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4th of July Event Marketing

4th of July Event Marketing

I just sent this out as part of an advertisers update for the Kingwood Connection and to my eNewsletter List, and thought I would post this on my blog.

Most of you reading this will not be in the Kingwood area; however, wherever you are I am sure there are opportunities for you to do some community marketing on the 4th of July.  If there truly is nothing going on in the area, then pull out a BBQ and make your own event like Rick Alspaugh of Ace Hardware does with his annual Street Dance.

The 4th of July & You

When we moved to Kingwood in 2002, our first taste of Kingwood life were the 4th of July festivities.  We went to our first Kingwood 4th of July parade and received a promotional fan from the RE/MAX float where we later found our Realtor.

There was also a float entry by the neighborhood village we eventually bought in (that is the only time I have seen a float by a village HOA).  When we were looking for homes, that was in the back of my mind because to me it said that it was a friendly, community oriented village.

If you want to forge relationships with the community, participating community events is a great way to do it.   People may not always mention it, but it does make an impact on a customer’s opinion of your company.

I don’t have any affiliation with these events,  I just think that local businesses have a great opportunity and I hate to see anyone miss out.

4th of July Parade

The Kingwood 4th of July Parade is organized by the Kingwood Civic Club.  The fee for commercial entries is $30.  If you have a nonprofit organization, the fee is waived.   Entry forms can be picked up at the Lake Houston YMCA.

Line up starts at 8 am on the corner of Feather Lakes and West Lake Houston Parkway.  Judging starts at 9 am, and the parade starts at 10 am.  The route goes south on West Lake Houston Parkway from Creekwood Middle School, and West on Kingwood Drive to Kingwood High School.

Entry Ideas:   Some businesses go all out and create real floats.  If you have the time, resources, and inspiration to do that . . . awesome!

If not, don’t think you can’t participate.  Get a banner printed for your business, have your employees (or wrangle some friends to do it with you) wear shirts advertising your business, and walk the parade route.  Slap some banners on the side of a pickup truck and drive in the parade. When Kids in Action has participated in the past, they have walked with a parachute and did the thing where they pop up waffle balls during stops.

I do offer banner printing through Legacy Marketing; however, with shipping the time is a little short.  I go to Signs Designs Now on 494 for all my last minute banner and sign printing.  But if you need a banner for the 4th, you need to order it now . . . as in call them first thing Thursday.

If you have a business that offers classes, do little demos during the breaks.  I’m originally from Oregon, and parades are big, especially with the Rose Festival, and there are always entries with exhibitions in the parades.

If you have a landscaping business, create a mini scape in a trailer bed.

Illustrate what you do to parade goers.

Handouts: Be sure to have plenty of business handouts.  If nothing else, hand out your business cards.  Full sized 8.5 x 11 flyers have always seemed a little unweildy  to me for passing out at a parade.  Rack cards or 4″ x 6″ or 5″ x 7″ postcards are great for that.

Parade goers always like getting other “stuff” though.  One year for a mom’s group, we handed out ice pops, which were a big hit.  Tip: if you are going to hand them out get them now, they take a lot longer to freeze when your freezer is full of them.

Candy is always a staple.  Just be sure not to get anything that will melt.  A lot of people hand out water bottles.

If you are looking for little toys and gadgets, we go to Party Wholesalers on the South side of Houston to get our prizes for Picnic on the Park.  If you want to stay a little closer to home, The Goody Bag is on 1960 in Humble.  Right now The Goody Bag has a promotion on their website, $5 off a $25 purchase.

Parade Tips:  Remember it gets hot in July.  Wear sunscreen and be sure to bring plenty of water for your people.

Also, last year I did a float with my friend for her son’s business, the Reptile Wranger , and I could not believe all of the kids that crowded the route . . . some running right up to the floats.  If you are driving and have the manpower to do it, it would be a good idea to have one or two people walk in front of your vehicle to make sure children don’t get too close while it is moving.

Town Center 4th of July Festival

I love events at Town Center and the 4th of July Festival is one of the biggest . . . and I say this as the organizer of Picnic on the Park.

The festival will be from 2 to 9 pm.  Regular vendor booths are $75, food booths are $100.  You can download the application from the web site

I’m pretty sure they will take applications even up to the day of, but give Angela Griffing, the coordinator, a break and get your application in ahead of time if you are planning on doing it.  Trust me, it makes life so much easier if you don’t have to try to get people situated at the last minute.

Frequently Asked Questions: i get these questions all the time for Picnic on the Park, so I’m sure Angela does as well.

What do I get with a booth? You get a 10′ x 10′ space.   You need to bring your own tables, chairs, canopy, etc.  They don’t require a canopy, but I highly recommend it.  If you need electricity, you need to bring a generator.  The electrical situation is very shaky at the park and they just can’t have a bunch of people plugging in or it will blow the breakers.

What do I do if it rains? The event goes on rain or shine.  If starts raining, don’t pack up and go home.  Hunker down in your canopy (see note above), invite passersby in and make new contacts.  It almost always rains on the 4th, but it is never for very long.  Yes, people still come.

People start coming when the event opens, but things really start hopping at around 6 pm as people start coming for the fireworks.

What should I do at my booth? If you have a retail business, it is easier to set up a display that will draw people in and give them something to look at.  Don’t set up a table across the front and making it easy for them to just glance and walk by, put the table to the back and sides and draw them in.

Be friendly.  Make eye contact and smile.  I’ve seen many vendors at my event founder because they sat at the back of their booth with a glum look on their face.  They gave off such a negative vibe, it was almost a physical wall.

If you have a service based business, it is a little harder to come up with something to attract people.  A few examples of successful vendors at our Picnic on the Park event would be The Little Gym that brings mats and wedges for kids to play on.  Jamie at Creekwood Dental participated in her first Kingwood event this year at Picnic on the Park and had a beehive of activity by handing out tattoos  (available at Party Wholesalers or the Goody Bag) and candy filled eggs.   Tracy Woodard was a Plus Sponsor at Picnic on the park and promoted her new resale shop, Everything-N-Between, by renting a helium tank and handing out balloons.

Have sign ups for drawings.  Ask people to sign up for your mailing list and put something in it for them by offering discounts through it (if you don’t have a mailing list or eNewsletter and would like to start one, contact me).  if you still need ideas for your booth and would like to rent one of the games we use for Picnic on the Park , contact me.

5 Easy Tips for Eco-Friendly Business Operations

5 Easy Tips for Eco-Friendly Business Operations

In honor of Earth Day 2009, here are five easy tips for making your business more eco-friendly.

Use Refurbished and Recycled Products

Choose refurbished and recycled products when buying office supplies.  There are ever increasing options including: paper, folders, pens, pencils, paper clips, office organizers, as well as office furniture and electronics.

One easy way to save money on office supplies while going green is to buy refilled or refurbished printer and copy machine cartridges.  Recycled cartridges are sold on numerous online shops.  Stores such as Office Max and Walgreens provide their own refurbishing services.  Also look in your local business directory for stores such as Rapid Refill or home based businesses that provide the service as well.

Encourage Recycling

Lead by example and start a recycling program at your business.  Contact your waste management provide to find out what recycling resources they offer.  Decide on the types of materials you will recycle.  Place the recycling bins in an easily accessible space and clearly label them.  Finally, let your employees know the recycling guidelines and periodically reinforce your recycling goals.   Earth 911 has a detailed guide for starting a program

Reduce Waste

There are many ways a business can reduce office waste; however, one easy way is to use reusable products instead of disposable.  Instead of using styrofoam cups and paper plates, transition to inexpensive cups, mugs and dinnerware.  While washing a cup is not as convenient as throwing it in the trash, it can make a huge impact in reducing the waste your office produces.

Go Digital

Many companies have made a concerted effort to migrate much of their record keeping and invoicing to an electronic media.  One of the biggest time savers in my own business was when I finally found the right online billing system.  My invoices go out automatically by email and I only have a handful of clients that I have to mail a hard copy of the invoice.  It saves on paper, postage and time.

Another avenue for cutting down on paper and printing costs is to have a convert your marketing pieces to a digital format.  Some businesses only offer digital versions of their marketing collateral, particularly media kits for online publishers and service menus for professionals.

Another method is to cut back on the amount of printed copies and use the digital version when possible.  We did this for an event that I manage and it allowed us to contain our printing costs while at the same time expanding the types of pieces we distributed.  The majority of the vendor applications, sponsor forms, rate cards, event flyers and brochures were distributed by email.  We printed smaller runs of each of the items to have on hand in the instance where a hard copy was needed.

If you are going to transition to a digital format, it is important to compile the files in an universal format.  For print, that would be a pdf format by Adobe Acrobat.  For multi-media presentations, the most widely used is Flash.

Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free program that allows pdf files to be viewed.  However, in order to create a pdf file, either a pdf print driver or Adobe Acrobat Professional is needed.

When you design the marketing piece, you need to decide whether the file will only be distributed digitally or if you also plan to print copies.   Files that will be printed need to be created in a higher resolution and set-up to the printer’s specifications for that document type.

If the piece will only be available digitally, there is more flexibility in the document size.  A growing trend is to create pieces in a customized landscape orientation to be more easily viewed on a computer monitor.

Also remember that if the piece will be printed, you will need to have a print version and an email version.  The email version will be a lower resolution and a much smaller file size.

Telecommute

In today’s online connected world of email, network servers, and online meetings, many businesses are finding it less necessary for all of their employees to be sitting in a chair in the office.

Besides the benefit of increased employee satisfaction, telecommuting and flex work situations also benefit the environment by reducing traffic congestion, fuel consumption, and energy expended at the office.

Flex in the City is an initiative by the City of Houston that encourages businesses to provide at least one flex option that will reduce a commute time.

Another Domain Name Scam

Another Domain Name Scam

If you have a domain name that has been live on the web for any time at all, you have most likely received junk mail from one kind domain scammer or another.   Whether it is renewal notices from “registrars” you’ve never heard of, internet “directory listing” services, or the countless email spams, there are a ton of them out there.

domainscameThese predatory companies bank on the fact that in most businesses, the web/marketing arm of the operation is usually a separate department than accounting.  They are hoping that the accounts payable person will just pay the bill as if it were an approved invoice.

The latest one that I received takes a different approach.  I received a fax from Domain Registry Rights stating that the .us extension of a domain that I own the .com on was available and basically if I didn’t secure the other domain, that it could result in conflicting domain names and trademark infringement.

???

Yeah, exactly.  The site for the company listed also links to the official ICANN site as its forum and quotes the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy in order to sound official.  The fax actually looks like a legal document.

While it may not be technically fraud, it is using scare tactics and misleading information to get people to pay for the domain registration.  These people are bottom feeders.  They profit from the ignorance of others.

If I had wanted that extension, I would have registered it at the same time I registered the .com, so no, I’m not interested.

While doing a quick search on the scammers, I found numerous others who had received similar notices.

Tips for Protecting Your Domain Name

It seems like every few months I’m writing about domain names (All About Domain Names, Domain Kiting Can Cost You, and 5 Mistakes Small Businesses Make with Their Web Site).  This is partly because it is so important for small businesses to keep their domain names active, and also due to the fact that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about domain registrations.

  1. Keep Your Domain Name Current: Every once in a while I will talk to someone that thinks that if you let a domain name expire, that it’s not that big of a deal and that you can reregister it right away.  This is not the case.  When a domain expires, it goes into a redemption period giving the previous owner time to reclaim it (and it will cost you extra.)  After that it goes into another period of time where it is pending deletion.After all of that, it will be available for registration again and there is an entire industry devoted to snapping up expired domain names and selling them at a profit.  Believe me, they have a lot more time than you do to sit and catch domains that have dropped.    If you are running a business on that domain, you can’t afford to let it expire.  Keep it current.
  2. Keep Your Contact Information Current:  Your registrar will send you emails when your domains get close to their expiration date.  Make sure that your contact information is current so that you receive them.
  3. Keep Your Domain Name Safe: Also, keep your domain names locked so that unauthorized changes can’t be made to your domains.

  4. Your Domain Name Registrations are Valuable: Treat your domain registrations the same as you would the documentation for any other valuable asset like the title to your house or car.  Print out copies of your registration.  Keep a hard copy of the information for your registrar account, including the user name and password.  If you didn’t keep your contact information with the registrar current and you forget your log in information, it can be a real hassle to get back into your account.
  5. Manage Your Domains Well: If you are reading all of this and are thinking that you don’t want to mess with it, assign someone to manage it for you.  Godaddy and other large registrars offer the option to assign account managers to all of your domains or only those in certain groups.  Have one person in your company be the point person for the domain registrations.  If there is no one in your company to handle it, develop a relationship with your web maintenance or development company to keep your domains up-to-date.
Creating a Business Identity – Before and After

Creating a Business Identity – Before and After

I was interviewed for a magazine this week on how to create a business marketing kit and I thought this would be a good time to give an example of the identity creation process with a project hat I recently finished.

One of the promotional opportunities that I offer on a site that I publish for my local community are articles focused on a particular niche with some very cool advertising and SEO options for businesses in that niche.

While contacting businesses that were related to one of those articles, I met Pedro Juarez with Poker Pool Plaster.  Mr. Juarez was interested in advertising; however, he needed a web site and someone to put together his display ads.

He was in luck, because that is just what I do.

Mr. Juarez had tried launching a web site for his business a several times before.  He had a Yellow Page site on pokerplaster.com and another package site on pokerpoolplaster.com that was never finished.  I had to register a new domain name for him at poker-plaster.com as the other two domains were locked into the other service providers.

(This, by the way, is another example of why it is so important to always keep control of your domain name.)

Building a Business Identity

What we started with was the business card below and a disk of pictures from the client’s previous jobs.

Mr. Juarez didn’t have color preferences other than that, so it left the possibilities wide.

Looking through the pictures he provided, there was one in particular that struck me.  It was of a Mediterranean style pool and cabana with warm stucco and tile and turquoise water.

That picture ended up being the inspiration for the rest of the identity work and is currently the header image for his web site.

Selecting the Color Scheme

Once the picture was chosen, I sampled the colors below from the photo to create the color scheme for all of the identity pieces.

Creating a Business Logo

The name, Poker Pool Plaster, gave the impression that the business only providing plastering services, which is not the case.  After discussing it with the client, everyone agreed that making a slight name change to “Poker Pools & Plaster” would be more representative of the range of services that the business provided.

A logo was created using the modified business name.

Business Web Design

We decided to create a site for him using our Business Builder web site platform.  It makes it easy for the owner to do updates themselves to the content.  A photo gallery was also included so that new images could be added with a simple, one-click upload.

Rounding It Out

To finish off this starter identity kit, a new business card was designed, and of course, what good would a new web site design be without a banner ad to go along with it.

10 Tips for Making the Most of Your Marketing Dollar

10 Tips for Making the Most of Your Marketing Dollar

In yesterday’s post, we talked about being competitive with a small business in a challenging business environment. Today we are going to look at 10 ways to make the most of your money in your marketing plan when your budget is limited.

  1. Know what works. Have a method of tracking where existing customers are coming from.
  2. Repeat your success. Keep in contact with current customers and notify them of specials and new products. An e-newsletter is a cost effective way to keep your name in front of your customers.
  3. Look at where your business is currently coming from and identify ways to expand that base. Are there additional services you can provide?
  4. Are you spending all of your money in low trust, low return venues? Evaluate your current marketing and promotions in relation to the marketing trust pyramid.
  5. Network. Most people think about business to business when they think of networking, and that is a very valuable avenue. However if you are a small business owner, every person you come in contact with should know what you do and the product or service you provide. You shouldn’t be obnoxious about it, but you should be close to it.
  6. Do joint marketing with complimentary businesses. A friend of mine does an amazing job of this with her children’s resale shop. She is constantly coming up with mini events to pull people in and coordinates with neighboring businesses. What was once a dying retail center is now the place to be if you have a business related to children.
  7. Create new customers with seminars or informational events. Do people have a hard time understanding what it is that you do? (I get this all the time.) Put on a seminar or give a talk in front of your target audience and identify the need that your products or services fill.
  8. Invest in your customers. Now this is what I call FUN marketing. Throw a client appreciation party or customer-only event. If you have a retail store, invite them to an invitation only preview. This again can be a joint effort with complimentary businesses.
  9. Invest in your community. It truly makes a difference when people know that you’re giving back and not just there for the dollars. One of the best examples of this I know is Rick Alspaugh who owns Ace Hardware here in Kingwood. He sponsors local teams, donates to organizations, gives presentations, spearheads the local clean-up efforts . . . seriously, if you’ve lived here for any amount of time, you know who he is.He does all that, but his big thing is an annual street dance around the 4th of July. He pulls out his BBQ’s, has a band come to play, and the town comes out and parties in the store parking lot. Yes, people definitely know who he is and his business.
  10. And if you want to combine all of the above . . . here’s my favorite . . . start a community event. Pick a charity, decide on an event format, and go out and get support from other area businesses.Yes, it is a lot of work; however, there is an intangible benefit participating in those types of events that you could never get from just placing an ad somewhere. If you are one of the originators of the event, you establish yourself as a leader in whatever field you are in and you go beyond being one among many participants in the promotional vehicles of others to the creator of your own promotional opportunity.Picnic on the Park started with a phone call from my Realtor saying, “I want to do an egg hunt for the community.” (Here’s a recap from that first year.) We started with a 30 day time line, a handful of volunteers, 1,200 attendees and barely pushing 20 booths to an event five years later with over 80 vendor booths and activities, 100 volunteers, and 6,000 attendees at the festival with another 250 at the kick-off Ladies Luncheon (a second event that we added.)Still not quite sure you want to plan your own? Find a local event that you can be excited about and get on board.Attend the event to see if it is a good fit for your business. Research the charity that it benefits. Then look at the ways that your business can participate.If you do business in the Houston area, call me and I’ll set you up.

Those are my 10 marketing tips. What are your top tips?

Creating a Business Identity – Before and After

New Logo Launch – Texas on the Go

 

Sometimes creating a logo can be challenging.  Sometimes I don’t have a clear enough vision of what the client wants or the vision and culture of the company.  Sometimes the client doesn’t know what they want and it takes awhile for us to figure it out together.

However, that was not the case with the logo for Texas on the Go.  This was fun.

Texas on the Go is a new online publication from LACC that focuses on business opportunities in and for the State of Texas.

The owners and I had conversations for several months prior for Joomla consulting, which the site is based on.  They had the functionality of the site as they wanted it; however, the look wasn’t quite right.

The existing logo had a square orientation, which when scaled down to fit the site header just didn’t have enough impact.

Choosing a Color Scheme

Since I was familiar with the format of the site, I already had a good sense of the presence they wanted.  You can’t have a Texas related identity without red, white, blue, and a star; however, I deepened the colors to make them a little more sophisticated.

Developing the Logo

The main issues was keeping the logo rectangular so that it would fit the ezine layout and still have prominence on the page.

I tried different variations with a more prominent star; however, that took it back to a square orientation that we were trying to get away from.

So I played around with the “on the Go,” incorporated the star with the O and this is the chosen end result.

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