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RFP Responses: 5 Simple Reminders for Success

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Don’t go it alone.

Don’t go it alone.

When a Request for Proposal (RFP) comes in from a potential client to your ad agency you feel one of two things. Either you are excited for the opportunity or you are dreading the long hours it will take to complete. No matter how you feel about it, it is always important to set yourself up for success.

Setting yourself up for success may not seem like something you have to pay attention to. Of course, everyone wants to succeed in their career. However, if you approach RFP responses without a proven process you may be doomed. There are entire companies out there who are dedicated to helping you navigate the RFP process; believe me, I have spoke with them. Here are five steps that will help you respond to RFPs more effectively:

  1. Read, Read, Read: Read the entire request. So many times, people get excited over the opportunity and begin glossing over things. Do not assume the text is standard or that you have seen it before. Carefully take your time to read this document because there may be a few things such as type of submission or how the footer should look that could disqualify you from the process. Miss one of these things and they will just throw your response out. It may sound harsh, but it happens. I will say it again, read it. After all, you want them to read your response.
  2. Timing: Set a schedule and give your team the wrong due dates. Yes, you read that correctly. Set your team up for success by giving a one-day buffer, minimum. There are many steps to completing an RFP response. If one person turns their review or updated text in a day, or even a few hours, late, it throws off the whole team. A solid buffer is always needed. Now, the team will readjust to make up for the lost time, so do not be so quick to give up your day just yet. There is always something at the last minute you may need that extra day for.
  3. Define Responsibilities: Divide and conquer. So many times there are one or two people that try to complete the RFP response all by themselves. This is not the key to success. Build a strong team first and foremost. Not everyone has to be involved for the entire process, but many people can be involved for parts of the process. Different sections can come from different internal Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). This allows the coordinator of the process to be able to focus more on making the response more cohesive and less focused on just “filling it out.”
  4. Re-Read: Re-read the entire proposal once you think it is complete, including drop-in text, to make sure it works. Drop-in text is a good way to save time, especially when you’re offering services that are more standardized. However, you want to make sure the proposal has a cohesive story. Have other internal stakeholders perform clean reads as well. They may be able to add some last-minute polish to the response that you would not catch otherwise.
  5. Quality Control: Let someone not involved in the response read it and perform an independent quality check. For best results, a quality checklist and formal process for review should be in place. One of the most obvious but important checks is to make sure no other company name is included. It almost sounds too obvious but it happens more than you probably even realize.

A good RFP response could win you business that may last far beyond your years with an advertising agency. These five steps will help you ensure that there are no simple hiccups that may disclude your ad agency from the process. The creative part of the response is up to you. What would you consider as the sixth simple reminder for RFP success?

Read the original article on the Talent Zoo blog Beyond Madison Avenue at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beyond-madison-ave/blog_news.php?articleID=17165

Brand Extensions Gone Wrong

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zippo-fragrance-adBrand extensions can make sense. In many cases, brands emerge stronger because of it. When Tide laundry detergent developed the Tide To Go instant stain remover pen, it was a great move. According to Nielsen, brand extensions are five times more successful than new launches in some countries. This is true with one caveat — when done right.

“Done right” sounds like an easy statement but it is far from the truth. Some brands fail miserably when it comes to extensions because the extension simply does not make sense. It leaves consumers asking “Why?” Here are two examples describing poor brand extensions that left consumers confused:

Failure Numero Uno: Bic Underwear
Bic is known for its disposable pens, its disposable razors, and its disposable cigarette lighters. The Bic brand thought they were large enough to go into other categories as well, so why not Bic underwear? That’s right. They created a line of women’s disposable pantyhose. They did not even want to change the brand name. Consumers did not understand, production and entrance to market costs were high, and in the end it flopped. Other than disposability there was no link between the products. Brand extensions should make sense and be a logical step from the flagship product. This made absolutely no sense, leaving consumers asking, “What were they thinking?”

Failure Numero Dos: Zippo’s Women’s Perfume
The scent is called fruity, but it sprays directly out of a bottle with a flip top that very closely resembles a Zippo lighter. In the market it brings up thoughts of smelling like a smoker or lighter fluid. It could be a decent-smelling perfume, but perception is everything. The key here again is that it is not a logical extension, bringing us to our favorite question — what were they thinking?

So now you may want to know what makes a great brand extension. Here are a few simple key things to keep in mind:

  1. Know your market. It sounds simple but it is not. No company can be all things to all people. Look at what markets you are currently reaching and what their buying habits are. Once you review this it will help steer you in the right direction for a brand extension.
  2. Make it logical. Just because something sounds like a foolproof plan does not mean it fits your brand. Knowing your market will allow you to see which directions are logical for your brand and which are not. It may be determined that there are a number of areas for growth. So how do you determine which area to tackle first? This brings us to part three.
  3. Do your homework. Extending your brand into other categories requires research to do it right. It may seem logical to you from the start, but it pays to make sure your customers think so. Focus groups and the like can be used at this stage. Spending a little extra on research and time at the beginning can save your brand a lot of headaches in the future. You also want to make sure the brand is not simply going into the market because the new director wanted to put his or her own mark on the industry. The data returned at this stage will not lie.

Brand extensions must be planned carefully with proper knowledge of the market and research behind it. Focusing on an extension or change to a popular brand can, at times, bring on devastation and leave consumers disillusioned. After all, you wouldn’t want to pull a New Coke, would you?

Article originally published on the Talent Zoo blog Beneath the Brand at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beneath-the-brand/blog_news.php?articleID=16856

5 Tricks for Effective Conference Calls

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conference-callA conference call is scheduled to discuss your brand or business. The times comes, you take a seat, dial the number, and stare while speaking at the phone. This is the course of most conference calls, but it does not have to be.

In today’s day and age, sitting down and having a discussion in person is not always an option. With teleconferencing services, WebEx, Skype, and a multitude of other choices, it is far less a priority to have an in-person meeting. Some calls may be more informal than others, but each call should be treated with the same level of detail. Here are five tricks that come from past experiences with a little help from Peter Coughter’s The Art of the Pitch.

  1. You do not have to sit down. It is okay to stand and move around. If this is a new business presentation you should still do the same things as you would do if they were sitting in front of you. However, by moving around it does not mean getting distracted by doing something else.
  2. Have at least one other colleague in the room. When someone else is there, you can look at them and focus this call as if you are having a discussion. This will not only help make the call more comfortable, but it will make it more personal. When you are looking at the phone it is hard to gauge the reactions of the other side unless they specifically say how they are feeling. This other colleague should be able to help provide you with that feedback instantaneously.
  3. Do not mute the phone to talk to others in the room. There is one exception. Only when you truly must discuss something very quickly before mentioning it to a client can you do this. Otherwise, refrain. In my experience the mute button is used by others to question the client or make unnecessary remarks. When you mute the phone in these cases, you miss things. Stay attentive throughout the entire call. Then, have a discussion afterwards to go over next steps.
  4. Dress to impress. For the phone, seriously? Yes. It is important because when you look good and smell good, you feel good. When you feel good, you present even better. When you present better, you win. While your jeans from college might be the most comfy pants in the world, they are not meant for these situations. “Work clothes” do not have to be boring or uncomfortable. Find what works best for you, find a good tailor, and find your way towards that corner office.
  5. Smile. It can be heard in your voice. Next time there is a conference call, record it. Listen back to it for presentation value. How do you and your colleagues sound? You may be surprised by what you hear. Think about where you can inject your smile. When you are presenting over the phone, the pitch and tone of your voice matter more than anything.

Each trick is less of a trick and more of challenge. It is a challenge to rethink the way we as professionals make a conference call. If you have not noticed, the challenges bring along one underlying goal: Treat it like you were there in person. If you would not do it with your client in the room, you should not do it while on the phone with them. What is your biggest hurdle with conference calls?

Article originally published on the Talent Zoo blog Beneath the Brand at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beneath-the-brand/blog_news.php?articleID=16555

Branding from Design to Retail: Apple Shows the Future

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appleIt is 5AM. Black Friday. They still have a turkey hangover but wake up anyway with coupons in hand to get the best deals in sight. We as marketers push out all the advertising in sight to get people to buy certain products and go to certain stores. It is the one day of year that consumers are guaranteed to wake up at all hours of the night to go shopping to get a few extra dollars off of their gifts. While strolling through the mall, there is one store in particular that has no deep discounts, but ironically is the most crowded. The Apple Store.

The in-store experience at Apple is the ultimate definition of experiential marketing in retail. The store is very refined and classically modern. The Apple store in fact looks and feels like one big Apple device. Like his products, Steve Jobs wanted everything simple and sleek. In an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, Walter Isaacson said this of Jobs: “He embraced minimalism, which came from his Zen devotion to simplicity.” Jobs himself said, “The way we’re running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: Let’s make it simple. Really simple.”

Simple is certain. There are no registers. No lines. No piles of items thrown a-strew. No pushy people on cell phones with overloaded carts standing in front of you with a crying baby arguing over a price check. Granted, the store is crowded and there are lots of people. However, Jobs again shows us the future with some revolutionary changes that many retailers could potentially see in the not-so-distant future, such as:

  1. Every product in the store has an iPad as its sign showing the price point and options of the item.
  2. There are at least 20 clerks walking around the store answering questions. Each of these clerks is equipped with an iPhone that is used to scan the item and check out the customer via debit or credit card. For those who want to pay with cash there are a few hidden cash drawers around the store that are built into some of the displays. The displays are so sleek you would never notice the cash drawers until one was opened.
  3. Discounts are minimized but demand is so high that consumers purchase anyway. In the early days of retail a huge sale did not need to happen every day. Jobs has pulled this thinking back in by making a superior product and selling at a reasonable price.

The future is not George Jetson-style flying cars or space suits. It is high-tech products with impeccable sleek design. It is stores that do not have lines wrapping around the building. It is branding your product from design through retail in a cohesive and desirable fashion. Apple again sends the rest of us the big question: Are we doing it all wrong?

Article originally published on Beneath the Brand at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beneath-the-brand/blog_news.php?articleID=16062

Kaizen for Your Goals Part 3: Wake Up and Smell the Cheese!

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Are you in a cheese-less situation? Although the critically acclaimed book “Who Moved My Cheese?”
who_moved_my_cheeseby Spencer Johnson, MD has been out since 1998, I finally read it yesterday. Yes, in one day. The book is only about 94 pages long and the type is large. It is by far the quickest read I have done since I was a young boy. Nevertheless it gives you a great understanding of what is important not only at work but in life.

The book outlines four characters: Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw. Without describing each of the characters you get the idea of where it is going. It is a story that seems more like a child’s fable than a lesson on managing change. Whether you admit it or not, everyone is one of these four characters in regards to dealing with change at work. By cheese Johnson means anything you want or have in life in regards to your level of comfort and status. Dr. Johnson outlines 7 key points in this story in regards to change.

  1. Change Happens They Keep Moving The Cheese
  2. Anticipate Change Get Ready For The Cheese To Move
  3. Monitor Change Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
  4. Adapt To Change Quickly The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
  5. Change Move With The Cheese
  6. Enjoy Change! Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!
  7. Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again They Keep Moving The Cheese.

Out of all seven key points what is the common denominator? Change. Change happens, and we need to know how to deal with it and how to evolve. Change is not always evident so you must have a keen eye. In fact, you may be the one that needs to initiate the change. So let us start now. Read the book. Change your way of thinking to understand how you deal with change and how you need to improve. Change is not always easy but it is ultimately good even if it may not be evident immediately. As we all know, nothing ever stays the same.

Kaizen focuses on continual change for the better. My series, Kaizen For Your Goals, is about continually improving yourself. You can only do this with positive change. Sniff it out and don’t let your cheese get moldy.

How will you improve yourself to better deal with change?

This is Kaizen for your goals – continuous improvement.

Kaizen is about continuous improvement. Japanese automakers used this process to improve processes created by American automakers to steal market share. Now I have created a series entitled Kaizen for Your Goals. It’s about continually improving yourself to make your goals a reality quicker and more effectively. Small steps now = big results later.

Welcome to Advertorious

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One day a friend posed the question to me,  why don’t you write a blog? I thought about it for a while and thought, “why not?” I have a lot of insight, am always searching for more information and just generally love advertising. So here I am. I plan to roam through my thoughts of  all things related to advertising, marketing, and public relations throughout Detroit and beyond, such as:

  • Advice and helpful hints
  • Industry insight
  • Recaps of industry events that I have been to
  • Observations
  • Book reviews
  • And more!

You see, advertising intrigues me because it has the power to make or break a great brand. Audrey Hepburn said it best when she said “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” Advertising makes many things possible and that why I love being a part of it.

A little background on me

I am a no nonsense kind of guy. I like things clean and simple. Self-motivation is one of the keys to my success thus far. I lead all marketing and communications efforts at MMS Holdings Inc., a pharmaceutical service organization based in Canton, Michigan. Due to the nature of my position, I am very knowledgeable about a wide variety of areas. I still have a long road to hoe in my career ahead but I look forward to the journey. I have my Master’s of Business Administration with a Marketing Management certificate from Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan. Outside of work I play saxophone and sing in a oldies rock ‘n’ roll cover band. I am a 2nd degree black belt and instructor at Schollenberger’s Tang Soo Do Korean Karate Academy. And, I have a lovely wife named Jess.

Thank you for reading my blog. I look forward to continuing the conversation.