three measurements: traffic, response, and action.

Denise has an interesting post on how to build blog traffic. Any new blog will face the challenge of generating traffic. The key is not the volume of traffic, but the relevance of it.

Response is one of the best indicators of whether your traffic is targetted or not. Interested parties will respond to your blog posts (unless they are so poorly written…) and they will respond through comments, feedback forms and even emails.

Arguably, action is the holy grail. A blog that has plenty of traffic and an active, responsive readership, but cannot prompt readers into action to become buyers, subscribers or whatever it is you are marketing, can hardly be deemed to be effective.

I am sure there are many other marketing metrics that can be used. But blow aside all the fluff and illusions of success, the above are, I believe, the 1-2-3 of a successful blog marketing program.

Strategy vs Execution

Marketing Strategy is probably one of the most insulted of all terms. Just because a company has an advertising plan for the year or have its promotions lined up 6 months ahead, they call it their marketing strategy.

Sometimes,marketing professionals fall into this trap in their excitement to sell their ideas. After all, a “strategy” sounds so much more cool than a mere marketing plan. When you have a strategy, it must be backed by an excellent execution plan.

To gain 5% market share is a strategy (one element of it only, I hope!). To have national advertising and a direct marketing program, is execution. Without a clear strategic objective all the grand plans would be nothing more than the mindless gyrations of a huge marketing budget. Lots of things happening, but will not get you anywhere. For a small business, this becomes even more crucial.

The strategy of a small business needs to be more aggressive, more focused. And the execution of that strategy needs almost pin-point precision. You don’t have a penny to waste. This is where a good marketing agency comes in. Do not imagine for a moment that you can just “wing it”. A start-up might have no choice. But once your business is off the ground and you are shooting for some real growth, get together with professionals. They can help you achieve your goals much faster.

Take time to find your marketing partner. It is not just the glitzy presentations and pitches that an agency makes – you need concrete evidence. The guiding principle here is this: don’t use an advertising agency that is 10 times bigger than you are, and don’t use one that has no domain knowledge of your industry/market.

Too huge an agency and you will not be on their A-list. You will get the kind attentions of the big wigs during the pitch, and you never see them again, except, maybe when it comes time to renew. A smaller agency is good. But if your account is more than 50% of their size, then again, be wary. Can they scale and grow with your business? Maybe they can. Talk to them. Find out about the people behind the company. When you are a small business, relationships are the most important. My friend Vivienne over at Versa Creations wrote a nice little post on “4 Great Tips to Selecting The Best Marketing or Advertising Agency“. You should read it.

[tags]marketing plan, advertising, advertising agency, marketing agency[/tags]

Marketing Tip – Get Professional Media Buying

When you embark on an advertising campaign, many small business owners believe that they can go out and buy their own media and save on the agency costs. Usually, this is only true if there is some mis-communications between the company and the agency. It is quite unthinkable that ad-hoc media buying can be more efficient and effective than professional media buying.

An agency that specializes in media buying is going to have bulk deals, demographics and other information that most other people, who are not insiders, will not have. If you over-spend on media, it is usually a case of poor planning or getting carried away by grand visions. A good agency should be able to advise on the optimal media spend. Cheap media buys usually hide the reasons why they are cheap. Unless you are in the know, it will be hard for you to tell genuine buying opportunities from lame sales tactics.

Seriously, don’t try it on your own.


[tags]media buying, advertising, advertising agency[/tags]