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Opt-out era will lead back to traditional methods of marcom

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If you were a follower of the hipster tech crowd that once said drop all traditional methods of reaching your audience and did so, you may find yourself voiceless in the very near future.

Smartphone adoption is steadily changing the way consumers opt in and out of advertising and it’s damn cheap to do so. An example of such an opt service is Pandora. For 10 hours on the road yesterday, we enjoyed our drive advertisement free. Interestingly enough, this was done via our EVO tapped into our car stereo system and a paid subscription of $3. On the return trip, my daughter’s iPod took over (again, ad free) playing her top 100 list of songs she’s painstakingly collected over the past several years.

What I observed as we drove were blank highway signs along IH-35 from Dallas to Austin, TX. Surreal to say the least, it was a ghost drive bouncing from one blank sign to the next- not an ad in sight. If you’ve never made this drive yourself, what is unusual about this connecting stretch of highway is that IH-35 is lined with cities- local economies where we once saw builder signs and local real estate brokerage signs.  Obviously, they’ve opted for an online spend as opposed to a traditional messaging platform- and that’s fine, but in 2011 and 2012 one wonders if those businesses could be impacting their total market share by not spending in a more diversified capacity in a way where the consumer has a tougher time opting out.

There’s a rub here though. Recently, we (our household) got in a bit of trouble because we’re an online bill pay family. Thus, the mail had maybe gone ignored a little longer than it should have. What happened as a result was quite the pain as trusted mail was returned and suddenly our service providers questioned whether we still lived at the same address as a full mail box means returned to sender. Oops. Our “everything” online life bit us in the ass, when the intention was simply to opt out of spam. In fact, ultimately, it was spam that filled our mailbox, and very few service providers were actually impacted.

Email is another issue altogether. I now have many email boxes, some important, some not, and few that shouldn’t be important but somehow make it to circulation – hence something important is bound to be missed as we’ve become skimmers at best of really great subject lines- similar to headlines, if it ain’t breaking news, I’m probably skipping it!

All of this has me wondering about the brokerage of the future, and the one of the past, and it also has me concerned for the independent agent.

The answer lies in diversification, and what those methods look like depend a lot upon your location, your local community, and how it opts to hear your corporate messaging. In your planning for 2011, something you should certainly consider is PPC for digital, and I say this with a certain disdain, but let’s face it, if a car’s music is piped via Pandora opt-in advertising (free) via a laptop or tablet (which we also use), geo aware cookies via their laptop may pull the appropriate messaging for that market. I would also recommend taking a look at some of the cost saving tactics you took in 2005 and possibly resurrect those that worked for you.

One of the things I looked for and found in local shops were thin and abandoned home finder magazines. This may be a more effective method versus a billboard, especially combined with “text” for more info for direct lead opportunities. I would suggest in all cases of traditional methods combining them with your digital tools- texting is so much more powerful than the 1-800 contact systems of the past. Another inventive way of advertising for title, inspectors, and other home improvement businesses may look local to some of the hyper-local blogs and for advertising relationships to share costs. However,  in most cases, I suspect traditional media may be available at basement pricing, so look into both options. One thing we learned on our journey was once off the beaten path of IH-35, our internet wasn’t so great and our phones seemed useless at times- another reason to look more deeply at traditional or no option advertising.

I see all of this much the same way I see myself in a department store- when I don’t need help, there were three people here, but now that I need help, where in the hell did they go? We’ve all been there.

As times change, they remain the same, but one thing is for sure, the way we as real estate professionals reinvent ourselves in our marketplaces continues to evolve with new and interesting hurdles, and opt-out is certainly one of those hurdles.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Brandon

    November 24, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Great post, Benn …

  2. Coleen DeGroff

    November 25, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Hi Benn,
    The real estate industry has undergone such a paradigm shift in the past few years that sometimes it is difficult to know what the best strategy is for finding customers….or, more importantly, what the best strategy is for having customers find you. Sticking with JUST internet advertising (PPC, blogging, etc). is not a good idea, just as sticking with JUST “old” forms of advertising (home magazines, newspapers, etc) is a mistake as well. Here in Gainesville FL I am looking for a balance between the two, as I am sure most real estate professionals are…..finding the perfect balance of the two types of marketing is the real estate professional’s new Holy Grail. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Ken Brand

    November 26, 2010 at 7:39 am

    That’s the key isn’t it. To embrace new things, experiment, Frankenstein new tools with old rules, be sure not be blinded by the shiny or swayed by crowds. If we can remember to focus on what we want our outcome to be and the best way to create it, instead of too much on the new how or the new what, everyone wins faster and better.

    Personally, I struggle with keeping the outcome of my goal in mind and I wonder. Thanks for reminding me. Happy Thanksgiving Benn.

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Business Marketing

Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls

(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.

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Macy's retail storefront, which may look different as they scale to smaller stores.

I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.

The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.

As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.

So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?

The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”

While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.

Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?

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Business Marketing

Why you must nix MLM experience from your resume

(BUSINESS MARKETING) MLMs prey on people without much choice, but once you try to switch to something more stable, don’t use the MLM as experience.

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Discussing including MLM experience on a resume.

MLM experience… Is it worth keeping on your resume?

Are you or someone you know looking for a job after a stint in an MLM? Well, first off, congratulations for pursuing a real job that will provide a steady salary! But I also know that transition can be hard. The job market is already tight and if you don’t have much other work experience on your resume, is it worth trying to leverage your MLM experience?

The short answer? Heck no.

As Ask the Manager puts it, there’s a “strong stigma against [MLMs],” meaning your work experience might very well put a bad taste in the mouth of anyone looking through resumes. And looking past the sketchy products many offer, when nearly half of people in MLMs lose money and another quarter barely break even, it sure doesn’t paint you in a good light to be involved.

(Not to mention, many who do turn a profit only do so by recruiting more people, not actually by selling many products.)

“But I wouldn’t say I worked for an MLM,” you or your friend might say, “I was a small business owner!”

It’s a common selling point for MLMs, that often throw around pseudo-feminist feel good slang like “Boss Babe” or a “Momtrepreneur,” to tell women joining that they’re now business women! Except, as you might have guessed, that’s not actually the case, unless by “Boss Babe” you mean “Babe Who Goes Bankrupt or Tries to Bankrupt Her Friends.”

A more accurate title for the job you did at an MLM would be Sales Rep, because you have no stake in the creation of the product, or setting the prices, or any of the myriad of tasks that a real entrepreneur has to face.

Okay, that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as “small business owner.” And I know it’s tempting to talk up your experience on a resume, but that can fall apart pretty quickly if you can’t actually speak to actual entrepreneur experience. It makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about…which is also not a good look for the job hunt.

That said… Depending on your situation, it might be difficult to leave any potential work experience off your resume. I get it. MLMs often target people who don’t have options for other work opportunities – and it’s possible you’re one of the unlucky ones who doesn’t have much else to put on paper.

In this case, you’ll want to do it carefully. Use the sales representative title (or something similar) and, if you’re like the roughly 50% of people who lose money from MLMs, highlight your soft skills. Did you do cold calls? Tailor events to the people who would be attending? Get creative, just make sure to do it within reason.

It’s not ideal to use your MLM experience on a resume, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Still, congratulations to you, or anyone you know, who has decided to pursue something that will actually help pay the bills.

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Business Marketing

This smart card manages employee spending with ease

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Clever credit cards make it easier for companies to set spending policies and help alleviate expense problems for both them and their employees.

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Spendesk showing off its company credit cards.

Company credit cards are a wonderful solution to managing business expenses. They work almost exactly like debit cards, which we all know how to use, am I right? It is the twenty-first century after all. Simply swipe, dip, or tap, and a transaction is complete.

However, keeping up with invoices and receipts is a nightmare. I know I’ve had my fair share of hunting down wrinkled pieces of paper after organizing work events. Filling out endless expense reports is tedious. Plus, the back and forth communication with the finance team to justify purchases can cause a headache on both ends.

Company credit cards make it easier for companies to keep track of who’s spending money and how much. However, they aren’t able to see final numbers until expense reports are submitted. This makes monitoring spending a challenge. Also, reviewing all the paperwork to reimburse employees is time-consuming.

But Spendesk is here to combat those downsides! This all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service provides a promising alternative to internal management. The French startup “combines spend approvals, company cards, and automated accounting into one refreshingly easy spend management solution.”

Their clever company cards are what companies and employees have all been waiting for! With increasing remote workforces, this new form of payment comes at just the right moment to help companies simplify their expenditures.

These smart cards remove limitations regular company cards have today. Spendesk’s employee debit cards offer companies options to monitor budgets, customize settings, and set specific authorizations. For instance, companies can set predefined budgets and spending category limitations on flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. Then they don’t have to worry about an employee taking advantage of their card by booking a first-class flight or eating at a high-end steakhouse.

All transactions are tracked in real time so finance and accounting can see purchases right as they happen. Increasing visibility is important, especially when your employee is working remotely.

And for employees, this new form of payment is more convenient and easier on the pocket. “These are smart employee company cards with built-in spending policies. Employees can pay for business expenses when they need to without ever having to spend their own money,” the company demonstrated in a company video.

Not having to dip into your checking account is a plus in my book! And for remote employees who just need to make a single purchase, Spendesk has single-use virtual debit cards, too.

Now, that’s a smart card!

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