Sunday, May 20, 2012

Social Marketing - Strategy or Tactic?

Its been some time since I have posted on this blog as a result of being busy with various client projects.  Today's topic is timely in that Facebook went public at a nosebleed valuation.  Social marketing is a component of just about every marketing plan that I am involved in and I admin about ten pages.  I also advertise on Facebook for multiple clients so I have some insight into the role of social marketing.  Understanding that social marketing is a tactic and not a strategy is something that you don't hear much about in the media or from the myriad of self proclaimed social marketing experts.  My goal for a B2C client is to generate about 5-10% of our web traffic from Facebook.  Often this traffic is also the least engaged source of traffic as they may only recently become aware of your brand through advertising or interaction with the page of a friend who "likes" your brand.

I will be speaking on June 6th, 2012 about some of the analytics available on the internet.  Click here to learn more.  If you can't make this presentation, feel free to visit my website for more information on web analytics.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

As a new year approaches, it is important to keep things in perspective. While all the new stories seem to report on about Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and other digital media it is easy to forget that digital media will hit a total of $25.8 billion in 2010 which is still less than 20% of the $168.5 billion projected in total ad spending.

In my corporate life I was a big user of TV which is still the big dog anyway you look at it. Many of my current clients are big users of digital media but that's only because we are looking to target niches audiences or we can't afford to stake out that much of the market. TV may not be sexy or hot and it share of the market may be threatened by new media, but Red Lobster recently reported soft sales as a result of pulling back from TV and shifting spending to digital media. Be careful in developing a media and marketing plan that entails large shifts from the past mix. Balancing your marketing and media is a challenge even for the most experienced and requires some quantitative and strategic analysis.

Working with a limited budget requires sacrifice. Some of my clients have products that are largely sold on the internet with limited retail brick and mortar distribution. Consequently, the majority of our funds are spent on digital media. What we sacrifice is much exposure to the 40% of US homes that lack high speed internet access. We never had them so we're not giving up much other than opportunity to increase our revenues. Small companies often have challenges of increasing production so sacrificing part of their market potential only results in a slower penetration and sales increase.

Beware of pundits and advisors exclaiming traditional media is dead. Online media may have surpassed print in 2010 but print media is still generating $22.8 billion in ad spending. That's likely to be less in the future but customers for many products can still be acquired with print media. Print may not be right for all brands or target audiences but it is likely to have a role in many marketing plans. I recently met with a company that has a cloud solution for a wireless product with about 5000 potential customers total in the target audience. Direct mail and trade print are likely to be part of their marketing mix.

A successful competitor is one who adapts to changing conditions to keep growing a business. Following trends and over reacting to media coverage is likely to make you resemble Chicken Little.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Uncompetitive Nations

The news is ripe with dozens of countries that are running huge deficits which basically includes just about every country banks will lend money to. I've been reading some statistics about this recently. One says that the US collects $20,000 in taxes per household and spends $30,000. Politicians get elected by creating public sector employment so it is difficult to see how this is going to be solved without a huge amount of pain. The banks in Ireland were recently bailed out and the cost of the bail out was $33,000 for every man, woman and child in the nation of 4.5 million people. Clearly a Darwinian survival of the fittest will weed out some of the less competitive nations over the next few decades. You say it can't happen? 103 of the 195 nations on Earth didn't exist in their current form 50 years ago.

Over a dozen countries emerged after the dissolution of the USSR. A good analogy was that the USSR was like a conglomerate that filed bankruptcy and all the divisions got sold off into separate companies. Going back to the Ireland situation, can a country of 4.5 million people afford many layers of government? Doesn't appear to be a competitive economy of scale working for them. Watch for whole layers of overhead to disappear in countries in the European Union and some of these nations will look more like states.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Quote of the Day from Panera

"Being a better competitor became actually easier when everybody pulled back."

An interesting article on the merits of staying true to your long term strategy while ignoring some of the short term noise that makes corporations lose their way. Read the article on Businessweek on line.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Support an Inventor this holiday

Having invented the Surf-Grip ( as well as having a number of inventors as clients, I found that invention is the key driver behind an innovation economy. As much as politicians have spoken about creating jobs this recent election season, what really drives the economy is creating new inventions. It looks like the Kinect is going to be a big driver this holiday season and while it may get all the PR, its the thousands of other inventions that have provided America its competitive advantage in the global economy. As recognition of the role that inventors play in driving the economy, I'm promoting that everyone support an inventor this holiday season and by a gift of good old American know how. If you would like to buy someone a Surf-Grip, I'll really appreciate it. If you want to get me a gift, check out Stackmates ( They are a clever space saving storage item and if you buy me a set, you can get a 2nd set for yourself for $7.95. If I get multiple sets, I'll re-gift them to my friends and my kids.

Do your part for American innovation and support an inventor this holiday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sick of Politics As Usual? Write In Mike Sick for Congress - 50th District

This election season appears to be even more inane than in the past. Here in California we see hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to advertise what a lousy candidate the opponent is. You have to look long and hard to find out what the candidates are actually for as politicians are notorious for not saying anything so specific that a voter may actually disagree with them. With unemployment being reported at levels around 10%, every candidate is “for jobs”. Ask what the plan is and they don’t really have too much to say.

The way I see it, the candidates are playing politics as usual and just appear to be rearranging the desk chairs rather than advancing real solutions. Every election we hear about the changes the politicians will seeking but what we get are tinkering and tweaking that seem to create employment for lawyers and tax accountants but significant progress rarely seems to occur.

As a sign of my disgust, I have decided to mount a write in campaign for myself. Please join me by writing in Mike Sick for the 50th District of Congress if you live in North County San Diego. In the incumbent Brian Bilbray’s recent mailers, about 98% of the space was spent tearing down challenger Francine Busby.

You’re welcome to write my name in for governor anywhere else if you want to make a statement calling for government to make real changes and for politicians to offer solutions.

Here are some of my views that can offer real solutions. You may not agree with all of them but I’m sure that you don’t agree with 100% of the views of a particular party so let’s encourage a discussion of dramatic changes that will address problems rather than the symptoms.

1) Individual Freedom – I am proud to live in a country that was founded on the vision of protecting the rights of citizens to “Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”. Let’s quit trying to legislate our personal beliefs to everyone else. Our laws should protect the citizens from infringement of the rights by others.

2) Unemployment – Up to 99 weeks have been available for folks who have become unemployed. Some could say that there are people taking advantage of those benefits. We should require days of community service from people receiving unemployment - beach clean ups, volunteer organizations, community service. Think of the resource that could be unleashed. We should also encourage hiring corporations to plan volunteer days in which they could invite unemployed persons to volunteer side by side with them which leverages the impact of the project and creates relationships with potential employers.

3) Mentoring and coaching for at risk youth - keep them from getting pregnant and out of jail. Could the unemployed be trained and tasked to provide leadership to younger people? There aren’t enough jobs for the unemployed to be spending 5 days a week applying for them. There’s a lot of waiting time in most job searches. Let’s use some of that time more productively.

4) Jobs for Veterans: Create job prerequisites that give employment preference to veterans for jobs with the post office, police, fire, Border Patrol, DMV and other public sector jobs. Public sector jobs should be a privilege to folks who have served the country – not patronage spoils to be divided up.

5) Disaster Preparedness – News reports from Katrina and Haiti reinforce the inadequacy of government in dealing with massive disasters. I would feel a whole lot better for my family and neighbors if we could work towards achieving emergency preparedness for 30% regional self sufficiency of energy, water and food from local sources. In San Diego, most of our food, energy and water come from outside of the country. Government can be the catalyst to accelerating development of solar, wind, biomass, local farms, water recycling etc.

6) Police Protection: Increase gas taxes with additional funds earmarked for police. By creating new sources of funding for police coverage, a greater share of property taxes can be dedicated to education and fire departments as property taxes will provide a more reliable source of revenue than fluctuating federal and state support. The highway fund should also be reserved for transportation and security – no raiding for the general fund.

7) Pension Reform: Create a pension program that balances the public burden of pension obligations with incentives for older citizens to work part time longer and defer collecting social security or other public pension obligations. This could come in the form of exempting retirement age individuals and their employers from social security contributions in return for deferring the start of social security and other payments for reduced work week "semi retirement" schedules. Pension equity should also be developed with more harmonization between the public and private sectors.

8) Wellness program – Our health care system to dysfunctional and repealing the Obama Care plan won’t really solve the health care problem but rather reduce health care to citizens who can’t afford health insurance. As a nation, we’re also creating future health care costs by a society that is becoming increasing more obese and less fit. Let’s create stakeholder groups that are vested in promoting wellness and reducing burdens on the health care expenses - health clubs, personal trainers and other can be paid with a preventive health assessment voucher that would get citizens eating right and exercising so that obesity and other future health costs can be mitigated.

9) Prohibition of Marijuana: Prohibition of alcohol was a complete disaster. We should learn from history and legalize and grow marijuana on military bases to generate a source of revenue for wounded warrior care and military pensions - take the profit away from the drug lords and reduce costs of border protection of prisons.

10) Congress should embrace technology and enable transparent voting from their districts limiting the time they spend in Washington.

11) Immigration: Create a Mexican guest worker program that enables daily border crossing for authorized workers who can be bused back to Mexico each night to be with their families who can receive health care and education in Mexico. Spending billions on a border fence seemed like a silly idea from the get go.

12) Jobs and Retirement: Create an age adjusted tax exemption on dividends so that a retiree may receive $20,000 in dividend income that they corporation has already paid taxes on to encourage retirement income that is focused on creating private sector employment rather than public sector tax transfers.

13) 2% plan. All public sector wages would increase 2% per year. Social security would increase 2% per year. Eliminate the annual dance and cost of negotiations. We might have to freeze increases for a year or two to get spending in line.

I trust just about everyone will find something in the preceding that they will disagree with but the point is that government must focus more on solutions and less on political advantage. If you are sick of politics as usual, write in Mike Sick for Congress, 50th District.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Battery Tax

I was talking to my mailman on a recent Saturday when I picked up two pieces of junk mail from my mailbox. I asked how long Saturday deliveries would be continued by the Post Office as it is really a service that has outlived its usefulness. He claimed that the Post Office is losing millions on Saturday delivery and that the union is fighting the elimination to save jobs.

In the US, we take the Post Office for granted although the Post Office is a huge part of our competitive advantage economically as a nation. It's not likely that UPS or Fedex will be competing for daily envelope delivery anytime soon and the scale of the Post Office enables a huge amount of business to be transacted at a very low cost.

On the other hand, the rise of electronic commerce is causing a reduction in volume quicker than the Post Office can reduce its workforce without a massive headcount reduction. In the last decade, the Post Office has already reduced its workforce by 200,000. Saturday delivery would result in another 40,000 reduction. The last thing the economy needs now is another 40,000 people losing their jobs.

Let's look for some creative solutions. What additional tasks could the Post Office take on? If you are wondering what the title of this post has to do with the preceding, the answer is about to come clear. Why don't we have the Post Office pick up all our used batteries and make sure they don't end up in the dump where they will eventually end up in our water supply? Adding a battery tax on the purchase of batteries would fund their collection and who better to be able to pick up from every home in the country.