Friday, July 31, 2020

Does Your Marketing Strategy Fit Your Brand?

Back in the early days of your business, you probably had someone in your ear telling you 'get on social media' or 'invest in a quality business card' in order for your venture to succeed.  Today, we know that's good and not-so-good advice because not all businesses benefit from video marketing or some things cannot be said effectively on a blog.  Yet, you've got these accounts all over that are either dormant or underutilized.

This is common but marketing compatibility not only applies to social media but your audience, image, and more.  If you've been in business for a minute then you know that change is sometimes inevitable.  However, it helps to let your audience know via press release or by changing the visuals and content associated with your brand.

In other instances, sometimes the train of thought isn't congruent with business communication needed to close the deal.  Sometimes, we can have a nice presence, fair prices, and good skillset.  While some instances are debatable, here's a couple of situations I ran across recently.

Recording artist-turned-celebrity chef Kelis recently came under fire via social media twice in recent in regard to price changes for her wares.  First, a spice gift box created in collaboration with a well-known gourmet brand priced at $150, plus $20 for shipping left fans shocked.  In a separate event, she proudly showed off her imported handbags via Twitter, only to be exposed for marking up the prices nearly four times the cost of what similar bags are sold in Colombia.  

While I've no problem with her marking up prices (a person just doesn't have to buy, right?), this isn't in line with her debut release of sauces.  These were only priced a couple of dollars above what's sold at the supermarket but tasted a whole lot better. Was there a possible math problem when determining a markup?  Were the sauces an early loss leader?  If so, why weren't her loyal fans informed...or better, her products marketed to the affluent folks who love to cook instead?

Another incident that's closer to home. We're in the process of looking for a contractor/handyman to help out around the family home.  If they know plumbing basics, that's like gravy with bacon bits and of course, honesty is appreciated.  So my mom runs across someone with a truck that details all services (good) and asks for a business card.  He replies that he doesn't have any because people lose them...just take a pic of his truck and call when we're ready for business.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

A Freelance Gig Worth Considering: Bicycle Repair Tech

More people are giving up their vehicles for a number of reasons - personal budget cuts, the environment, or their health.  However, the nice thing about this profession is there's no intense training or certification to get started.  Some bicycle repair techs got their experience by practicing on their own bikes, either out of necessity or they just had a knack for it growing up.

As this pandemic is showing little signs of slowing in most major U.S. cities, this freelance can definitely be in demand if one were to look at their community.  Is COVID causing people to gain weight?  Rely less on public transportation?  Or cut back on their auto expenses?

This is ideal if your gyms, parks, and other public recreation centers are closing or limiting services.  Same for buses and train services that have cut back due to fewer passengers or a shortage of drivers.  So the demand is definitely there and the cost of training may be minimal.

Now, working on e-bikes may require more than the video above but there are options that can run you under $150.  My alma mater, Santa Monica College, offers a free non-credit Skillbuilder course that's offered online (as of this date).  There are also a number of proprietary institutions with year-round offerings.  As a word to the wise, I wouldn't spend a lot of money at an entity that also offers vocational training programs like Interior Decoration or Pet Grooming.  IJS.

If you want to get more experience, Indeed has full and part-time job listings that average $18/hour.  In an age where our lovely government doesn't know when they're going to send out that second stimulus payment or if unemployment will be extended on a federal level, this isn't bad.  Work climates are usually spacious enough to allow for social distancing.

Once you gain experience and a solid following, you may want to open your own shop.  While this may seem like the ideal work-at-home gig, unlike sitting in front of a computer all day, your landlord may have something to say about it.  Since these are different times and you happen to have a cool person in charge, you might be able to talk them into a deal.  Either offer to pay for working space or see if you can barter services.  Paying rent on time isn't a priority for many these days,  they should offer some flexibility.  You can also look into small commercial spaces that allow for storage of bikes and equipment.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Non-Depressing Pandemic Topics for Content Writers and Marketers

To say these are not easy times is the understatement of the century.  So many issues and even more questions than even experts can handle.  Turn on the media and it's easy to get lost in the negativity because face it, there's little we can do as an individual if others aren't on board.  Even better, getting the truth from the powers that be regarding money, the pandemic, and how we're supposed to function as this thing progresses.

However, having an optimistic yet pragmatic POV, along with keeping masks and disinfectant gear nearby 24/7.  Of course, you know this (or have at least heard) but what the public wants is a distraction they can use that has nothing to do with politics or heated money topics.  Being productive is one way to survive the COVID blues.

Article and social media topics for B2B or B2C don't necessarily have to be dreadful but inspirational to families and individuals affected by the pandemic.  When analyzing the audience, there are at least two groups to focus on - those looking for survival and those looking to prepare for better things.   Both have different needs when it comes to maintaining a daily balance.

People looking for work often need resources that will help keep them calm during their job search.  Those who may be looking to change positions or switch careers may want to learn survival techniques that suit their current needs.  Anyone seeking both may need a laundry list of resources, including inspiration that will help them pull through these trying times.

Topics to consider for content marketing are as follows -

Activism - this isn't about picketing the streets but learning the laws and encouraging others to get involved.  Learn the right terms, know which government branch and the contact that needs to hear what you have to say, and to say it.

Commerce - learn what businesses can do to maintain operations.  If you're a decent digital marketer or web designer, this is the time to introduce yourself as someone who may be able to save your local business.   Work on a marketing pitch that a business cannot possibly deny because it should emphasize how to remain in the public eye - at minimal cost to them.

Consumer Interest - which retailers are offering the best deals right now.  Some brick and mortar operations are closing their doors for good, while others are offering incredible markdowns.  This group is also open to ideas about bartering or where to get the best deal on things like prepaid debit cards that come with incentives.

Job Seekers/Career Changers - remember, this group can be rather broad, as there are many who are getting their degrees at 40, entering the workforce under unusual circumstances, or want the best vocational career advice. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Networking in the Age of COVID

And why not?  You've got better things to do than sit around watching the news or shopping for things you don't really need.  Yes, get out into your workspace (or find an area in your house that's not too cluttered) and get to it.  NOW!

The rules of networking haven't changed much except you can't meet anyone at a coffee shop, during happy hour, office, or your home.  You can attempt the last option if you like but if it were me, I'd at least make sure to have many masks to give away (one reason to practice smizing).  Especially since my place can only accommodate about 3-5 people model-size (or 1-2 average/plus size) people.

So, you've got LinkedIn and maybe a couple of other online groups that are a little sleepy right now.  Maybe you're the one that's been hibernating on some opportunities.  Either way, many businesses haven't slowed down during this pandemic.  Besides Amazon, there are more companies who could use help, or maybe your brilliant idea is perfect for their current needs.

Whatever the case, you should still prepare yourself to pitch or ask questions during that Zoom meeting.  Like Skype interviews, be prepared to enunciate while speaking and make sure your background is free of clutter.  While kids and pets are adorable, they don't need to be a part of the scenery.  And for my boomerang freelancers out there, tell Mom you need some privacy for about an hour or so.

Yep, be prepared to converse before going in for the kill.  Hate to sound so mean but according to Business Know-How, real conversation before direct pitching is highly encouraged.  I know, there's much going on in the world and it's hard to remain engaged.  You may have to be the one that gets the party started.

However, if things are dead, get out.  You've got better things to do watch reruns or worse, reality TV.  Signs of death on Zoom or other meeting app are as follows -

  • No one is paying attention (all black or mostly black screens)
  • The host is having a private convo with a single person for more than 30 seconds 
  • Too many distractions (The host needs to offer attendees a test login and give a pre-meeting warning about barking dogs and/or aggressive toddlers, talkative grandparents, etc. before logging in)
If one networking session doesn't go as planned, don't get discouraged.  Sometimes, you can create your own session in online forums or start your own group.  Happy chatting $$$!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Freelance Gig Worth Considering: Hot Dog Vendor

No, I'm not on the edge of my head with this one.  Food trends come and go and let's face it, rarely does junk food make a permanent exit.  A hot dog business has a lower startup and less overhead than a traditional catering business.  And not like I'm suggesting a casserole or meat stew stand in the middle of downtown.

While you may not make the six-figure salary that some New York dog vendors bring home, netting more than $100 a day isn't impossible.  That is...if you know how to market your offerings.  And it wouldn't hurt to be creative if your area already has a couple of regular vendors.

It's no surprise that the best money is in business districts with limited offerings.  You have to move and think (calculate orders and/or monitor visitors) fast, along with not give in to pressure.  This is why this type of operation works well for pairs - one to take orders while the other does the assembly. 

If you choose to have a self-serve condiment option, this saves time and you might be able to go at it alone.  The only catch is that you have to use the little time you have to clean up between visitors and make sure visitors don't get greedy with the condiments. It's also best to invest in a cart that can be locked and secured for when nature calls.

Working private events is a lot safer for those who may be susceptible to theft or other act of violence.  Even if you do carry a firearm permit, sometimes it's not worth the stress when an area is dangerous.  And that's why we pay law enforcement every year...who wants that job without the pension package?

In an age where people are getting away from the traditional wedding, you may be surprised to see more bridal parties opting for real comfort food.  Instead of choosing the usual pork dogs with mustard and relish, look into more unique ideas for the wedding reception.  If you're handy behind the grill, you may want to offer a variety of link sausages and condiments that will appease every appetite.

This is where creatives can truly shine.  Condiments ranging from aioli to zydeco pepper jelly can give your dogs a gourmet touch. There's also the plant meat movement for those vegans or anyone who's curious about a meatless hotlink that tastes like it came straight from a Texas meat market.  Also,  protein diet trends or choosing to go with a wide variety of sausage types that will leave guests drooling are good ideas.

There are also sides you can offer, like chips that are hard to find, retro candy bars, or crazy soda flavors.  You may have to adapt to cultural tastes in your area or take a page from Roy Choi.  This may be the right time to come out with your own successful version of the Kogi taco.

Finally, this is also a business that will allow you to test the waters before making a large investment.  While carts aren't cheap, they cost much less than a food truck or storefront.  Like any new venture, you also need to study your competition and get at least a couple of ideal places to set up shop.