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  1. Nonprofits are more similar to for-profit business than they are different

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    Advertising and public relations are both functions of marketing. Advertising and public relations are more similar than they are different. Marketing for businesses and nonprofit organizations are more similar than they are different. Our lives are interwoven with our vocational and avocational pursuits as much as the promotional side of marketing is interwoven with advertising and public relations.

    I’ve actually spent more time working with a nonprofit than I have years in the working world. I joined the Boy Scouts of America as a Cub Scout 10 years before I left for college. Boy Scouts got a head start on me.

    Regardless of whether the organization is for-profit or nonprofit, the “4 P’s” of marketing do not change – product, place, price and promotion.

    The marketing “P” known as product is really referring to a product or service. Nonprofits are typically more service-oriented. The service that Boy Scouts provides is leadership development. My company provides a service, and it is marketing consulting. We both offer touch points whether it’s merit badge pamphlets or brochures, but the similarity between us is service.

    We both have an area of territory that we cover. This “P” is place. The Yocona Area Council covers a 12-county area in Northeast Mississippi. Robinson Marketing has a much wider coverage area. Thanks to the Internet, service organizations like my company can cover a much larger territory than it is to comfortably drive.

    “Price” is not necessarily profitability. For nonprofits it’s about breaking even. For-profit companies look at revenue. Nonprofit companies look at funds raised. Both carefully look at expenses.

    So, with “promotion,” nonprofits use public relations and for-profits use advertising? Right? No. Nonprofits use advertising and public relations and for-profits use advertising and public relations. More simply put, nonprofits and for-profits promote their services in a variety of ways. It is a fair statement that nonprofits rely more on public relations, but there are times when they advertise.

    Advertising refers to paid space. With advertising, the advertiser has creative control. The message stays as it is crafted. Advertising lasts longer because the space for print and the time for broadcast is paid for and is dependent upon the advertisers budget for the campaign.

    Public relations is about free publicity. There is less control over the message because when a news release is sent, the media can edit the release. More credibility is given to a public relations article than paid advertising. The media is under no obligation to run a news release or public service announcement. The life of a public service announcement or news release is generally not as long as an advertising campaign.

    Communications with the audience is the key. The simpler the message is, the better. Nonprofit groups have more advocates who will use social media to help their cause and who are more likely to post about their relationship to the group. My personal Facebook and Instagram accounts show more about the Boy Scouts of America and the Yocona Area Council than it does about my business. But, since my business is about marketing, I’m using my social media accounts to aid my Scouting relationships.

    Keep the message clear. And, thank you, for the work that you do to support our community.

  2. The paradox of advertising

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    The paradox of advertising that we’ve all heard is this: “I cannot afford to advertise, but I cannot afford not to advertise.”

    The answer to this is that it’s not about advertising, it’s about marketing. More specifically, it’s about marketing planning.

    Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive. And, the correlation that the more is spent the more is gained does not always work if the message is not targeted correctly or if it is not engaging.

    There are a few companies that have spent their entire year’s budget at once. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There are other companies that follow the tortoise and the hare philosophy of slow and steady wins the race. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    Start with the end in mind. That’s “vision.” In an article earlier this year, I mentioned a five-year plan. If that’s too difficult, start with a one-year plan or a six-month plan. Know where you want to be. Yogi Berra, one of my favorite modern day philosophers, said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Start with a vision, and allow a little flexibility.

    Where you’re going is important. How you’re going to get there is as equally important. If you set a quota for yourself, the flow of customers has to come from somewhere. How will the message get to them?

    Being in the marketing business, I don’t necessarily focus on one medium or one vehicle. I believe in a multimedia approach when possible. Sometimes budgets don’t allow for this at first. But, each medium and each vehicle have their strong points and their weak points. It’s important to know these when spreading the message.

    “Every time I turn on the TV, listen to the radio, read the newspaper, or go online, I see my competition.” The first SUV I bought was small and green. I thought it was unique. Yet, after I bought it, I started seeing its twin everywhere. Because I had an interest in the vehicle, I started noticing what I hadn’t been seeing before. If I’m not paying attention, I can easily lose my car in a parking lot because there are so many cars similar to mine. Perhaps your competition does have a larger marketing budget than you do, but you’re also seeing the message because you are looking for it. With a smaller budget, it is important to work harder, target better and be more specific with the message. And, no one’s budget is limitless even though it may appear to be so.

    I started this article with one cliché, and I’ll end with another. “Plan your work, then work your plan.” Remember Yogi Berra. A direction is needed. The path may change along the way. That’s OK. While the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, sometimes obstacles get in the way to make the straight line path impossible. Don’t lose focus of the vision. One vision may lead to another vision. That’s OK too. Then it’s time to plan again.

    Failing to plan and then following the plan is “like déjà vu all over again.” Right, Yogi?

  3. Marketing for nonprofit and for-profit businesses is similar

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    Marketing for a nonprofit organization and for a for-profit business shares a lot of similarities. I think that is a difficult concept because on occasion I am asked how different it is for me to market for one versus the other.

    Looking at the promotional side of marketing, there are two subcategories that are very similar. Those are “advertising” and “public relations.” These are so close in what they do that sometimes they are mistaken for one another.

    Public relations is not nonpaid advertising. Yes, nonpaid advertising can be and usually is an action item under the public relations umbrella, but public relations is so much more than not having to pay for an ad.

    Where a business has a paid staff, a nonprofit organization also has a paid staff and a cadre of volunteers. I have found that the volunteers can often be most passionate toward the cause of the nonprofit organization. It is this passion that motivates them to volunteer.

    Both nonprofit organizations and business have audiences to whom they want to deliver their messages and have the audiences respond. Both have influencers, who are the group that the audiences tend to follow. Both have messages to share. Think of an influencer is one who is willing to pitch your product or service because they believe in it and in you; they are your unpaid salesforce.

    Where a business will pay for advertising, a nonprofit organization relies a lot on nonpaid messages. By paying for the ad space, the business gets to choose when and where the message will appear. Nonpaid media does not necessarily have that luxury, although a lot of media vehicles will work with nonprofit agencies to help promote the message if they have the space available. One of the benefits of living in North Mississippi is that, as they are able, the media will help out.

    There are other sources that can help. Social media is a great way to spread messages. I see that the audiences on social media are usually larger and more engaging for nonprofit organizations than for businesses. In my opinion, this goes back to the passion of those involved with nonprofit organizations. Businesses do a little better job of “speaking with one voice” in their social media messaging as there is more of an element of control.

    Think of a nonprofit organization with which you are affiliated. It could be a church, school-related or cause-related. Think of the messages you receive from them. The messages created follow the same process that the messages for a for-profit company would use. It’s about finding and reaching the right audience and encouraging an action from the audience that benefits both the organization and the audience member. A marketing plan written for a nonprofit organization follows the same process and is indistinguishable from a for-profit business.

  4. You hear what you listen for

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    One winter evening, two men left work in a busy city and joined the mob of people headed to the subway during rush hour. As they walked toward the station, one man stopped the other and said, “Do you hear that? It’s a bird singing.”

    “That’s impossible,” replied the co-worker. “It’s winter in the city. All the birds have flown south. Besides, it’s rush hour. Look at all the people. Listen to the traffic. You wouldn’t be able to hear a bird above this din if you tried.”

    The first man looked around, and sure enough, there was a robin on a telephone wire. The co-worker saw it and sarcastically said, “That’s great. Come on, or we’ll miss the next train.”

    As their pace quickened, the first man reached into his front pocket, pulled out a few coins and pitched them into the crowd of people headed home from work.

    “Stop!” the co-worker said. “Someone has just dropped four quarters!”

    The first man grinned at his friend and said, “You hear what you listen for.”

    I can’t remember where I first read that story, but the message has always stayed with me. It reminds me of the challenge of finding customers because not all customers have the same goal.

    Where do you go to get information about a product you plan to buy or a service you plan to hire? How do you become aware of what you need? Who do you talk to before you make the step to call or meet a sales representative?

    Word of mouth is a form of advertising. A good testimonial from a friend can be the highest rating a company can receive. The opposite can also be true. The difficulty is that two people given the same facts and experience can report it two different ways. Compare a trip you’ve taken with a friend. Do you both remember everything the same?

    Perception is a funny thing. While it is true “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” first impressions are not always accurate. I’ve watched people draw the wrong conclusions based on little information. And, I’ve done the same thing only to learn much later how wrong I was.

    Advertising and public relations are about informing the customer, potential customer or interested party. It’s about staying seen in the public eye. The experience that the customer has is the next step after being seen. Not all will accept the invitation to learn about the product or service. That’s why the message has to be placed where it has the maximum efficiency of finding potential customers. That location varies based on the interests of the customers.

    Salesmanship is a part of marketing too. How a salesperson interacts with a customer affects the sale and the good or bad referral. And, the title “sales representative” is not necessary to be a salesman. The person who answers the phone – whether it is a secretary, a maintenance worker or the owner of the company – immediately represents the company. That person’s actions dictate the perception of the person calling in.

    If you happen to get the voicemail message on my mobile phone, I tried to make it warm and friendly. I’ve gotten several compliments on it. I’ve been kidded about it too. Different people have different perceptions. I’m not saying their perceptions are wrong, I’m just saying their perceptions are different. Facts determine whether something is correct; opinions always vary.

    I try to keep an open mind. I’m looking for a longer relationship than a first impression, and I’m willing to invest the time to establish that relationship. My hope is that I can hear the bird sing in rush hour traffic.

  5. Advertising and the health of the business

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    For my personal health care, I have an annual checkup, biannual dental exam and annual eye exam. I trust these professionals to explain the results of the tests they perform. Sometimes adjustments in my routine are necessary. Some adjustments are easier than others. For example, it is easier for me to lose weight than it is for me to grow taller so that the ratio between my weight and height are within a normal range.

    For my company health, I have professionals I trust with whom I discuss the finances of the company or industry trends. Being part of the Agency Management Institute has been a great resource for me in keeping in touch with the pulse of my industry.

    When an industry is feeling poorly, businesses within the industry have to take stock of what they have to guard themselves against the “illness” that is slowing their businesses. Marketing tends to be at the forefront of the cuts that companies make.

    “Marketing” is a broad term. It has subdivisions of product, price, place and promotion. While companies keep close watch of their costs to create or to serve, the price they charge their customers and where the product or service goes, one of the first cuts tends to be advertising and public relations.

    The promotion arm of marketing includes advertising, public relations and the sales force. Advertising and public relations makes the job of the salesperson easier because they are sales tools. Sometimes they can speak to the customer before the salesperson can. A customer who is educated in the product or service makes a better prospect. Sometimes there are fewer questions, or the questions are more direct to the product or service so that the salesperson can differentiate from the competition. Therefore, advertising and public relations save the salesperson time. The more sales that can be made is better for the salesperson and it is better for the company.

    Advertising used in lean times can help a company gain market share, meaning they get a larger percentage of the overall business in their category. So when the lean times start to get healthy again, the business grows with it. It is an investment, not much different than buying a stock at a low price to watch the value increase as the market increases.

    Businesses that do not advertise in good times run the risk of not growing. “We’ve got all the business we can handle.” This could mean that the business is underdeveloped. Perhaps that business should re-evaluate its position in the market and how it can expand.

    Business decisions are difficult. It is easy to cut advertising because it doesn’t seem to have an adverse effect on people. It seems to be easier to control. But, advertising is like the wave in an ocean. It takes a while for the swell to build. Once it starts moving, it gains momentum. And, even when the advertising stops, it still takes a while for the wave to subside. Momentum does not stop easily.

    It’s worth a discussion with a marketing professional to check the heartbeat of a business from that perspective.

    Originally published in the May, 2016 issue of the Northeast Mississippi Business Journal in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

  6. Disney: Customer Service and Customer Experience

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    As a member of the Agency Management Institute, I have opportunities to travel to learn about industry trends and meet other marketing consultants. My most recent trip was to the convention center at Walt Disney World, and while I was learning about technology trends and tools in the marketing world, I was witnessing customer service and customer experience.

    The last time I was on the Walt Disney World property was a year after Epcot opened. I was a young teenager, and while I saw what was going on around me, I wasn’t observing. Now, 33 years later, I was at Disney with the discerning eye of a marketer.

    The one word often used at Disney other than their name is “magic.” I heard “Have a magical day” a lot. Disney relies on exceptional customer service and technology to make this happen for their guests. So, as you read my narrative, you’ll notice “magic” a lot.

    I made the reservation for my room over the phone. I was very fortunate to be using a special group rate. The Disney property is a distance from the Orlando airport. “Would you like complimentary transportation to your hotel?” Complimentary? Of course! I rode the Disney Magical Express motor coach to the Grand Floridian. At the hotel, I was met by a gentleman with an iPad who recognized me by name – probably because my luggage is well marked – and walked with me to the reception desk. I was given a Magic Band, a rubber bracelet with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip in it. The Magic Band was the key to my room. It was also tied to my credit card so that I could use it to check out at Disney stores without having to remove my wallet. I was asked to key in a personal identification number so that when I used the band only I would know the code to complete the transaction. If I purchased a ticket into any theme park, the band would allow me entrance. George Orwell, Big Brother wasn’t watching me. Mickey Mouse was. And, Mickey was interested that I have a good time.

    I didn’t need a paper map. The My Disney Experience app I downloaded to my iPhone showed me where I was, and I could use it to find wherever I need to be. I always like to find the conference room ahead of time so that I know how far it is from my room and so that I’m not searching for it at the last minute. I was using the app for this while standing in the lobby of an empty convention center the afternoon I arrived, and I heard a friendly voice say, “May I help you find something?” Disney, you’ve not lost the personal touch even with all your technological advances.

    I can’t imaging the training that the “cast member,” the Disney employees, must go through. Every cast member I met was friendly and engaging. Many companies claim they have customer service; Disney makes it an experience. When you hear the cliche “taking it to the next level,” experience is the next level of customer service.

    Disney is an incredible marketer. It has managed to stay relevant. I’ve asked those who I know who are in their teenage years now if they’ve ever seen a Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck cartoon. Mostly they have not. But, Disney has managed to keep their attention with other characters and in other communication channels. In marketing, we talk about the life cycle of products and services, and to stay in the forefront, a company must renew the product or service to keep from going obsolete. Obviously, Disney has found the secret to this.

    While my trip to Disney was short and my conference was a full two days, I did have the opportunity to visit the Disney World Park for a few hours. I went with a group from the conference. I am just over six feet tall, and I noticed a lot of the merchandise was in display cases shorter than my eye level. The characters that used to roam the park freely are now in specific locations at certain times for photo opportunities. I was told that one of the complaints Disney received about its characters that they were difficult to find for a magic moment. Disney adjusted its model, and now characters are on a schedule. And, they still will stop to have magic moments with guests on the way to their appointed photo op time.

    So during my trip for technology trends and tools, I have been reminded to stay relevant in the mind of the consumer, adapt itself, refresh itself and renew itself. Thanks for the refresher, Mickey.

    Originally published in the March, 2016 issue of the Northeast Mississippi Business Journal in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

  7. Vision is the necessity that is the mother of invention

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    If you go to the Henry Ford website at www.TheHenryFord.org, you’ll find this paragraph: “Henry Ford did not invent the automobile. He didn’t even invent the assembly line. But more than any other single individual, he was responsible for transforming the automobile from an invention of unknown utility into an innovation that profoundly shaped the 20th century and continues to affect our lives today.”

    When I was a member of the Community Development Foundation and CREATE Foundation’s Community Leadership Institute (CLI), I learned things about the Northeast Mississippi furniture industry and heard more than I originally knew about Morris Futorian. While I knew that Futorian was credited as “The Father of the Furniture Industry in Mississippi,” I did not know that he was also referred to as “The Henry Ford of Furniture.” He didn’t invent furniture. He didn’t invent the assembly line. But, his ideas that were inspired by an automobile assembly plant in Detroit, led to an industry boon that started with a plant in New Albany, Mississippi.

    As I look at my life and my relationships, I know very few people who have not been affected by what Futorian started. They may not be directly involved in the furniture industry, but they are at the periphery.

    One of the big names in the advertising industry is David Ogilvy. Ogilvy is credited with being “The Father of Advertising.” I get a lot of questions from my Boy Scouts who have taken courses on advertising about Ogilvy. I’m told that his tips on writing well are still being taught. His obituary from the New York Times mentioned the he “helped alter the landscape of American advertising.”

    Ideas can transcend industries. Futorian borrowed ideas from an automotive assembly plant to begin a furniture plant, but it was his experiences that showed him how to weave the ideas from one plant to another industry. See what that has grown into. One of Ogilvy’s early jobs was as a door-to-door salesman, which led him into writing a guide for his company. Then Ogilvy worked for Gallup’s Audience Research Institute. His ideas coupled with what he learned created a revolution in advertising in the 1960s. And, look at Elvis Presley, whose upbringing and experiences merged his sound and music to become the King of Rock and Roll.

    We all have the ability to make changes for the better. It starts with an idea. It takes patience, persistence and support. These ideas are vision. These visions must be marketed internally and externally. These pioneers had to have people who shared in their vision to be successful. One of the definitions that I use for “brave” in Boy Scouting is doing what you know is right while everyone else tells you that you are wrong. It is difficult to be brave.

    Did Ford, Futorian, Ogilvy or Presley see where their initial vision would lead? I doubt it. A one-year vision is different from a five-year vision is different from a 10-year vision and so on. Visions are crafted and guided. And, visions can change. But, it all starts with an idea.

    Originally published in the February, 2016 issue of the Northeast Mississippi Business Journal in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

  8. Open the door and say ‘hello’

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    Robinson and Associates was a proud sponsor of “Imagine the Possibilities,” the Northeast Mississippi Career Expo for eight graders that was held at the BancorpSouth Arena last month. We were part of the “Marketing” pathway, and all Robinson and Associates members took turns attending the expo and meeting with the students.

    When the students came to the Marketing area, I was able to identify them by town. Most of the students caught on that I was looking at their school T-shirt, jacket or jersey as I asked them about their home, but it was a good segue into marketing and branding. My point was that a lot of companies spend a lot of time, energy and money to get their names and images into the public eye. It’s part of the sales process. For those students who were interested, I explained more.

    When asked, “What do you know about marketing?” we received very few answers. I didn’t expect an answer; it was a way to open a dialog to explain marketing. Hopefully, by the time they left for another pathway, the students had an idea about marketing.

    I’m glad that the schools participated and prepared for the event by discussing the careers that were available. The opportunity to meet with people who work in the careers that were featured is invaluable. I also encourage the students and teachers in attendance to look further into the students’ careers of interest and ask questions. I’ve had several Boy Scouts over the years call or send me an email about the history of advertising that they were researching. So I know I have made some impact over the years.

    Depending upon their desires, these students will be our new workforce within the next 10 years. Little do they know that this is just the beginning of their journey.

    When I was in school and it was suggested that there are classes in the business world, I scoffed and said that I would be finished after college. Little did I know what lay ahead. Also, little did I know I would actually enjoy the learning ahead.

    I did not have a clear path to the career I have now. I did not start out looking to earn a degree in marketing. The story of how I got where I am today is a long one for another time, and it falls under “happy accident.” The courses that I have taken after joining my marketing company have helped me greatly, especially since I have been very interested in the subject matter. I have always learned something from a course I have taken, even if it may appear that I was “overqualified.” I took a basic account executive course about 10 years after I started working so I should have known the subject well. I found out there were some different ways that I could be working which were beneficial to both the client and my company that I would not have come across had I not enrolled in the class.

    From time to time I am asked advice on what college to choose or what career to pursue. Truthfully, I am not qualified to answer. Only the person asking the question knows their heart. That’s what should be followed. Everyone has an important part to play in the makeup of the community. We cannot exist without each other. A restaurant cannot run well if the waitstaff are not present nor can it run well if the cooks are not present. They don’t work for the owner; they work for the customers just as the owner does. Different jobs with different pay are equally as important.

    What is critical is to earn a high school diploma. That is step one. The second step can go in any direction. That is where the adventure begins. Have a goal in mind. Know that the goal may change. I wanted to be an engineer, but now I work in marketing. And, with one of my clients, I market for engineers. It’s the best of both worlds for me.

    Keep an open mind. When opportunity knocks, open the door and say, “Hello.” Who knows what’s next? That’s part of the adventure too.

    Originally published on page 16 of the November, 2015 issue of the Northeast Mississippi Business Journal in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

  9. The Truth About Advertising Agencies

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    “Have you ever seen ‘Mad Men?’”

    I think I have seen two episodes, but I am not familiar enough with the series to discuss it intelligently. When I receive this question, it is usually followed by additional inquiries of what I do for a living. The only current common frame of reference I hear is “Mad Men.” Before this, it was the television show “Bewitched.”

    The fascination with the advertising industry is the final creative since that is what reaches the public. Coming up with a campaign is much more than the creative.  It is a lot more than having the right idea. While I cannot say that TV is inaccurately portraying the process, their goal its to tell a good story. Sometimes facts get in the way of drama.

    One lure that marketing has for me is that I get the opportunity to learn other businesses.  I have to understand a product or service to be able to effectively market it.  I get to see the process. For industries, I get to tour the plant. Each business has its own language. Each business has its own personality. Companies are like fingerprints – they may have a similar size and shape, but no two companies are exactly alike.

    I enjoy research. I enjoy interacting with others. I like finding out answers to things that are new to me. Often I will hear a question, which may be rhetorical, and I will pull out my smartphone to get an answer. I have one client who will request, “Ty, pull out your magic box and find out….” I usually find the answer though on occasion I have found it necessary to use the smartphone to call a librarian for assistance.

    Creative sessions are fun too. If we’re not prepared, though, it may call for more research. The more knowledge we have, the more relevant we can be with the creative. And, I use plural pronouns with the creative process because it is a collaborative effort.  In my company everyone is part of the creative process. As Tom Robinson, the chairman of the company, is fond of saying, “The good ideas will rise to the top.”

    Once the creative is approved, the implementation phase of the process starts. The creative has to get to the customer, and the creative has to get the customer to act. So, here comes research again. There are a lot of factors that help determine which media and which vehicles are chosen.

    A great idea certainly helps a campaign. As shown, there is a lot more than just the great idea that becomes an advertising campaign.

    In the Cary Grant film “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” advertising account executive Mr. Blandings (Cary Grant) spends most of the movie worried about saving his firm’s account with Wham brand ham when he’s not preoccupied with his house being built. His job is saved when he triumphantly comes up with the perfect slogan that he overhears his maid say to the family at breakfast.

    It makes for good drama. And, I recommend the movie. But, that’s not usually how an advertising agency works.

    Originally published on page 17 of the October, 2015 issue of the Northeast Mississippi Business Journal in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

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