What Are Your Marketing Resolutions for 2012?

I have to admit…I didn’t “see it coming”.  The end of the year is already upon us.  As we reflect on many aspects of our professional and personal lives, now is a good time to set goals for the year ahead – and if you haven’t already…write them down to track your progress and successes.

If it isn’t already, incorporating social media into your business’ marketing plan for 2012 should be high on your lists of resolutions, according to Business To Community. The online resource offers up a wide variety of helpful tips for small business owners looking to maximize their social media presence in the new year.

Developing and growing a Facebook fan page is obviously become more important than ever, as it offers free business advertising with every “like” while providing an inexpensive way to offer deals and incentives.

As popular as Facebook has become, it’s wise to diversify your social media portfolio. In addition to Facebook, creating profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube are also very important. Each channel should provide links to the others to encourage customers to follow the company across as many different avenues as possible.

Getting your social media pages established and visually branded alike is just the start of a comprehensive social presence – adding relevant and engaging content is the key to engaging, and growing your audience of loyal fans and followers.

So… what are you doing reading this?  Get started!  And know that social media is just one slice of the “marketing pie” that you’ll need to focus on in 2012.

What other marketing plans are you making for the New Year?  We’d love to hear about your goals, plans and challenges.

The Long Road To CommRow

It’s been months since I’ve felt I had the time, or motivation, to return to blogging.

For awhile, I used the “more important things to do” excuse.  Or the “does it really matter if I do or don’t?” excuse for not taking the time to look out into the world, and share perspectives on the ever-changing world of branding and marketing.  The fact is – I have been busier than at any other time in my career.  Looking back on the past 10 months now, I see that my lack of dedication to blogging was more about my lack of dedication to myself – to my own growth and understanding.

Plus…and I mention this with the utmost respect to those who actually make a living blogging (or helping others to) – it’s damn hard work.  Given how hard my most recent project has been, there simply weren’t enough hours in the day.

I’ve “come back to myself” now, and to this thing I love – investigating, commenting, and sharing dialogue about the things and perspectives that motivate me every day.

What happened in those 10 months was nothing short of miraculous.  An empty casino at a key location in downtown Reno was transformed into a 60,000 square foot, three level entertainment, food and climbing/training center.  From Fitzgeralds’ has risen CommRow – Reno’s First Urban Adventure Destination.

In December 2010, I joined the developer’s team to begin the process of designing (and redesigning) the facilities – from concept development through local government approvals – I was able to see every aspect of what it takes to develop an entirely new category of brand – the creative reuse of an outdated casino into a contemporary center for healthy fun.  Positioning the property from its inception, we developed a brand with nothing less than 14 sub-brands – each with their own identity and purpose.

While nobody knew exactly what would become of this idea at that time, we all worked days and nights and weekends to drive toward finding out if we believed it was financially feasibly possible.  Literally tens of “waterfall” spreadsheets later – the decision was made that it was – and the race was on to build it.

Ten months later – we opened the doors to the first three floors with fireworks, concerts and crowds.

And now I’m the development’s Marketing Director/Creative Director/Graphic Designer/Janitor.  As the processes for getting an effort this big off the ground begin to establish themselves, I’m hoping to have more time to dedicate to my first passion – SmartBrand.  And to getting back to building more brands for passionately focused companies.

For now…I have my hands plenty full and have been enjoying every excruciating second.  More importantly…I’m learning so much, so quickly, that I’ve become once again dedicated to exploring and sharing about the business of building brands.

I hope you’ll come back and share your thoughts as I do…and always, honestly, thank anyone reading this stuff I feel compelled to share.

More to come about CommRow’s intents and challenges…and about the world of branding, marketing, advertising…and all their many components.

Changing Reno’s Brand Perception

Those of you who read this blog from time to time know that I’m fanatical about Reno’s brand perception problems and challenges.  I’ve had more than my share of rants and conversations about the topic, and have tried to keep it light when it seemed that there literally was no hope of ever having Reno thought of again as “fun and contemporary“.

Our old gaming perception had come home to roost, our messaging really wasn’t connecting with our audience, and we were coupled with one of the worst economic recessions on record.  The Reno brand has been last to rebound economically for a number of reasons (which is an entirely different range of discussions).

Since December of 2010, I have been working closely on a project that I believed could help start a new conversation about what downtown Reno is now…and what it could be very quickly. Having worked with this same developer on the Montage, I knew his visions could quickly turn into reality .   Just by chance, the property in the developer’s eye was attached to the one iconic symbol of Reno that most people know well – The Reno Arch.  “Location, location, location” – I thought.  Here is ground zero for change.

And now, after several months of planning, I’m happy to announce a project that I believe will help to change Reno’s perception as a destination: CommRow.

Formerly the Fitzgerald Hotel Casino, CommRow will be an entirely different, and complimentary brand to gaming.  We’re positioning this new property as an “urban adventure resort”… featuring an impressive indoor rock climbing facility, and (wait for it….) – the world’s tallest climbing wall.  Quite a billing for Reno – and a new market to talk to our tourists both new and old.

Key to a development of this size and scope, parking and accessibility are issues that are paramount to long-term success.  And so the resolution of a long-standing problem with the garage once a part of the Fitzgerald became a cornerstone issue to finalize our path.  As of this week, that resolution has taken place, and CommRow is on its way to a truly monumental grand opening this year.

More important than tourism (can you imagine!?), is how CommRow will be perceived (and hopefully adopted) by our local community.  How we treat each guest will far outweigh the return on the millions of dollars going into renovations and additions.  How CommRow connects to our community will determine its short and long-term success.  I’m a little giddy over the opportunity to help create those connections and watch them grow.

There’s much work to do in a very short timeframe to open this facility on Labor Day of 2011 – and I have faith that it will be done.  Beyond the obvious marketing and advertising needs to launch a property of this size and type, making lasting relationships with vendors and community organizations is key to establishing CommRow as a truly passionate community brand.

Stay tuned for details via Facebook and Twitter as we roll-out products and details between now and the end of this summer!

And of course connect with CommRow on Facebook if you want to stay up to date on this project.

Spruce Up Your Green Marketing

It’s that time of year when retailers and manufacturers will do whatever is within the law to attract more buyers.  Some will undoubtedly make the desperate decision to “Greenwash” their products or companies…claiming to be good environmental stewards when in reality – they’re not.

Combine the holiday din of advertising with the rush to get everything ready, it’s no wonder the average consumer is both confused, and overwhelmed.  This makes it more difficult for those truly “green” products and companies to make their voices heard, let alone believed.

But there must be something you can do to help  identify and define your brand’s sustainable business practices, right?

Here are just a few suggestions… and I’d welcome your thoughts to add to them:

  1. Quantify progress. Simply placing an icon or green image on your label is far from enough to illustrate you care about the environment.  If you’ve reduced paper use at your business – how many trees does that relate to saving since you started?  How many in just this year alone?  How did you go about doing it?  Do you plan to expand the program?  If so…how?  Data that comes from your actual experience, no matter how small, speak volumes against naysayers and doubters. As with any business strategy, you should be sure to establish quantifiable goals, clearly plan your approach to achieve them, and then track your progress in detail. Writing an annual sustainability plan and reporting on your progress is a great way to start your own internal program.
  2. Be heard. Consumers won’t know you’re tackling ambitious green goals unless you tell them about it. Make sure you have an online web page devoted to your environmental practices, and share your goals and progress with your followers and visitors.  Combine your sustainability practices with product or service marketing where it makes good sense, and tell stories that illustrate is passionately for your consumers. If you don’t know how to reach out to media and social channels effectively – hire a professional to help you.  You’ll learn much more in the process, and establish good habits from the start of your efforts.
  3. Encourage Customer Participation. Engage your customers by letting them know how their patronage supports your sustainability efforts – make them part of your solution.  Inspired customers become loyal brand followers – and buyers.
  4. Donate and/or Volunteer. Let your customers and prospects know that you “walk the talk”, and that your environmental concerns are both personal and professional.  Consider giving a portion of your company’s or product’s profits to charitable organizations such as 1% for the Planet or the Nature Conservancy.  Try to find eco-focused causes that compliment your brand.  And of course…if you can’t donate money this holiday season….consider your time and writing your customers about it.  Make it something they’ll appreciate your doing in their name as well.

There are so many ways you can “green up” your brand’s marketing at this time of year – and at any time.

What have you done that’s been successful for your product or service that’s helped “green” your brand in 2010?

Successfully Marketing Green Products

Changes to the Green Guide produced by The Federal Trade Commission will undoubtedly change how companies can make a claim to selling “green” products.  These important revisions span everything from certifications to supply chain sources and types.

However thorough the guidelines, it may not be enough to overcome the public’s scrutiny of the many companies who have “green washed” their products just to take advantage of marketing opportunities in the “green wave”.  The challenges with marketing a truly “green” product go far beyond the products themselves, extending into every part of business – from investors, to employees to the media.

How then, can the well intended “green” company be truly legitimate in this market sector?  Here’s a few steps that you should consider:

Conduct A Sustainability Audit:

One of the easiest, and most relevant ways to prove your product’s sustainability is to conduct a thorough review of the processes and products throughout your company. From the amount of fuel required to produce and deliver your products, to how much waste you produce in production and how you handle it – every company can find a certified audit to identify, and increase sustainability throughout their practices.  Not only can you identify where you’re currently “green”, but set goals to improve your company’s sustainability.  Sharing this information with the public via your  website will help identify, and convince your market of your dedication to, and level of sustainability.

Third party authentication certainly means more to the scrutinizing public than an internally produced and conducted audit.  Transparency is authenticity – and it’s important that you hire an expert to conduct your audit.  They’ll not only provide you with the credible findings to make the effort truly valuable, but also help identify areas of operations that you may have never thought of as part of your “green review”.

Seals Of Approval Aren’t Standardized:

So many organizations have released a wide variety of guidelines that outline what they consider “green” products to be, that few have the credibility they first sought to establish and maintain.  There are federal standards that certify organic products, although many of the claims required are not regulated.  With so many “standards” in guidelines for green products, choosing the one that truly has lasting value for your product in the consumer’s eye is a risk that may not be worth your effort in the long run.

Investigate Your Supply Chain:

No company operates alone, which means you must consider your supplier’s practices as part of your commitment to sustainability. This is perhaps one of the most difficult, time consuming aspects of producing a truly “green” product – but one of the most rewarding in the end.  Take the time to know your supply chain’s sources and practices – it will pay off handsomely in the end.

Learn Your Market’s “Shade Of Green”:

Every consumer segment is different – and most have very different perceptions about what they want to buy that’s “green”.  You’ll need to target your marketing efforts to the segments individually – once you’ve taken the time to get to know them in detail.  Some consumers who want to purchase “green” products may be more focused on the environment than their personal health.  With the different attitudes and habits each market sector shares, you’ll need to find ways to attract and motivate each of them to action – a sale.

What products do you consider shining examples of “green” marketing?

Living Montage: Reno’s Newest Urban Residents

Reno has more than its share of bad luck and press lately.  Consider the City’s unemployment rate, one of the highest in the nation, officially hovering at 13.6% with no dramatic trending upward in site.  Casino gaming revenue has taken a continuous nose dive during a losing streak of 11 years of continual decline in tourism.  Even our own local paper has proclaimed the possibility of  Reno being on track to becoming the “Detroit of the West”.

With all this negative news piling on our collective psyches on a daily basis, one has to wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to live here – let alone vacation or own a second home in the Reno-Tahoe region.

I’m here to tell you – there are more reasons than you can easily count, and the proof is in those who are taking residence in our downtown’s currently troubled economic core.

One of Reno’s newest, and brightest projects is without question The Montage.  In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that the project was a client of mine until its transfer back to the bank.  The vision of one man, Fernando Leal, built the Montage from a shell of an empty casino into Reno’s crown jewel of condominium developments.  Today it stands on the skyline, a proud reminder of the potential of Reno to become a gentrified urban center, and not just a “second-rate Vegas” tourism attraction.

Like all clients, I feel a vested interest in seeing them to long-term success – and the Montage is certainly on top of that list.  Built during the worst financial climate imaginable, the project barely had the opportunity to begin reaching into the market before its untimely return to funding sources.  And yet… that has not stopped new residents from securing their new home with a cash payment, and turning the building into a living, thriving community of new owners and neighbors.

Why, you might ask, would anyone want to take a risk in this economy to live in a building in downtown Reno?  Just ask the residents, and be prepared for an answer as long as you have time to listen.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, my business partner Mike Van Houten (author of Reno’s #1 Guide Downtownmakeover.com) and I took an hour of time to visit with two of Montage’s earliest residents – Scott Opperman and Vinnie Papa.  Both of these professionals are from the northern California area, a mere 3 hour drive from the Montage.  Both literally begin to shine when you ask them about their experience in Reno at The Montage.

“It’s the vibe”, Opperman enthusiastically confirms.  “The first year was a little strange at first with only 32 of us in the building, but we quickly became family.  Now I think there are more than 70 in the building.  We walk everywhere – to shows, restaurants, anything you want.  People don’t realize how much is going on here.  There’s always something happening.  It’s quiet – but not too quiet.  We’re surrounded by neighbors, but only hear them when we meet outside on the balcony.”  Opperman also noted his enthusiasm to relocate to Reno.  “If I didn’t have a stable job that I love in California, and I could find a position here in Reno, I’d consider moving here permanently.”

“The people are friendlier”, notes Papa.  “Even if you go for a burger, people talk to you.  You don’t get that in a city like San Francisco.  The Riverwalk, The Palladio – there are a lot of people living here now.  You don’t need parking – we can walk anywhere we want within 10 minutes of the front door.”  Papa continued to talk about his appreciation of Reno’s ongoing events calendar.   “You have everything right downtown, which is why we chose this building as opposed to Vegas or other properties. New Years last year was phenomenal.   You felt like you could touch the fireworks – literally.  Throughout the summer, you can open your balcony door and hear the music from any of the events that take place downtown – it’s just great.”

Both Montage residents support the casinos downtown.  “Reno’s casinos are so much better than any of the Indian Gaming developments in California.  Once you’re done gambling, there’s nothing really left to do but get in your car and drive back home” notes Papa.  “The properties here are so much nicer, and there are so many more choices, if you like to gamble, there’s really no comparison.”

On that perfectly upbeat note, we ended the interview.  On cue, the sun beginning to peak out of the rain clouds.  Downtown Reno looked renewed from the 21st floor of The Montage, with a back drop of mountain ranges framing the view.  And what a view it is.  To really understand the level of sophisticated, functional design at The Montage, take a few moments to review photos of some of the interiors designed by the talented team at Aspen Leaf Interiors.

There are other stories in downtown Reno now, new stories to be told from new residents.  The future of the City is definitely undergoing radical change – and from my perspective, change for the better.

Why write about this development now in downtown Reno?  Because Reno is changing for the better – and it’s time to get the message out through the residents who know it best, and appreciate it the most.  We’re diversifying our economic base, and we’re building new communities of urban dwellers in the core of our downtown. Reno’s negative perception will change in time; with the reality of Reno’s ideal lifestyle, living options, and vibe remains a story yet to be fully appreciated.

Should You Try Geo-locating Your Brand?

Along with the adoption of social media in many businesses marketing strategy, Geo location has become an increasingly popular (and effective) way to attract and keep new business. There are more and more services that enable geo location through social media channels including FoursquareFacebook Places, LooptGowalla, GeoAPI, , SimpleGeo, Google Places, Rally and other emerging systems.

So what is geo location basically about?  It’s fairly simple in concept: geo location is content that has been tagged with geographic data such as GPS coordinates or a street address. You can geo locate a video, a blog post, a Twitter tweet, a news story – or just about anything in your life, or your business. Geo locating is driving a host of social media channels to prompt you whenever you check in, which in turn can let your friends and followers know where you are – which may prompt them to action.  Perhaps they’ll meet you if you’re close – or create a new conversation about your location or business. But there’s much, much more to geo location on the horizon.

As new people engage in geolocating their lives, the issue of privacy becomes an even more important aspect of the systems and channels they chose to use.  Privacy is, and will always remain a critical aspect and concern in all social media, and geo location is no different.  But I believe that the value of using location-based tools will eventually become more and more secure, and far outweigh the privacy concerns that many early adopters have at this first stage of use.  For businesses, that means that those who adopt and use geo location for the their brand may well take a lead in a cost-effective, interactive channel to build their business following – and increase sales.

Once you get oriented to one or more geo location services, there are many ways you can use them to your advantage.  Starting a customer loyalty program is just the start – rewarding your business followers who engage with you in this social space will not only drive more loyalty, but create a competitive social drive to your door.  Consider a promotion that starts when only a certain number of customers check-in to your location, or even provide your check-in customers points that build to levels of discounts or special offers on your products or services.

There are many, many new ways that business is now using social geo location to build both brand awareness, and physical visits.  I think you’ll agree that we’re just getting started with this new way of marketing your business brand to an emerging, growing community of loyal followers.

I’ll be covering this topic in more detail in the months ahead, including the implications for entrepreneurs, “green” businesses, and sustainability.

How have you used social geo location for your business?  What types of promotions have you seen that you think are most effective.  What do you think of this trend overall?  I’m always more interested in your thoughts than my own opinions – and I appreciate your comments!

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