For Dad: A Newsletter As Straight-Talking As He Is

All you dads out there know what it's like to be without a paddle. This is why Fatherly, the wonderfully snarky on-point parenting resource, should be your life preserver.

You'll know from first read that Fatherly's for "Men who want to be great fathers without turning into cliches." And then you'll sign up for the newsletter and see this slice of realness:

I love this signup form for 3 reasons:

1) The adverb *Actually* is a promise. 

You're not signing up for fluff. You're signing up for hands-on solutions that'll get you through whatever kind of crazy your day has devolved into, at any given moment.

2) The confirmation button doesn't merely say Sign Up.

"Give Me the Goods" is deliciously on tone. 

3) The return to the blog link (Ahhh freak out ...) is a reminder of what life will be like if you do not opt-in to the newsletter.

The definition of insanity, my friends.

So whether you have time to read useful advice or not, happy Father's Day to all you dads out there aspiring to greatness.

Panera Proud: Putting Core Values on Display

Oftentimes, you'd have to visit a company's website or browse a print brochure to be introduced to its core values. It's not everyday those values stare you in the face while you're choosing a Pick 2. Here's the refreshing transparency I spotted on a recent visit to Panera Bread:

As the photo of the in-store signage displays, the company's core values — referred to online as its Food Policy — are as follows:

+ We're advocates for clean food.

+ We're committed to menu transparency.

+ We're dedicated to having a positive impact on the food system.

It doesn't get more transparent than proudly displaying your core values in huge font for all to see as they pick out their menu items.

Bravi, Panera execs!

Product Features You Didn't Know Were There

I love being surprised and delighted by a they-thought-of-everything interaction with product packaging.

This new natural gum, Simply Gum, was a find for me, after having tried so many natural gum brands on the market. Then one day, long after purchase and having opened the packaging and using the gum several times over the course of a few weeks, I spotted a short line of copy that at first I mistook for a directive to post an update about the gum: "Post Chew Wraps."

It dawned on me that the company had built in tiny wrappers for discarding the chewed gum (we wouldn't it to sit in our stomach for 7 years, you know). What a cool product feature! It only made me love the product more.

As for the mildly confusing line of copy, I'd solve it with a simple hyphen: Post-Chew Wraps.

Tell me in the comments about a cool product packaging feature on one of your favorite products. 

P.S. Look what fun wordplay pops up when I visited the website! 

Wordplay + a 10% discount? I'm sold!

Wordplay + a 10% discount? I'm sold!

Emotional Response: Transported by Soda

I was handed one of these the other day and it instantly transported me to my childhood:

It's amazing how I could have gone my whole life without thinking of this product again. But the moment I spotted the "cartoon skyline and art deco font" making a comeback, I was suddenly running up to my dad as he was carrying a box of them, jumping up and down and grabbing at his jacket at the promise of a sugary refreshment. I texted my siblings to share the memory with them.

What's cool is that the soda is made with cane sugar, like they were back then, before high fructose corn syrup took over in nearly ever similar product.   

Can you remember a time when a product reboot evoked an emotional response for you? Please share in the comments!

Impending Parenthood & Pinterest Projects

 

There's nothing like a deadline. And having a baby in a few days is certainly a formidable one!

Actually, it's more like I had a list of stuff I've always wanted to get to, so waiting around for baby to arrive has its advantages.

This week, I took to Pinterest to start some projects I've always envisioned but never found time to tackle.

Designing Song Lyric Excerpts

First up, I wanted to present my original song lyric excerpts in a fun and engaging way, and then link them to the songs themselves. Thus, my "Lyrics to Live by" board was created.

Lyric Excerpt from "Listening"
Lyric Excerpt from "Listening"

 

My hope is that people who are unfamiliar with my songs will be intrigued or moved by the excerpts and want to read all the lyrics, or even listen to the songs.

My design skills are limited, but it was a blast to express my artistry as a songwriter even further in this manner!

Compiling Clever UX Content Writing Examples

Always seeking to balance out the two aspects of my professional life, my next project was to take the folder of screenshots of content writing samples that have impressed or amused me over the course of the past year and link to their respective websites of origin. The result is my compilation of Clever UX Content Writing.

Even the most seemingly insignificant content on your website can go a long way in creating a fun experience for your users, members or visitors.

UX Copy Samples Pinterest Board
UX Copy Samples Pinterest Board

You'll smile and/or laugh at some of the silly, even snarky, ways companies interact with their customers. Like Groupon giving you a chance to inflict pain upon a staffer; it's all in good fun, and all to build a rapport to put you in a good mood and keep you coming back.

As both a writer and a customer of these sites, I admire the decisions to express themselves and their brands in engaging ways.

Take a look; what you see just might inspire you to do similar things with your site content!

What kind of boards will you create to stretch your artistic muscles or help others discover your work?

Happy pinning,

Carla

The 64-Word Subject Line & Other Email Marketing Don'ts

From Business Owners to Musicmakers, Mind Your Messaging

The first time I got an email from a music industry colleague with 64 words — yes, words — in the subject line, I figured it was an anomaly. The person was surely in a hurry, forwarding another misguided individual's email. Then I received a second one. And this week, another.

Verbosity gets you nowhere. No matter the content, recipients will hit delete almost immediately when a long-winded or overly formatted email hits the inbox. You could have an exclusive interview with Guy Kawasaki, but if the subject line is a paragraph and the body text is set off in 7 different colors, your readers will pretty much lose interest immediately. Point is, it would have to be pretty startling stuff to make me open an email that previews in my pane in a pain-in-the-tuckus kinda way.

Measuring Up: Remember, we're not all reading from desktops. A long subject line will eat up the entire real estate on mobile screens. Instant delete.

Measuring Up: Remember, we're not all reading from desktops. A long subject line will eat up the entire real estate on mobile screens. Instant delete.

 

For effective email marketing, avoid these common mistakes:

1. Lengthy Subject Lines

64 characters is more like it. Better yet, the industry-standard 52. That's including spaces. I copy and paste my subject lines into a Word doc and go to Tools > Word Count to see how many characters I've got.

Tip: Don't include the date. It's already built into the email header, so it only takes up valuable space.

2. Everything Can't Be Bold

Each detail of your event or topic is not equally important. Formatting tools like bolding, caps and exclamation points are for emphasis — for the non-readers who scan emails before taking action. Use these tools judiciously. Text in all caps not only looks like shouting, but also makes you, and whatever it is you're promoting, lose credibility.

3. Facebook Tagging People You Haven't Met

Call it lazy networking — tagging people in Facebook posts without ever introducing yourself. While social media makes it easy to reach out to many people at once with bare-minimum effort, nothing compares to introducing yourself in a private message or an email first.

Keep in mind that those you're tagging may have their settings configured to notify them whenever they are tagged in posts, perhaps even via email. So if you're posting once or twice a day, it can get time-consuming to check each and every status update you're being included in, not to mention crowd your email inbox. Yes, the tagging feature has morphed beyond its original intention of saying that you're with someone — as in, sharing the same physical space — but not everyone will think that your every update is important enough to be part of their timelines too, especially people you haven't met yet. Practice moderation, and if you really want to make an impression with someone, introduce yourself first.

4. Automatically Opting-in Newsletter Subscribers

Joining people to your newsletter without them opting in is another email marketing don't. I got an e-newsletter from someone I'd met at an event, and it wasn't a case of my requesting upon meeting them to be added to their list. This person had my business card and just joined me; no other contact was initiated. Like the Facebook tagging described above, it's frustrating to get a mass communication without ever having any sort of personal follow-up.

If I like the person's content, I'll follow in some way — maybe on Twitter, maybe bookmark his or her blog, etc. Let people choose to subscribe or follow your content in whichever way works best for them, not forcing your way into their already-crowded inbox. It's better to have fewer subscribers who find your content valuable than to have a ton of subscribers who hit delete each time.

10-Second Takeaway: Play to shortened attention spans. Keep your emails snappy and streamlined, and you'll retain subscribers who really want your content, and perhaps want to share it with others!

Happy connecting,

Carla

An Indigo Christmas

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is listening to Christmas music. As a songwriter, listening to these tunes, many of them written by the greatest songwriters of all time, fills me with joy, not just for the season, but for memories of Christmases past.

My sister-in-law surprised us (thanks, Sara!) with the delivery of "Holly Happy Days," the long-awaited Christmas album by the Indigo Girls. I was thrilled to receive it. In this digital-download world, I love it when an album release gives good reason to buy the physical CD  instead of merely downloading, because the packaging is just. that. cool.

The CD front features a bow enclosure like a gift-wrapped box. After opening the bow, inside is a pocket with three decorated pieces of cardboard, made to look like hanging ball ornaments, each with an old-timey design on one side and the lyrics to an original tune by Emily and Amy on the other: "Your Holiday Song" "The Wonder Song" and "Mistletoe."

Each ornament has a top for inserting a hook and hanging them on your tree (which I happily did)! What a great way to showcase the lyrics to these tunes in an interactive way that stretches the brand and essentially enables fans to make the Indigo Girls part of their respective Christmases.

Brilliant. And soul-warming. And, oh yeah, the music is pretty great too. :)

What are your favorite CD package designs? Perhaps it was a piano-shaped box set? Tell me about it in the comments!

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Fa la la la la,

Carla

Zeitgeist Marketing: NYSC Takes a Cue from Weinergate

In previous posts, I've discussed the importance of paying attention to your target audience's changing needs, keeping an eye on what your competition is doing and taking advantage of Proximity Marketing as opportunities present themselves. Today, I want to share an example of what I call Zeitgeist Marketing, or creating key messages that reflect current events or trends at the forefront of our collective consciousness. While out and about in Manhattan the other day, I came across this sign in the window of a Midtown NYSC (see photo):

politicians, get in shape for your next scandalous photo.

Pump up your approval ratings. Join now for our special summer rates.

The sign's snarky copy stems from the recent Anthony Weiner Twitter photo scandal. But the subhead "Pump up your approval ratings" further speaks to the run-up to the 2012 elections and also includes a double entendre in the verb phrase. From concept to execution, this campaign — you'll have to excuse that pun — is brilliant.

Use the News in Your Copywriting & Design

Whether you're an entrepreneur, a small business owner, a national chain or a global enterprise, consider how what's happening in the news, in pop culture or in your community affects your target market. Or, as in the NYSC example, use it to craft your message toward a potential new audience.

Of course, you'll want to be careful not to offend your potential customers by crossing the line into vulgarity. NYSC avoids this caveat with aplomb.

While you may have your marketing plan for the entire year mapped out, promos can be just as mutable as your customers' tastes. Don't merely stick to what's worked for you in the past. Look to the world beyond your URL or your brick-and-mortar store — attention-grabbing, of-the-moment taglines await.

Onward,

Carla

Converse with me on Twitter.

Facebook Therapy: Tech Therapist Offers Smart Tips for Business Owners

Forward Motion was thrilled to welcome to the show Greenwich resident Jennifer Shaheen of The Technology Therapy Group, a full-service Web design and marketing development group.

Jennifer is savvy across all forms of online marketing, but our focus for this show was how businesses can leverage their Facebook presence to gain traction and new customers.

The podcast will soon be available. Please email me to be notified when it's up.

Show Host Carmen Carrozza and I have both taken Technology Therapy's Web classes to get up to speed for our respective businesses, and Jennifer has packed so many tips into our show!

On this 25-minute podcast you'll learn:

+ The Difference Between Your Profile & Your Page

+ How to Keep Up with Privacy Settings (here's a hint)

+ The Rules of Engagement

+ The Specificity of Facebook Ads

+ What Outranks Pages in Searches

+ Posting Strategies for Your Page

+ Facebook Photo-Synthesis

Carmen and I extend our sincere thanks to Jennifer for sharing these tips with our listening audience.

Be sure to follow Jennifer on Twitter as well!

Onward,

Carla

Comparatively Speaking: The Positioning Tell-All

When it comes to marketing, how you position your company in relation to your competitors can speak volumes about your business, and also set its course for success. Conversely, if not kept in check, how you speak about your business can deter prospects from becoming repeat customers.

That’s why in addition to marketing materials, many companies create specific language (sometimes an entire vocabulary) for staff to use when speaking directly with customers.

So how best to position your business against your competitors? Let’s explore a scenario.

The Lowest Common Denominator A customer walks into your retail shop — a chocolate shop, for example — and while the customer does enjoy the products, she raises a health concern over the way the chocolate is handled. One way you wouldn’t expect the shop owner to defend his shop is by saying,

Misguided, yes, but across many industries, from manufacturing to retail food to professional services, I’ve heard this rationalization used often. I understand the desired effect is to pump up the company as compared to a competitor’s poor practices, but this reply does little to instill confidence in the well-meaning customer’s eyes, and it certainly doesn’t build loyalty. Such statements are meant to deflect attention from the matter at hand, leaving the customer feeling empty, invalidated and, most importantly, perhaps unwilling to grant the business owner with repeat business. It’s essentially a distraction technique, and it’s not a good one.

Compare Up, Not Down Just as playing a sport with players who are better than you makes you work harder to play up to their level, business owners should make realistic comparisons that push them to get better and better at what they do.

Take time to think which companies out there have a mission statement that’s similar to yours or operations that serve as a model for your company; those are the businesses you should be emulating in your daily practices, in the tone of your marketing messages and in your interactions with customers. Telling people your establishment is “the neighborhood’s answer to Starbucks” is a respectable and easily understood comparison.

Decide on Your Differentiator So what can you, as a small-business owner, say to position your business, and how can you say it in ways that build up your business while remaining respectful of other establishments? You need to determine your differentiator — what sets you apart from the competition. Some common considerations:

1. Emphasize Your Value

If price is what sets you apart, then emphasize your affordability when speaking of your competition. And remember, emphasizing price doesn’t mean that your product or service lacks quality; perhaps you provide most of the value at a fraction of the cost. In downtown Harrison, Paul’s Cleaners, 368 Halstead Ave., is able to offer 30 percent less than the competition for quality service, and that is how they position themselves.

2. Emphasize Your Service

Perhaps you provide such exceptional service that the difference in price is well worth it. Say you’re looking to display a special photo or piece of art. If you go to your local picture framer — for example, Igor at Masterpiece Framing, 243 Halstead Ave. — you’ll pay more than if you were to pick up a cheap frame at Target, but the value is far greater. What you’re getting in return for your investment is the skill of a craftsman who takes great pride in finding your perfect look, as well as someone who stands behind every frame he sells, so you know your special photo will remain a treasure for all to see.

3. Emphasize Your Quality

Is there an aspect of your business besides price or service that sets you apart from the competition? Perhaps it’s a restaurant’s unique ambiance. Or it could be that your food is gluten-free, like 97 Lake in West Harrison, which also emphasizes that none of its dishes are frozen; every item on the menu is fresh and cooked to order. For many people, that will be the selling point that gets them in the door.

Talk Back Once you’ve determined what your value proposition is, you’ll be able to say it with confidence when speaking to customers about how you hold up against your competition. Give it a try, and e-mail me if you need help crafting yours!

Now get to it,

Carla

Visit saidandsung.com.

NOTE: This column was originally published in The Harrison Report. It is being reprinted here with additional photos.

Shop Talk: ‘My Guy’ Psychology, Part I

We've All Got Our Guys ...

Oftentimes, when we are in need of a service — and it’s most often when we’re in a bind — we hear a reassuring and all-too-calm friend say, “Don’t worry. Go to my guy; tell him I sent you.”

We’ve all heard this variation on the “I know a guy” seal of approval. It should be noted that when we qualify the word by putting “my” in front of it, it makes the connection more personal: “I’ve got my guy.”

(Please be aware that though I use the word “guy” throughout, it refers to both males and females.)

From mechanics and other repair/service personnel like plumbers, electricians and exterminators to hairdressers/barbers and dry cleaners to even restaurants and physicians, we’ve all got our guys.

Since moving to Harrison, most of my guys that I currently turn to for services were found by word of mouth. Somebody told me about her guy for shoe repair, someone else recommended her guy for hair straightening, another raved about her guy who is an internist, another gave me the location of her guy for an eyebrow threader and one of those prior someones also told me about her guy for a physical therapist.

Of course, it isn’t always a match made in heaven — there’s a special synergy that needs to occur between customer and service provider — but I’d take a referral over a blind search any day.

Just why is it that we stick with our guys for so long? I have my theories:

1. The Price is Right This is quite possibly the biggest reason, especially if we got with our guy early, because that means we were grandfathered in at a great price. My guy for renters’ insurance is outstanding, but I first got to know my guy nearly 10 years ago, so I have an incredible rate that anyone getting to know my guy today probably won’t receive.

My husband has a guy who fixes his computer, and the No. 1 reason he always goes with his guy is because he’s highly affordable. Again, who knows if that’s the case for his guy’s other clients? And there’s the caveat: When referring your guy to someone for whom price is the deciding factor, try to leave that portion of the conversation, and let your friend and your guy figure that out.

2. Loyalty Face it, we are all rather protective of our guys; we will defend them to the end. They’ve seen us through so much. And from time to time, our guys may let us down — not delivering when they said they would; not doing a thorough job, requiring additional time or expense. But chances are, we will still recommend our guys because they will make good on their mistakes, sometimes in the form of freebies, and it’s hard finding someone you can trust. Besides, there’s something so satisfying about being able to say that you’ve been going to the same guy for years.

3. We’re Comfortable I moved out of the city three years ago, but I still make the trip to Manhattan every time I need to go to the dentist. Why? Because I like my guy (actually, my dentist is a she). So something like an hour commute isn’t enough to make me want to take the time to search through the database to find a new dentist in my network — one I may not end up liking.

It’s like dating. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay with the same guy and suffer the commute, than to find someone new. Besides, I think the fact that I continue to come in “all the way from Westchester” has made my guy appreciate me more, and it shows.

Next Month: ‘My Guy’ Psychology, Part II Yes, it takes a lot to change our minds and go with new guys. So what kinds of things could make us change our mind about our guy and make the switch to someone new? Find out in Part II of the ‘”My Guy” series next month.

Tell Me about Your Guy Got a guy here in Harrison that you’d like to tout? E-mail me at carla@saidandsung.com with your story and I’ll print it in an upcoming column.

*****

Opening This Weekend Congrats to Masroor “James” Rajpar and Khalid Channa, co-owners of Go Natural Organic Health Food & Juice Bar, 240 Harrison Ave. (near T&T Luncheonette), on the opening of the downtown Harrison store.

This is the third store of its kind for Rajpar and Channa, who have two other locations in New Jersey (one for 22 years and counting; the other is opening simultaneously with the Harrison store). In choosing Harrison, Rajpar said it was a no-brainer.

“I didn’t see a health food store in the area; people in Harrison have to go all the way to Mrs. Green’s in Larchmont or go to Port Chester for such a store,” he said. “I believe there are lots of people here who want to engage in healthy living, and I am happy to help with that.”

He’ll even introduce you to a nutritionist. Every Saturday, the store will feature a nutritionist on hand for free consultations.

Go Natural is currently open and is offering huge discounts on vitamin sales — available for the remainder of the month at 40 percent off. The grocery section features most items at 40 percent off, and cereals are buy one get one free. The store also features a selection of gluten-free items, energy drinks, protein bars, weight gainers and protein supplements, smoothies and organic coffee. The juice bar will open in March.

Store hours are Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Accepts credit cards. Call 914-630-4590.

*****

Shop Talk Tip: Open-Door Policy Last Friday, when the weather briefly hovered around 60 degrees, I was delighted to see several shops with open doors while walking through downtown. I found myself more likely to visit those shops; it was as though the owner was saying, “Come on in — we are happy to see you.” Stores like Big Top even placed merchandise outside, which I found myself looking over, even though I wasn’t in the market for anything in particular. There’s just something so welcoming about open doors and sidewalk sales. So when the weather permits, go ahead and let prospective customers know you want them to stop in!

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer for web and print. Visit her website at saidandsung.com.

NOTE: This article was originally published in The Harrison Report. It is being reprinted here with additional photos.

What Customers Want: See the Need, Then Fill It

Business is often as unpredictable as the weather, so when life hands you snowflakes, make the most of them, just like the Harrison Dollar Plus Store did in my town on this snow day (see the sign below).

Knowing another winter storm was on its way, the owner empathized with his customer base and ordered winter accessories like shovels and de-icers and windshield-washer fluid. When it arrived, he grabbed a marker and some poster board and quickly made a sign urging people to be prepared, and reassuring them that the store was their one-stop shop for snow-ready items they may need. The result? These indispensable items sold like hot cakes (something else you could certainly use on a cold day). Paying attention leads to getting paid.

PRIORITY ONE: YOUR CUSTOMERS Sure, the sign he made leaves a lot to be desired in terms of design, but if you're left out in the cold with no ice scraper or shovel, I would guess that aesthetics are the least of your concerns. What matters most is simple supply and demand. By determining your customers' needs, you are providing them with great service — which is what they want.

You notice how rainy days are banner days for those selling umbrellas on the streets of Manhattan? It's because those sellers also paid attention to the weather, enough to know when to kick up their inventory.

For more on how to take cues from the world outside your storefront, read my post on Proximity Marketing.

FOR WESTCHESTERITES The Harrison Dollar Plus Store features some items priced more than a dollar (hence the title), and if they don't stock something you're looking for, just ask and they will do their best to get it. Talk about great customer service. Call 914-630-4777.

Stay warm and well-stocked,

Carla

Want more tips? Check out (and Like) my Facebook page.

Is Your Business Twitter-Fated? All Signs Point to Yes!

As a follow-up to our Forward Motion radio show on Tuesday, Nov. 16, in which host Carmen Carrozza and I discussed online marketing with INDIEbusiness entrepreneur Donna Maria Coles Johnson, I'd like to emphasize the overlying message we were trying to convey to business owners:

IF YOU'RE NOT ON TWITTER YET, YOU SHOULD BE.

Doesn't matter what product you're peddling or service you're selling; Donna Maria made it rather clear that every business can up its value by using Twitter to reach out to customers, fans and the general public, in hopes of making true connections with them — connections that foster long-term growth for your company, because common interests and circumstances (discoverable through social media likes, tweets, posts and comments) bring people together. Once relationships are established, you never know when that connection will lead to a sale or another opportunity for you or your company.

THE NO-FEAR APPROACH TO TWITTER

When I asked Donna Maria what she would say to a business owner who is afraid that he or she can't think of anything valuable to say on Twitter, or is afraid of not being able to dish out enough content, she summed up her answer in 3 words: "Get over it." She reassured our listeners that their tweets don't have to be pithy, or even industry-related for that matter. Simply sharing your favorite ice cream flavor, she said, can lead to a true connection.

Read Donna Maria's excellent blog post about how to "Get Over It" and get going on expanding your customer base through social media by clicking here or clicking the image below.

QUICK STUDY

Afraid you don't know the lingo or how to find others on Twitter or how to use keywords? Twitter provides a great getting-started section for businesses. The best way, however, is just to dive in and get started. You'll catch on simply by watching how other businesses use the space.

And to read up on etiquette, check out The Morning News' savvy guide to polite Twitter usage.

To listen to our Forward Motion conversation with Donna Maria, download the podcast.

LET'S CONNECT!

Follow me on Twitter and I'll be happy to follow you too. Can't wait to see you get started!

See you soon,

Carla "Mint Chocolate Chip" Fisher

Get Out and Mingle at Your Local Festivals and Fairs

This Monday is Columbus Day, and for Harrisonites, it's also the annual "It's Great to Live in Harrison" celebration. There will be a parade, a ceremony and a fair in the park that will feature food vendors, booths for local businesses and organizations, games and rides. An expected 4,000 people will attend.

Or, you could go the route that was highly effective a couple of weeks ago for Korth & Shannahan, the Chappaqua-based painting firm: They decided to rent a popcorn machine and give away free popcorn at this year's Community Day event in Chappaqua. Parents, kids, anyone who asked for a bag of popcorn got one (smartly, with the company logo on it), and anyone interested in entering a free raffle just gave their name and e-mail in exchange. Those names and e-mails are now your new mailing list, and potentially your new customer base.

But even if you don't have a booth at the fair, you can always show up, mingle, bring business cards or brochures and just hand them out to people you meet. Everyone from families to professionals to elected officials will be on hand, so if, for example, you're the new bakery in town, it's important to let them know.

So go out there and network. Let people know you're part of their community. After all, what have you got to lose?

Carla

Visit saidandsung.com.

Husky Ways to Cross-Promote Sponsorships

The following was originally published in The Harrison Report on Sept. 30, 2010. Click to download a PDF of printed version of the paper.

Shop Talk

Business happenings in and around Harrison

Written by Carla Rose Fisher

Thursday, 30 September 2010 12:54
A BANNER START TO THE SCHOOL YEAR: My small-business heart was all aflutter a few weeks ago when those “Home of the Huskies” banners began appearing throughout the downtown area. To see the outpouring of support for our school athletics is a wonderful thing, plus the banners just make Harrison look so pretty. And guess what? More are on the way!The second shipment is due later this week, according to Lola Alvora, of the Harrison Booster Club. Her son, Duke, is a senior football player at Harrison High School. Alvora and two other Booster Club moms came up with the idea – Robin Basciano and Stacie Bogdany, whose daughters, Alexa (senior) and Angelica (freshman), respectively, are cheerleaders at the high school.

“We’ve seen banners like this in college towns and in a town in [New] Jersey,” Alvaro said. “When we saw these towns supporting their teams, we thought, ‘How about us?’” Initially, the Boosters had planned to keep the banners up until Christmas, but are hoping to keep them up longer, pending Town Board approval. They would also love to make this an annual event.

The banners represent any and all sports, plus band families. “They not only beautify the town, but also let any kid who participates in sports or activities know just how supportive the town is,” said Alvaro. In all, 95 banners have been sponsored, 50 percent by businesses and 50 percent by families and individuals.

The downtown banners were set to stretch along both sides of Halstead Avenue from St. Gregory’s on Broadway to the new flooring store near Parsons Street, but when they ran out of poles, the Booster Club decided to also make use of both sides of Harrison Avenue. Seven banners are up in West Harrison. Mayor Joan Walsh helped Alvora in her efforts to implement the idea, and also sponsored a banner, at the southeast corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues.

“These banners are for anybody who wants to just plain support the town,” Alvaro said. “The fact that Mayor Walsh and Judge Marc Lust’s family each sponsored banners wasn’t political; rather, because they simply love the Huskies.”

Funds raised from the banners will go to anything the teams need, as determined by the coaches. A portion of the money will also be given back to Harrison in another beautifying way, to buy flowers to plant in some empty flowerpots in downtown.

From a marketing standpoint, sponsorship should be touted. So I ask:

1) How can businesses maximize the visibility of their sponsorship?

2) How does the proximity of each banner to its storefront play a part in bringing about awareness?

First, I suggested to Alvaro that they announce the sponsors at the football games. After all, people attending games are those who most appreciate the sponsorship and are a captive audience. Since no more home games remain this season, Alvaro said she’d happily implement that idea for next year.

Second, Alvaro said each business decides whether their two-sided banner should be placed out front or anywhere in town. From my perspective, having one directly out front reinforces the pride in sponsoring the teams, but having one far away from the storefront potentially draws in new customers who otherwise may not have that particular store in their daily travels.

Butler Bros. Market Place Co-Owner Brian Butler was one shop owner who didn’t specify where the banner should be placed; he just happened to land a primo spot, along with Station Cleaners, at the bus stop on the northwest corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues.

“It’s where people stop at the light to make a right turn, and are idle waiting for the bus, so we’re very happy with our spot,” said Butler, who is proud to be part of something that is being done for the first time in Harrison. “Our major goal was to support the town and the school and the Boosters. We got on board early because we wanted to help give them a head start.”

For those owners whose banners are not located outside their shop, you can opt to put your street address or a relative address on the banner, such as “Across from RR station” or “three blocks down,” which helps town visitors. Alvaro said some businesses put their phone number or website. Butler chose to have the phrase “Fine Foods” included on his banner, as a way of describing the business. Just keep in mind: The more you put on the banner, the smaller the letters will be.

If you prefer, put up a small sign in your store: “We’re proud sponsors of the Huskies!” Or, create a promotion with a sign that says, “Find our banner and get 10 percent off!” and then offer 10 percent off to customers who tell you the location of your banner.

Alvaro hopes the banners help boost the local economy. “I used to go to dinner in the surrounding towns, but now that I see the support our dining establishments have shown for our kids, I now go out to dinner in Harrison,” she said.

If you are interested in sponsoring, contact Alvaro at 843-3377 or e-mail lolaalvora@yahoo.com. Alvora wishes to offer special thanks to Signs Plus in Mamaroneck, owned by Ron and Debbie Linsalto.

*****

A FOND FAREWELL: On Sept. 1, the small-business world suffered a great loss, as did I: My father, Anthony Arnone, passed away from cancer at age 71.

Though the bakery, deli and food importing business he owned and operated for 50 years is located in Erie, Pa., his legacy is here in Harrison, as he is the reason I am such a strong proponent of small business. Seeing how hard he worked throughout his life, and growing up in that family-business environment made me realize that opportunity is available if you have the passion and are willing to sacrifice and put in the hours. A lifelong Yankee fan, my father tried out for the Bronx Bombers when he was a teenager, but had to return home to take over the family store when his father suffered a heart attack. He sacrificed his dream, and created a new one for himself and his family. Thank you, Dad. I miss you and love you.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and Web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. She is also an award-winning songwriter and resides in Harrison. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area, e-mail carla@saidandsung.com.

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Want some fresh ideas to strengthen your marketing efforts? Contact me at carla@saidandsung.com.

Websites: Big-Business Value for Small-Business Owners

Still think you don't need a website, or that yours was a waste of money? Pshaw! Read my latest column below, which was originally published in The Harrison Report on Sept. 2, 2010. Marketing guru/freelance writer Allen Mogol contributed to the research of this column. Shop Talk

Written by Carla Rose Fisher
Thursday, 02 September 2010 13:46
Websites: Big-Business Value for Small-Business Owners“I spent all this money on my website, and it hasn’t brought me a single sale.” For small-business owners with sparkling, newly launched websites, this is a common lament. You’ve invested time and money in your website. Why, you ask, after three days — or three months — hasn’t my site paid for itself? Have I wasted my investment?

Probably not. Your website is a long-term investment. Instead of expecting your site to pay off immediately, consider that it takes time to attract and persuade a new customer to buy. A website can begin the process, but not necessarily seal the deal. A website can also remind your existing customers that you’re there for them 24/7, placing you on par with bigger businesses, and also let them know about new products, services, discount offers or special events. Your site can help keep you in the forefront of peoples’ minds when they need you, but may not necessarily result in an instant sale.

You actually may be getting business from your site without knowing it. If you ask your customers how they heard about you, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear how much of a traffic-builder your website has become. Especially if you’ve got video: Forester Research tells us you are 53 times more likely to appear on page one of Google’s search results if you have video on your website. And any good site designer these days will input keywords into the site’s coding to maximize its chances of being easily found on search engines.

5 key benefits websites offer:

1) Credibility. If your bank, favorite cable channel or preferred charity didn’t have a website, you’d wonder about its professionalism and reliability. By the very act of having a website, you’re telling your current and potential customers that you’re legitimate, current and committed to be there for them, not just now but down the road. When you meet someone in a business setting who makes a good impression, don’t you want to find out more about what they do? If he or she doesn’t have a web presence, it’s natural that you’d wonder about your new acquaintance’s level of expertise.

2) Convenience. Does that restaurant you’d like to try have vegetarian options? Is it wheelchair accessible? Busy consumers are used to getting instant answers not just when deciding where to eat, but when deciding on colors for their kitchens or where to buy school supplies. A website allows potential customers to get answers or even make purchases at their convenience, no matter what time of the day, often saving them the parking and traffic headaches that come with heading to actual storefronts. Whether refillable pencils or paint samples, a website transforms your business hours from 9-to-5 to 24/7.

3) Browsing. When potential customers are investigating a purchase, product photos online can result in a visit to your store when those customers are ready to buy, no matter if it’s tomorrow or months from now. It’s modern-day window-shopping. I recently watched an employee at a tea shop set up a stand in front of the store, offering free samples to dozens of passersby. Over 10 or 15 minutes, close to 50 samples must’ve been given out. And not one sampler walked into the store. A waste of time and product? Absolutely not. The product is delicious, and the shop made lots of impressions among tea drinkers that will likely pay off in the long run.

4) Reach. Let’s say you own a children’s furniture store. That’s usually the kind of store that potential shoppers will check out online first, before making in-person visits. They won’t go miles out of their way, not when they can go online first. And they likely won’t decide immediately. Your website is your chance to persuade customers to travel to your business, rather than go to the nearest one. Just know that the visit might not happen for weeks or months, as most people tend to research purchases — mostly through online reviews — before visiting the store to investigate further.

5) Branding. This may be the most important benefit of all. Your website is an ideal tool you should be tying in with all your other marketing efforts. In fact, you’ll increase site traffic by taking every opportunity to let your customers know you’ve got a website. Place your URL on fliers, your storefront display, business cards, coupons, menus, bags…virtually everywhere you promote your business. A website doesn’t operate in a vacuum; it’s part of your overall campaign. But you’ve got to make it known. Lots of companies Harrisonites do business with make sure their web address is prominent whenever they send out a postcard about a sale, an invoice for a previous purchase or a catalog promoting its whole line. Reminding customers about their websites gives customers a chance to find out more, and might persuade them to place an order or pay an in-person visit.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area or want more info on creating a web presence for your business, e-mail carla@saidandsung.com.

Need a writer for your website? Visit saidandsung.com to view my writing samples.

Action Figures: Answering the Call, One by One

More often than not, your readers, customers and clients — we'll collectively call them end-users — need things spelled out for them. Not in an insult-their-intelligence kind of way, but just a little prodding along so they know where to click next and why. Each clear directive you provide to your end-users so that they know which step to take next and for what purpose is what marketers refer to as a call to action. But in order for them to be effective, you must provide easy instructions.

For example, if you have a Web site that requires people to fill out a form, less is always more.

In the form below, note the two boxes beneath the form: One says 'Register' and the other says 'Home.' After filling out the form, the next step should be for the end-user to complete the registration process by clicking 'Register.' Take another look. You'll see there are a couple confusion-causing issues here:

1) The buttons are too close together (You shouldn't give your end-users too many choices; be simple by asking for just one call to action at a time.)

2) The 'Home' button is red in color, which means it stands out more to the user than the 'Register' button (Note: Red should be avoided on your site, if possible, since that color is often used for warning messages and errors.)

3) The 'Register' button looks less like a button than the more proportionately boxed 'Home' button

4) The 'Home' button is larger, so my eye naturally draws to it more than to the 'Register' button

Even though I'm a savvy Web user, I was fooled by the large red button, and I clicked it before realizing that I hadn't completed the registration process. As a result, I had to fill out the form again (frustrating) and click the 'Register' button first.

In this case, it would have been better to have a smaller button labeled 'Cancel' instead of 'Home,' making it clearer that the end-user has a choice between clicking 'Register' and canceling out their registration.

Action Done Right

A perfect example of clear calls to action can be found in the recent viral-video marketing campaign brilliantly executed by smoothie franchise Jamba Juice.

It begins with an eye-catching html e-mail (at left) that contains a link to a YouTube video.

Also, the subject line of the e-mail contains the interest-piquing phrase Cheeseburger Chill Smoothie — quite possibly the mother of all oxymorons — and it also includes one key component: the promise of a $1 off. That clues end-users in on the fact that they will be rewarded for what they read.

Once you click the video link, you are sent to YouTube to view the ad for the new smoothie. Go ahead and watch it; it's a lot of fun!

A screenshot of the video is below. Note the number of views.

The video uses parody as an engaging tool as well as a bouncy, catchy tune.

The actors in the video are so convincing about their love for the new smoothie that it can be hard for viewers to distinguish whether it's for real. If you read the comments under the video, you'll see a lot of people wondering aloud whether this smoothie is actually for sale. That kind of uncertainty creates a buzz (or controversy, even), and that buzz leads to large numbers of "You've got to see this!" hits.

The final shot of the video encourages viewers to visit a landing page, found at cheeseburgerchill.com.

Once there, viewers are finally given the explanation they were seeking as to whether the product is authentic.

The text on the landing page is written with a snarky tone, comparing the inanity of Jamba Juice making cheeseburger smoothies to fast-food burger joints now making smoothies (see below).

Then, Jamba Juice thanks the reader for "being in on the joke" (creating a sense of belonging with the Jamba newsletter community, making them feel smart and part of an elite group).

Best of all, after all those clear step-by-step calls to action, the campaign ends by providing a link for the reader to click to obtain a coupon for a $1 off any smoothie.

It's an excellent reward for their readers' time and attention.

Speaking of, why are you still reading this? Click the link above and get your Jamba Juice coupon! You've earned it.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

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