Positioning and ‘Best Of’ Categories

August 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 5.00.41 PMVolume One, a local arts and culture publication, is coming out with their next ‘Best Of’ voting where local residents vote on their favorite restaurants, events, community development projects, etc. It reminded me that this recognition of being the best in your industry is something amazing, and not something you should take for granted as a small business owner.

But wait, we’ve talked about this before as marketers…it’s actually a basic principle of marketing. It’s called positioning.

Positioning was first coined by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book: “Positioning – The Battle for Your Mind.” Positioning is the practice of identifying a space in the market that is not currently being filled, and aligning your business or products with it so that customers recognize your business or products as the best solution to their need.

Positioning is all about being known for something by your customers – taking up a space in their mind – being the best, the fastest, the lowest price, the highest quality, the safest, the sweetest, the most trustworthy, the newest, the oldest. Positioning means your product or service fills a hole in the market, and it’s one of the most important marketing strategies that a business has. It helps you differentiate from competition, it makes you more memorable, and it gives a target group of customers a specific reason to buy your product or service.

So during this ‘Best Of’ season, what is your business known for? When customers hear your company name, what’s the one word you want them to associate with you? If you don’t know, ask them. If they don’t know, it’s time to work on your positioning.


Why Good Content is So Important, and Why You Need to Start a Thinking Like A Publisher

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Google again just released another update to their search algorithm a couple months ago, and I hear a lot of businesses wondering how they’re ever going to figure out SEO when Google keeps changing the rules.

There is a very simple answer and one that is best for your company’s brand, your customers, and for search engines: keep publishing useful, unique content.

No matter what changes Google has made to their algorithm in the last 10 years, they’ve all been focused on one objective: to provide better, more relevant content (in the form of search results) to users. They’ve gotten rid of spam, they’ve shunned crappy directories, they’ve brought good directories to the forefront, they’ve basically made it a waste of time to try to trick the search engine. So why are we still trying to trick them when all they want is for you to give them something real?

Your Company Needs to Think Like a Publisher.

As a modern marketer, your job no longer requires hours of research and sifting through purchased databases of mailing lists. Your job is to connect with customers and help them learn about your product. Your job is to answer your customers’ questions, provide them with stories of how your product or service helped someone else, or teach them to be better buyers of your product.

You accomplish this by changing your thinking. Pretend you’re a journalist, and you’re looking for stories. Your beat is your company, and you want to get news out that matters to your readers. You want people to subscribe to your news. You want to be seen as a thought leader in your industry and do the first to report on new trends, topics, and tips. When you start thinking like a journalist whose sole responsibility is to cover your company, you’ll find that there really IS a lot to write about and it’s not as hard to come up with as you might think.

Here are a few ideas of where you can find great content inside the walls of your own company:

  • Interview employees and ask them about their last encounter with a customer.
  • Talk to your customer service staff and find out what the top 5 most frequently asked questions are. Then find someone in the company who can answer those questions.
  • Ask your sales staff why customers say no, and how the salesperson responds to overcome it.
  • Ask your sales staff what the customers care about most; what problems, specifically, your product solves.

You can also take tidbits from your existing marketing materials and expand upon them in a blog or special section of your website. Provide instructions or how-tos in the form of articles or videos. Share photos on your website or graphics of your work.

But Is Content Marketing Really Going to Work?

I know some of you are saying to yourselves right now “this seems like a lot of busy work that doesn’t directly ask for a sale or convert.” Well, it’s not directly asking for a sale. It’s not pushing a promotion. It’s not interrupting people and forcing them to listen to your special deal. It’s different than what we are used to. But that’s ok! We all know, and have heard the stats, that traditional, interruption marketing just doesn’t work all that well in the Internet era. So why are we so afraid to try something that is proving to be a winning strategy?

Most businesses right now aren’t structured to be publishers, and I think that’s why they’re not moving faster. They’re still trying to get used to the fact that they might have to employ writers, videographers, or photographers….or they might have to do this themselves. Marketing today is much more than buying advertising and then brushing your hands off and saying you’re done for the year. It’s more than sending out a mailing and then waiting for the calls to come in. This takes some getting used to, but it’s worth the investment of time and resources to build a content strategy for your business sooner rather than later.

Local News + Police Scanner = Poor Journalism

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Eau Claire, Wisconsin is one of the safest cities in the country. In fact, it has been ranked in several reports about being safe, clean, friendly, and having great education. So why is it that our local news stations (at least one, in particular) spends so much of its time on stories they got from the police scanner? I’m not even kidding – I just watched the first 5 minutes of the news cast and counted 5 stories – ALL about who got arrested, who was charged with what, who was found guilty. Seriously??? Is that all that’s going on in this town? Absolutely not.

It would be refreshing if those writing the 10:00 news stories would actually report on NEWS in the community, not just the crime. It’s sad too, because employers like Mayo Health System are trying to get people to think Eau Claire is a great place to live and work, yet all those people see on the local news is how much crime we (apparently) have.

I’m thoroughly disappointed in the lack of journalistic effort. And to the unnamed TV stations who rely on the police scanner for “juicy” stories: If you’re having a hard time finding good journalists to write newsworthy stories, you’re not looking very hard. If you have good journalists, but don’t give them a chance to air their stories because they’re not “juicy enough”, then the director needs a kick in the butt. Come on…let’s work a little harder and do the job well. It’s insulting to see you be so lazy.

Categories: Uncategorized

JC Penney’s New Pricing Model – Yay or Nay?

February 29, 2012 1 comment

This recent conversation with Christina has given me fodder for a new (and much needed) post. It is referencing the new pricing strategy that JC Penney is taking in their retail stores. Goodbye to “Lowest Prices of the Season” sales….and “BIG Savings”….and “70% Off Storewide”…Yes – you can probably even hear that woman’s voice on the commercial telling you time and time again that there are great deals to be had.

JCP New Pricing StrategyHowever, over the last several decades, they were training people to not come into their store unless there was a sale going on. Realistically, that was pretty much all the time, but still – I, personally, wouldn’t buy anything unless it was on sale. Tragic, I know. And the only time I would purposely make a special trip there was if they were having a big sale. Otherwise it was by coincidence.

What?! No Clearance Sticker?! Omg….someone get me a latte….

Imagine if you went into JC Penney and there weren’t any sales. ???? Would you still shop? I think I would feel like I walked into some kind of sci-fi movie where everything looks kind of the same, but at any moment….some creature’s going to pop out from behind the clothes rack and eat my brains………………!!



Promoting Value, Not Price

That’s all they used to promote in their ads – the sales. Now, instead of devaluing their products by saying “oh, these really aren’t worth the regular price, so we’re lowering the price” or “people didn’t really like this stuff this season, so we’re clearing them out for cheap”, I wonder if they’ll take the route of promoting the value of the products they’re selling. I wonder if that means we’ll hear commercials like “JC Penney offers brands that fit your lifestyle, AND your budget.” or “Feel good about shopping with us – JC Penney is giving back….”

Or maybe they’ll get creative and offer supervised play areas while mommies shop. (I, personally, LOVE that idea.) Not only will they have to promote the products in their store, but the product that is JC Penney. What else can they do to change the experience of shopping there that will get people thinking about something other than the fact that there aren’t any sales going on?

Retraining a Generation on How to Shop

Ok – so here’s another thought – how do they educate their customers about their new pricing? They’re essentially going to have to retrain an entire generation on how to shop. When the economy is on a rocky road anyway and people are pinching pennies whenever possible, how do they tell their customers that they’re going to be paying full price? Even if they do call it a “value price” or “everyday value” or whatever – it’s still full price in the eyes of the consumer. So how do they say – ‘we’ve been doing this wrong for the last 100 years, and now we’re going to show you the actual value of these products’?

Here’s a familiar story that I’m sure many of you can relate to: My mother-in-law always gets the Sunday paper and finds the ads – it’s almost like a ritual – we find the good ones (yeah, the BIGGEST Sale of the Year!) and make a trip out of it with the girls or the kids. Then afterwards, we share with each other the great deals we found. We are always so proud of ourselves for being such savvy shoppers.

So, there’s another retraining that has to go on. Looking for sales has become part of our lifestyle – part of our social rituals…..and now JC Penney is going to be left out of that. Or are they?

Getting Them All On Board…or not?

Many retailers use this promotional pricing strategy, but it’s so overused that, as consumers, we don’t really know what the value of a product is. As marketers, how do we know what people are really willing to pay so that we know how to price our products?

So my question is: for marketers, how does this affect consumers and how they think about retail shopping? Will they appreciate the ballsy move of JC Penney and finally say to the other stores “Hey! We’re not stupid! Stop trying to sucker us into buying your stuff!”? Or, will they say to JC Penney “Hey – you’re so much more expensive now, I’m not shopping there anymore…I can’t afford it.”?

Do you think the other big department stores will follow suit? Or will they take advantage of this new environment and continue to fool us with their flashy signs and super-duper-awesome-amazing low prices (a.k.a. prices-still-with-enough-margin-to-make-the-company-a-little-money)?

My opinion? I think it is a start in the right direction. I think it’s going to be tough because most people don’t care….they just want it cheap, fast, now. But – if JCP can prove themselves and offer stories of how people are still saving by buying at their store AND getting good stuff, I think the idea will spread and it will be good for them – and good for consumers. A long road awaits…..we’ll see how it goes…..

More stories about this:

Article from ABC News on this: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2012/01/what-to-expect-j-c-penneys-new-pricing-strategy/

From Harvard Business Review blog: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/01/understanding_jc_penneys_risky.html



Website Development & Design, Video Production, E-Commerce, Web Applications

May 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out the updated video for JB Systems and The Post House. We’re in our new office space now in downtown Eau Claire, WI – together providing our clients with awesome ideas, technologies, and graphics to use for web or video. Lots of cool things happening inside these walls – here’s an inside look at what we do!

Our website, if you’d like to contact us: http://www.jbsystemsllc.com

Business owners and marketers…PLEASE don’t be a spammer!

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Permission marketing is a MUST and shouldn’t be ignored. You may think buying that big email list is the best way to reach lots of people who can sign up or buy or whatever…but that pretty much makes you a spammer.


Some ways to build your list – a qualified, permission-based list:

  • Add an opt-in form to your website – ask for very simple information, maybe name and email address and that’s it. Reassure people that you don’t sell or share your list with anyone else. As you gain their trust, you can (over time) ask for other tidbits of their information.
  • Train your sales staff to ask for an email address! It seems so simple, but actually getting sales people to feel comfortable asking for an email address can be challenging. Offer exclusivity or very special content in your emails and that will make it much easier to get those email addresses.
  • Offer free content on your website – give them a few freebies, and then offer something really good…but collect a very small amount of information (name/email) before they can download/view it.
  • Hold a contest – we all know how those work, but make sure that you collect their email! Note on your entry form that a valid email must be provided in order to win. Again, reassure people that you will not sell or share their personal information.
  • Promote your email promotions/newsletter in other marketing that you do – ‘sell’ it as a quality source of information or great deals and people will go looking for it.

Permission marketing is personal, relevant, and anticipated. – Seth Godin

A friend of mine is an emerging musician.

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment

His name is Travis Grode. He just released his first solo EP and I’m trying to promote it through whatever means I have at my disposal. He describes his music as this on his website:

“An introspective indie record for those who like their music to have substance. Raw and edgy vocals combined with heartbreaking lyrics and a stripped down acoustic sound featuring cello and piano highlights.”

Travis Grode, Rhubarb Garden, Indie Rock, Alternative Music

Download this Album on iTunes

From our early days jamming after basketball games or playing at Phil’s Pub, I always believed that Travis’s passion for music and talent would bring him opportunities, now unfolding in front of our eyes.

Visit his website to listen to the album – if you like what you hear, download them for only $0.99 each on iTunes or Amazon.

Don’t forget to share with your friends, too…

Follow Travis…

…on Twitter: @TravisGrode
…on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Travis-Grode/524335480