Are you learning from your past?

Doug Smith - Cincinnati Radio Marketing Consultant
Doug Smith - Cincinnati Radio Marketing Consultant
I’ve known this for a while, but I’ve never wanted to admit it.  However, today is the day I come clean.  My dad wasn’t as dumb as I thought he was when I was growing up.  When I purchased my first car at 16, it was my dad’s idea that I should get a car with some size because the chances were good that I would be in an accident and I needed a car with some protection.  I wanted something small and sporty, but dad won the argument and the result was a two-tone brown 1982 Buick Regal which saved my life when I was hit head-on by a drunk driver.  The car was ugly, but dad was right.
When I was a youngster, my dad would remind me every winter NOT to sled ride head first.  It was more daring to go head first down the hill, through the trees, and over the ramps, so I always did it my way even though it had been pounded into my head that, sooner or later, I was going to run into a tree and that I shouldn’t test fate.  Well, one cold winter afternoon fate won when I was going too fast and couldn’t steer away from a big tree that I swear jumped in front of me.  With a bloodied and bruised face, my buddies helped me home.  I was fortunate not to break anything, but dad was right.
I now understand that my dad was taking his past successes and past failures and passing that knowledge on to me.  Unfortunately, when you are young you think you know everything and you need to learn the hard way.
That brings me to you and your business.  Are you taking advantage of the past successes and failures of people in your industry?  I believe that SUCCESS LEAVES CLUES.  Over the course of history, there have been hundreds and maybe thousands of people who have done, or are currently doing, what you do.  Some have failed, some have succeeded, and some have become great.  But no matter THEIR outcome, you can learn something from it to help YOU today, tomorrow, and for years to come.
Who are the big success stories in your industry?
What did they do that made them successful?
Who are the biggest failures in your industry?
What did they do wrong?
If you can’t name at least one success or one failure for your profession, there is a good chance you are missing out on a golden opportunity to learn something that could help lead you to greater success.  If you ignore these learning opportunities, you run the risk of running face first into a tree.  Trust me, I know!
Doug Smith is a Senior Account Executive for WREW Rewind 94.9 and in Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky.  You can contact Doug at  (513) 535-9123 or

What's Your Brand? Part 2

Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant
Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant

What’s Your Brand

Part 2 of 52

By Matt Plapp

Next I was visiting a locally owned retail store with a large showroom. I walked it looking to buy a specific item. I was not greeted within 50 feet of the door. In fact, I was never greeted. I had to ask a guy I guessed was an employee for help. The reason I “Guessed” is because his hair was a wreck, his shirt was un-tucked and was old and not really recognizable with their company colors or logo. I did get it right though, but since he was carrying a scan gun it was somewhat a give-away. Next I asked where this product was, to which he pointed about 10 rows down and said down in aisle 15. I wanted to smack him. YOU DON’T POINT. You walk me to the item, see what I’m buying, find an item to up-sell me to and then take me to my next item. Needless to say I got lost, got frustrated and asked 2 more people. I ended up not buying anything due to this flawed process. Again, this BRAND was out of whack.

This example comes to me from a friend in Florida who owned a car dealership in the 80‘s and 90‘s. He used this example from his dealership in a marketing training I went to in 2003. He was in the showroom watching the salesman close a deal. Everything seemed ready to go as planned, everyone was smiling, shaking hands and getting ready to sign the paperwork. As he watched from across the room he noticed the wife get up to go somewhere. Within minutes she came back, whispered in her husbands ear and off they went. The owner thought something was up. He asked the salesman what happened and he had no idea. So he hurried out to the parking lot and caught them as they got into their car. He introduced himself as the owner and said he could not help but notice something went wrong, “Can I ask what happened”. The young lady told him that when she went to the restroom it was horrible, it was dirty, old and to her a slap in the face. She said that she did not think the dealership deserved her business if they did not respect their female customers enough to spend a few dollars on a nice clean restroom. WOW, this dealership owner was floored. He was widely successful, had been in the business for 20+ years and did not know what just hit him. He apologized and wished them luck on their car shopping experience. He had never been in the ladies room at his store, so he took a stroll. Once in there, he was disappointed “How could I miss something this obvious, how could I have not trained my staff to look for these type of issues” he told me. “We had a multi-million dollar facility and a $10 ladies room”. That night he called the customer and acknowledged her concerns and agreed. He let her know it would be remodeled the next few days and thanked her for telling him about it.

So to recap we just talked about the following items:

1. Employee appearance

2. Pointing instead of showing a customer

3. Restroom appearance

I know, right now your wondering what any of these items have to do with your marketing. They have everything to do with your marketing of your business. These are all an extension of your brand. Your brand is how your company/product is perceived by your customers. In these situations, these were real life examples of how each of these businesses failed to meet the expectations on their customers, and they failed to build their brand properly.

When I ask my customers about their brand I usually get a response targeted to their advertising. When in fact, I’m looking for a statement that defines their company and how the public relates to it. Uniforms, phone-answering, sales training, clean restrooms, trained employees, consistent company colors, clearly marked showrooms, and more importantly a staff that understands exactly what your brand is and how they are to carry that out in their job EVERY DAY.

Matt Plapp is a Marketing Consultant in Cincinnati Northern Kentucky the rea. You can contact him at

What's Your Brand? Part 1

Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant
Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant

What’s Your Brand

Part 1 of 52

By Matt Plapp

As a marketing consultant I call on 100 + businesses per week. After most phone calls and visits I can’t help but wonder “What’s their brand”? Most people think about radio ads and tv ads when I say that. But I’m not talking about advertising, I’m talking about your companies brand. I’m talking about what defines your business to consumers when they think of you, if they actually do think of you. Here are a few examples of what I mean.

I recently had a customer tell me they don’t advertise when I spoke with her on the phone. I told the business owner it was a good thing she didn’t. Confused she asked what I meant. I told her it took me 4 different phone calls to get someone to answer the phone. On the 4th time when someone finally answered I could barely hear what they said when they answered the phone. Once I figured out I had the correct business after having the young lady repeat the name 3 times (maybe it was an issue with a tongue ring) I was put on hold. Once on-hold there was no message selling their business, just SILENCE, oh and I was on hold for 10 minutes. This I told the owner is why they should not be advertising, not because she thinks they have enough business or a great customer database. I don’t care how great of an advertising campaign you have, if you don’t answer the phones, put people on hold without ever checking back and don’t attempt to spend a few hundred dollars for an on-hold phone system (The Original On Hold Company, then it will won’t matter. Those experiences will define your brand to your potential customers and you will feel that pain in a few years.

Next I visited a client to see how the experience was in-store. This was a Jewelry store with a few locations. No-one at this particular location knows me so I figured I‘d get the normal treatment. This particular client told me in prior conversations that “I don’t think the advertising is working”. I always get a kick out of clients telling me this, WHY, because most have no idea. I ran a decent size local retail store for 10 years. We did every type of advertising available, I knew my marketing mix was working due to the increase in traffic and sales around our flights. But I never had proof that our cable, radio or magazine ads weren’t specifically working. It’s just too hard to gauge that for most retail businesses. OK, back to the jewelry store, I was actually in the market for a gift for my wife. I was dressed nice and I had my wife and kids with me. My wife looked at 3-4 rings and found the one she wanted. We got the price ($2,500) and I even TOOK A PICTURE of the ring with my apple iphone (for a good sales person an easy sign I don‘t mind spending money). I even told the salesman, who I later found out was the GM of that store, this was so I could come back the next day and buy the correct ring. This is where their BRAND fell apart. The GM never asked for my name, phone number or any other contact information. He didn’t give me his card or try and set up a follow-up appointment. He didn’t offer some kind of discount or reason to closee me. How about some sense of urgency “There’s only 1 left” to try and close me. HE NEVER TRIED TO SELL ME. Consumers want to be sold, especially salesman like me. Again, it does not matter how slick your radio ad is, how great the newspaper coupon offer is, if your staff can’t sell then you just wasted your money.

So to recap we just talked about the following items:

1. Answering the Phone

2. Clear Speaking when talking on the phone

3. On-Hold Systems

4. Getting a prospects contact info

5. Setting up a appointment

6. Closing a retail customer

So many times business owners think about their advertising when they hear someone say “Brand”, but it’s much more than just advertising.   Stay tuned, each week I’m going to update this series with good and bad ways that companies Brands are being represented.

The Challenge

John Kieffer - The Results Group Cincinnatiby John Kieffer

The Results Group

– There is never enough time to get done what I want.

All I do is bounce from one issue to another.
I must be responsive to my clients but they run me from one challenge to another.
I don’t have enough time to plan.
– I can do that.  I can do that.  How am I going to do all of those commitments?
– I’ll just do it myself because it takes longer for me to tell them what I need and they won’t do it the way I want anyway.
Sound familiar.  I have said those things as have you. Let’s look at the reactive environment in which we live.  The urgency versus important quadrants that Steven Covey laid before us more than a decade ago captures the challenges, but what have we  done about it?  For the most part, the business arena is far more reactive then ever.  Improved technology has made our days less proactive with greater stress then ever before.  Our newest tools improve access but not increased effectiveness and results. Less time is spent in the highest pay off activities that generate results.  More time is eaten by interruptions.
Let’s review what Covey said.  If we look at a quadrant model with urgent and not urgent from left to right and important to not important from top to bottom a picture appears of four quadrant.  Urgent things must be done immediately and important things advance us in the direction or our goals.  Of course, if we no predetermined definition of goals, the only force that shows up is urgency with the squeakiest wheel winning.  Without long term goals we are urgency driven and wander quickly into the mission-less future.  What do we want out of life?  If we don’t clearly think out our priorities, out life offers us a minimal return.  Socrates had it right when he said” the unexamined life is not worth living.”
Quadrant 1 is the upper left quadrant is the React zone in that not only are these things important but must be done now (or yesterday). These things are important to our success and defined by our goals and desires.  This is where we earn our dollars meeting client needs, fighting fires and producing results.  Here, We get strokes for helping others as we accomplish super hero feats in adrenaline generating fashion.  Could this be considered an addiction as we put on the six-guns and blaze away at the problems that pop up?
Quadrant 2 is also important put the pressure of urgency hasn’t ground these things into our face yet.  So we put these issues on the back burn until they migrate to urgency catching fire and then we can justify focusing on them.  That’s the way our environment has conditioned us.  When did I study for the test, buy the Christmas or anniversary gift or file my taxes?  After all the postal service has assisted me by putting on extra folks to receive my income tax forms at midnight on April 15th.  I rationalize that I do my best work under pressure rather than thinking deeply and I get more kudos from appreciative others with endorphins flowing. None of that happens in Quadrant 2. Many of these Proactive tasks are just as important if not more so than the reactive ones.  Planning, relationship building, physical wellbeing, longer term issues are in this quadrant.  Some of these never move to urgent and that is indeed a loss for a person that desires a balanced life.  Other tasks will accelerate so rapidly that they blow us away.  Example: I come home and there is a note on the kitchen counter from my wife saying she has left with the kids and to not come looking for her.  Or the massive heart attack or the 16 year old son or daughter who makes a suicide attempt.  How did those things happen all of a sudden.  But, you see, it wasn’t all of a sudden but had been brewing for years.  Anyway, these things only happen to others.  Oh, really.
There is another category called Quadrant 3 which is made up of things that are not important but very urgent.  Explain this.  They are not important to me but are thrust into my life by others, customers, cohorts and associates, husband and wife; kids, mom, dad, in-laws; outlaws, regulatory entities.  Solution: just blow them off?  I don’t think so.  If you do you will find yourself in a pickle (I don’t know if I have ever used that phrase before).  You see,  these things will immediately leap to the React zone. Why? The things that are in this quadrant are not important but the people that have place them in front of us are very important. Blow them off and the customer, associate or personal relationship explodes.
What we have created is an urgency treadmill of quadrant 1 and 3 that we can’t outrun.  We can fool ourselves into thinking that we can keep up but the rat race moves faster and faster as more things and tasks are place squarely in front of us.  Can we slow down?  Not anymore than George Jetson could when he was walking his dog in  the cartoons and flew off (OK, most have you have never seen the Jetson’s but for those of you that have, what was the dog’s name?).
Quadrant 4 is the waste zone of not urgent and not important.  I run the treadmill of urgency and am so burned out that I need downtime.  It’s Miller time or TGIF or situation comedies or the ballgame or Soduku or reality TV or computer games or web surfing…. But I need these things for my sanity.
My question is do they move me toward or away from what I want and is there something that can recharge me without draining my time purposelessly?  I enjoy the ballgame or watching the Apprentice but what is its true value for the measure of my life that I have exchanged for it?
Now that we have defined this model that most of us are living, what can we do about it.  That will be our next topic of discussion.
John Kieffer is a Professional Business Coach with The Results Group.  To find out how John can help your company call 513-470-4287 or