Golf Networking Night!

Join me and other business professionals from around Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky at “TGI Friday’s Golf Networking Nights” presented by BNI.

Are you building relationships?

Matt PlappHave you ever been sitting through a sales pitch and wondered what the other person is thinking about while the spew senseless product stats and talk your ear off?  Are you tired of losing sales and clients because of price?  Read below!

In my past life in the boat business I can think how this example played out to show the value of a relationship.  We purchased a small boat dealership that sold Mercury, Johnson, Evinrude and Yamaha outboard motors.  Mercury was 99% of their business and Yamaha was a very small part of the remaining 1%.  Within the first year we got to meet our reps from each company.  Our Yamaha rep, Terry, was new to the business and was a hustler.  Our Mercury rep was an industry veteran and thought his home office was where he should spend most of his time.  I’ve always been a big believer that you have to see your clients on your terms, not theirs.  Meaning, don’t think you’re doing your job when the only time you see them is when they make the effort (like attending a trade show).

Our Yamaha rep was by our store every 4-6 weeks.  He never negative sold, in fact, most of his visits were just to say hello and talk about life and family.  When he did talk about products it was to point out subtle differences and talk about their current promotions.  He went out of his way to become friends with all of our sales staff and took great care of them.  In fact, he realized that our sales people controlled what our customers bought more than anyone else.  The Mercury rep would have had a hard time naming 1 of our 7 sales people.  Long story short, within 2 years we were a top 10 dealer for Yamaha in the US.  They went from under 5 motors sold per year to over 170, while Mercury dropped off the map.

This change had nothing to do with the product, let’s face it, every company has a competitor that offers very similar products.  This came down to a relationship.

Flash forward to June 2011.  I was attending a franchise dealer meeting with a client in Las Vegas.  This meeting included break-out sessions with many of the manufacturers whose products are sold in their stores.  We attended around 6 of these sessions and I had a hard time not falling asleep…EXCEPT in 1.

The first 5 sessions were all the same, a sales rep standing in front of 100+ people puking product info.  In fact, most of them read from their product book/labels and told us EVERYTHING that we could care less about.  As a person who has sold many different products I understand what it takes to close deals.  It’s not talking about the compression of the cylinders, oil to gas ratio or every ingredient in a particular product.  Your customers want to know a little of this, but they mainly want to make sure your products or services have the benefits to live up to their expectation and that you will take great care of them.

THEN there was Pat.  Pat was a machine.  The 2 days before his presentation I watched him on the show floor.  EVERYONE knew him.  He had more hugs, high fives and screams of any booth/rep in the show.  This showed me his relationships were deeps.   He not only had 100+ people in the room, it was STANDING ROOM ONLY.  Afterwards I knew why.  Pat had the same 1 hour slot as everyone else.  But instead of spending 58 minutes on his products like the others, he spent maybe 5 minutes.  Instead of boring us with the product info he talked to his audience about what he knew would really help them:

1.  How to get customers in the stores.

2.  How to keep customers coming back to the stores via relationship building.

3.  How to up-sell for more profits.

He had energy in his presentation that I’d not seen in a long time.  His passion, past retail experience and understanding of what it took to help his clients was spot-on.  He talked about creating relationships (ironic since he was practicing what he preached), how to create loyal customers and how to pair his products with his competitors to increase your average ticket and profit margins.  It was great and even better to see that my client spent most of their money with him.

The point of this is simple.  Customers don’t care that much about ratings, options and features.  THEY WANT YOU and the benefits of dealing with you and your company. I challenge you to stop and watch your staff’s sales presentations.  Go on client visits with them and see how strong their relationships are.  Here’s a hint, if 98% of the visit is about your products and not the life and family of them and their customers…THEY DON’T have relationships or long term clients.  They are a commodity.  Their replacement is 1 incoming cold call.  Price and features only go so far, customer loyalty is built on relationships.

Matt Plapp is a the President of Driven Media Solutions, a Full Service Marketing Firm in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at

Are you passing the buck?

Matt PlappBy now you are finding out if your marketing plan is working for 2011 and tweaking it to get the most out of your budget and staff.  I remember the days when I was cold calling in radio back in the early 2000’s and I’d call a customer this time of year to hear “Our marketing budget is gone until next year, call back in November”.  At first I took it and called back in the Fall.  Then I soon realized it was an easy way to get me off the phone.

2 Questions for you:

1.  Are your sales people settling for this classic blow-off?  If so you better change that before your competitors sales people realize it’s just a ploy to get off the phone and close a deal you missed.

2.  Are you using this to get the annoying sales people to leave you alone and not looking at new ideas that could help you increase profits?  I know the headache, for 10 years in retail I received hundreds of these calls per month.  It was tough to listen to everyone, but I was amazed at what I found out when I did.  I challenge you to take more of those calls serious and see what you might be missing.

Is Your Business Easy To Find Online?

Doug Smith - Cincinnati Radio Marketing Consultant
Doug Smith - Cincinnati Radio Marketing Consultant

Last night, thanks to yet another big thunderstorm, most of my area lost power.  Having no lights was one thing, but no power to a sump pump was another.  My wife and I spent four hours at my mother-in-laws house bailing water out of the sump pump so her basement didn’t flood.  Fill a bucket, run upstairs to the kitchen, empty the bucket in the sink, run downstairs, and repeat….for four solid hours!

Just a few years ago, the only way I could have stayed in contact with the outside world would have been to call someone on my cell phone or turn on a battery operated radio.  But, thanks to my smart-phone, I was able to contact friends via Facebook who had also lost power and we kept each other updated on if, or when, power had been restored to their area.  I was able to price generators at a local home improvement store, obtain updates on the power issues from multiple news outlets, and use The Weather Channel app to keep an eye on the weather in hopes that the rain would stop and give us a break on our sump pump efforts.

In the best of times, and in the worst of times, technology makes it easier than ever to find what you need when you need it.

Are you making it easy for your customers to find you when they need you?

As I always say, the point of advertising is to educate your customers about your business BEFORE they need you, so that WHEN then need you they will FIND you.  Times have changed and your marketing efforts need to match the times.  If you are not educating your customers about your goods and services on a consistent basis, as well as building your digital footprint, there is a good chance your biggest competitor is.  In time, you could find yourself under water…… and trust me, bailing yourself out is no fun.

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

Where does marketing stop in your company?

Matt Plapp
Matt Plapp

When I’m consulting my clients on marketing it gets hard to determine the line of where marketing stops.  Many think it’s tied to the advertising, when in fact it goes way beyond that, but I’m not sure how far.  A great story I heard a few years ago by a very successful retailer in Naples Florida makes me wonder if it does stop.

Noel was the business owner’s name.  He had a very high-end boat dealership and his customers were the wealthiest in the area.   He was in his office overlooking the showroom as a couple was completing the paperwork on their purchase. The wife excused herself and a few minutes later came over and whispered in the husband’s ear.  Poof, they were gone.  He couldn’t believe his eyes.  One minute they were customers and the next they are bolting for their Mercedes Benz.  He had to know what happened.  He rushed out of his office and caught them in the parking lot.  Noel introduced himself as the owner and asked “what happened?”  The wife told him she went to use the restroom and was upset with how disgusting it was.  She wondered how a business that just recently remodeled their beautiful showroom could ignore the women’s restroom.  She questioned him about whether he wanted female clients.

He was crushed. Of course he wanted female clients, but thought I could I miss this?  If I remember the story correctly, he mentioned that they didn’t have female employees who used that bathroom and somehow it fell between the cracks.  Of course they fixed it ASAP and invited the young lady to come back and give them her thoughts.  She did, she approved and finished their paperwork.

This begs the question, where does your marketing stop?  Recently I was in a business that had an underage girl working the counter (presumably the owner’s kid).   Another business I was in had their “Employee of the Month” plaque displayed next to the register; the problem was the last time it was updated for 2007???  So I guess no one has done a good enough job to earn this distinction in over 3 years?  Then my favorite was a business that had different colors on their P.O.P displays, store sign, website and employees shirts.  I had no clue where I was.

Do you really want your customers being waited on by someone who can’t possibly represent your company in a professional manner?  Do you want people to see that you are so lazy that you can’t fix your plaque?  And more importantly do you want to confuse people about your brand?

I guess the conclusion is that your marketing touches every part of your business.  You MUST be aware of everything going on within your organization.  In fact, before you buy a SINGLE advertisement you need to make sure everything under your roof is ready for the customers to come in.  Don’t invite customers in until you are ready for them. Would you rather grow slower and correctly?  Or faster and burn through customers with bad experiences?

Matt Plapp is a the President of Driven Media Solutions, a Full Service Marketing Firm in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at

How much money did you spend to purchase your current vehicle?


No matter the brand… matter how much it cost to purchase…..and no matter how much money you’ve put into it…..all vehicles have one thing in common:  the tires are the ONLY thing that touch the road.  You could drive a $90,000 Audi, but if the tires are bald or you are driving on four spare tires, all the safety features in the world won’t mean a thing in a rain storm because your traction will stink.  On the other side, you could drive a beat up 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier with the best new tires money can buy and, in that same rain storm, you have a better shot at staying on the road than the Audi.

I look at a good advertising strategy as the tires for your business in that, no matter how great your business is, the only thing that comes in contact with your potential customer is your advertising.

Think of the rain storm in the above example as your day-to-day business.  Every day you are trying to take customers away from your competition while they are trying to take customers away from you.  If you have a state-of-the-art store, stock everything your potential customers could want, have ample parking, and provide outstanding service…..but you don’t properly advertise……you are basically driving the $90,000 Audi with bad tires.

By advertising I mean telling potential customers why they should do business with you and current customers why they should stay with you.  Whether it’s radio, television, social media marketing, or something else……a good advertising strategy is paramount to your business.  However, good advertising alone will not make you a success.  Good advertising will get people to think of you when they are in the market for the product or service you sell.  Once they are in the door, it is up to you to win them over, but unless they know about you…..they won’t know how to find you.

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

8 Easy Ways To Make Your Customers Love You

Increase Your Sales With Customer LoyaltyApr 13, 2011 –

Everyone knows you can’t have a business without customers. However, one of the worst mistakes any business can make is focusing its marketing efforts on attracting new clients while neglecting past and current customers. Studies have shown that the cost of acquiring a new customer is far greater than what it costs to generate business from an existing client.

Thanking your clients for their business can also set you apart from your competitors, increase loyalty, boost sales and even build relationships that last a lifetime. Effective marketing depends on repeat exposure and showing appreciation is an affordable and effective way to build your company’s presence.

Here’s what you can do to show your clients how grateful you are for their business:

1. Send a thank you card after an appointment or major purchase. Thoughtful and unexpected thank you notes are an easy way to let people know you appreciate them. Consider sending a hand-written note in the mail. Sending birthday cards with a coupon is another way to express your appreciation.

2. Give small gifts. Token items such as flowers, books, and mugs make thoughtful gifts for clients. These can be sent on special occasions or can be sent for no other reason than to show your gratitude.

3. Let them choose their own reward. Give people what they want by letting them choose among several options. Introduce a rewards program that lets customers choose from a variety of gifts or coupons if they spend a certain amount within a month, for example.

4. Surprise them. Select repeat customers at random and surprise them with a free gift or a discount. Zappos, a company that is renowned for its strong customer service and company culture, gives “surprise” free upgrades to overnight shipping for many customers.

5. Fill customer service roles with people who are patient and have a pleasant attitude. Encourage your employees to be personable, particularly when they interact with your customers. “It’s the simple things that mean the most to everyday people, it’s about caring and listening to the customer,” Jane Judd, the senior manager of Zappos’ Customer Loyalty Team, tells Econsultancy. “Many times retailers are about the sale and not the experience. We try our best to be personable and we don’t upsale our customers or put a time limit on our calls.”

6. Implement your customers’ suggestions and tell them about it. Score points with your customers by proving to them you’re taking their suggestions and complaints seriously.

7. Reward referrals. The highest compliment a business owner can receive is a referral. Always acknowledge when a customer sends business your way.This gesture deserves recognition in the form of a thank you note, discount on services or small gift card.

8. Pay it forward. If your clients are business owners, look for ways to refer business to them in return.

Be aware that some industries have strict guidelines about accepting gifts. Gifts can be perceived as bribes so when in doubt, ask your clients if such policies exist or stick to sending items with no monetary value.

Compliments of American Express Open Forums

Matt In The News!

Facebook is a growing part of many companies’ marketing efforts. Many Procter & Gamble Co. brands, for example, have hundreds of thousands of fans. Pringles, with nearly 11 million “likes” on its Facebook page, is the 71st most-liked page on the social networking site.

Matt Plapp, president of Driven Media Solutions, said even companies with big numbers need to talk to those fans. [click above to read more]

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Franchise growth sizzling nationwide

 Tom Demeropolis Cincinnati Business Courier

Premium content from Business Courier – by Tom Demeropolis, Courier Staff Reporter

Date: Friday, March 11, 2011, 6:00am EST

Read more: Franchise growth sizzling nationwide in recession’s wake | Business Courier

Ray Wiley knows the challenges of being both a franchisee and a franchisor. The longtime Subway franchisee launched his own Mexican fast-casual restaurant concept in Dayton back in 2007. Now, Hot Head Burritos is one of the fastest-growing franchise concepts in the region.

And in the wake of the Great Recession, Hot Head Burritos could have as many as 100 locations in some stage of development before the end of the year.

Wiley is far from alone, as franchise businesses across the country are gearing up for growth.

Coming out of recessions, franchises historically have grown at a faster clip. Matt Haller, director of communications for the International Franchise Association, said franchises perform better in down economies because of the nature of franchising. Franchises are easier to operate and easier to expand because franchisees can draw from experience in the franchise system and support from the franchisor.

Many who lost their jobs during the recession don’t want to be dependent on someone else for their income. Franchising offers a way to be independent without starting from the ground up.

Don Boroian, founder and chairman of Chicago-based Francorp International, said franchising offers entrepreneurs an easier way to own a business.

“Ninety-five percent of people who try to start a business from scratch fail,” Boroian said.

Franchising is the fastest and strongest way to scale a business to create new jobs and expand a business, Haller said.

Darian Richardson - Owner, RMC Franchise Connect - Cincinnati Franchise ConsultantDarian Richardson, president of Cincinnati-based RMC Franchise Consulting, works with clients interested in buying a franchise.

For the first quarter of the year, activity is up 10 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2010, Richardson said. He’s seeing increased interest from two different segments: those who have lost their jobs during the recession and those who are looking to franchises to supplement their existing income.

For those making a career change, Richardson helps them investigate the type of franchise business that fits them best.

“If you’re considering starting a business, perform a self-assessment first. Figure out what’s important to you,” Richardson said.

And franchising goes far beyond restaurants. That way, you don’t have to come home smelling like hamburgers if you don’t want to, he said.

Franchise segments that are seeing continued expansion are senior care, personal care, such as hair salons, and business related to pets, Richardson said. There are more than 300 business format lines that operate as franchises, Haller said.

The biggest obstacle facing both franchisees and franchisors is access to credit. Banks have tightened restrictions on lending, in turn making it more difficult for franchisees to get money to start up their own business.

“We’re making the argument now that we can turn this economic recovery into a jobs recovery if we can get the banks lending again,” Haller said.

For every $1 million loaned to franchises, 34 jobs are generated, Haller said.

Credit has been a hindrance for potential franchisees in the past, but a growing number of franchisors are acting as banks for their franchisees. Haller said this is a trend across the board for franchises.

“Franchises are looking for creative solutions to grow their systems,” Haller said.

Toledo-based Marco’s Pizza, for example, has several programs aimed at helping franchisees open stores, including providing them financing or guaranteeing their loans with banks. The 225-unit company has roughly 60 stores in development.

ServiceMaster Clean is offering qualified prospects up to 80 percent financing to start their cleaning business.

Another franchise offering lease finance options is Hoodz Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning, Richardson said.

Franchises of all shapes and sizes have targeted 2011 as a growth year.

Locally, LaRosa’s is looking to expand through multi-unit franchise operators in cities such as Nashville, Louisville and Columbus.

Dunkin’ Donuts experienced a 50 percent increase in development deals last year, crediting existing franchisees and incentives. The chain opened 206 new locations in the U.S.

In some markets, the Canton, Mass.-based franchise offered reduced royalty fees for three years and an extra $10,000 in local store marketing.

After more than 35 years in the franchise business, Boroian said there is always room for another franchise, as long as it’s well-run.

“The naysayers in 1970 said there was no room for another burger operation. We’ve seen burger operation after burger operation go on to flourish,” he said. “There’s always room for one more.”
Read more: Franchise growth sizzling nationwide in recession’s wake | Business Courier

Are you giving good instructions?

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

Recently I bought a new desk.  Once the boxes were delivered to my house, I unpacked everything and organized the pieces by their letter and number.  Ten years ago I would have been stressed looking at these 25 pieces of wood and bags of hardware.  The task of making everything look like the display the store would have seemed impossible.  But I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, the most important is to follow the instructions.  I followed every word on every page and sure enough a few hours later I’ve got a beautiful new desk.  This was similar to my experience over Christmas with my son and his Lego’s, everything went as planned, except for searching for an occasional dropped piece:)

I bring this up because I can’t help but think how detailed instructions could make customer service top notch.  What if every time you hired an employee you had a multi-page document that outlined your company, what you did, why you did it and the expected result.  If every task they were required to perform was written down to the smallest possible detail.  Just imagine how many of your customer complaints would go away.  How many times does a customer have a bad experience with your company because a few steps were skipped in the process?

Now, relate this to your marketing plan.  Have you ever written down everything you are going to do each month to help drive sales and profits.  Defined the goals of each marketing medium and outlined to your staff how this should be carried out?  How can you expect good results without doing this?  AND how can you judge a particular advertisement without setting the proper ROI goals and expectations.

My challenge to you is not only to sit down and write out instructions for your business before 2011 is gone, but to also map out your marketing plans just like you were leaving tomorrow to drive to Nebraska.  Make a plan and stick to it, and I’m sure you’ll have a great looking desk in 9 months.

Matt Plapp is a the President of Driven Media Solutions, a Full Service Marketing Firm in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at