Exhibit On A Budget

This week, both the NamesCon and Affiliate Summit conferences are going on in Las Vegas. I thought it would be interesting to post about exhibiting on a budget.

For small or even established companies marketing can represent a huge cost and significantly eat into profits, yet without sufficient marketing businesses can’t hope to meet their targets.

There are ways, however, in which you can seek to reduce the cost of marketing, whilst still generating the desired attention.

Many businesses just starting up with a good idea for a product or service, may lack knowledge or expertise when it comes to taking an idea from an initial concept through to production.

There is the need to raise finance and secure orders in a world which may be competitive, or if you really do have unique product or service, have your offerings taken seriously.  This means creating a compelling sales message and educating customers about your business and (more importantly) how it could benefit them.

So how do you achieve that when you have zero budget with which to hire someone?  Well, there are a number of potential solutions.  One is to acquire the skills you need for yourself.  This can, however, be a dangerous course of action.  Although your inner control freak might benefit from knowing that you are in charge of every aspect, your business is likely to move forward at a snail’s pace.  Seeking to do everything by yourself means that you will be spread very thinly and leave the door open for others to have a similar idea, or otherwise invade your market space.  Also in the meantime the prospect of actually generating revenue will slip further and further away.

So how can you stay in control yet benefit (cheaply!) from the expertise of others? 

One answer is to use a student.  With a lack of work experience hampering many students from getting a foothold on the career ladder, there has never been a better time to get some committed assistance from someone seeking to make a name for themselves and get a valuable reference.

Not only will you benefit from the latest innovations available to our colleges and universities, but also the experience of a tutor who will help you and the student in question to get the very best from one another and achieve your goals.

You would, of course,  have a responsibility to help the student to achieve what they need to do for their course and so should carefully review the work experience guidelines, however meeting with the student and their tutor beforehand will give you an insight into how best to achieve this alongside your own targets. Students doing a course in areas such as web and graphic design, marketing, business and event management are extremely useful to fledgling businesses.

If you already have all of the collateral you need to launch your business (product and service information, logo, branding, a website etc) then the natural next stage for many companies is to attend a trade show or exhibition.  The benefits of this are not just limited to attracting the right attention, but also getting an insight into your space and any potential competitors, as well as getting you experience in handling objections.  This is where outbound marketing and market research meet.

Exhibiting however, can be a very costly business.  Obviously you need to print materials for your customers to review and man the stand, but actually creating an eye catching stand is far from cheap. 

A good solution is to hire rather than buy your display stands, this can cut the cost by as much as 2/3 and actually bring with it a professional installation team.

Your business may be small, but there is no reason why it can’t be perfectly formed!

Nicola Wilson is a mommy blogger from the UK, she is currently working for Merit Display part time whilst running a family and looking after her children. Nicola has a huge interest in home design and decor.

5 Essential Steps in Building An Online Business Presence

Utilized correctly, the internet can be the single most valuable tool a person or business has at their disposal – but it’s not as simple as pressing a few buttons and throwing up a website. If you’re planning to take your business digital (or are looking to make their online presence more meaningful), we’ve got five easy tips to maximize your online potential. [Read more...]

Intellectual Property Domain Name Scam Changes to Brand Registration Scam

A well-known intellectual property protection domain name scam that has been going on for at least 10 years has taken a new twist–the scammers are now calling this a “brand registration” rather than “intellectual property”. In any case, though, the scam is the same, really:

Some unknown company from Asia contacts you, trying to reach the CEO or marketing manager of your company. They try to make you believe that some fictitious company is trying to register your name in Asia. They are making it sound as if they’re “being nice to you” and want confirmation that it’s okay that this other company register your brand name in Asia. If you respond to their email, they will then try to sell you over-priced domain name registration for your company’s domain name (a CCTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain).

Here is one of the emails that was recently sent out to an unsuspecting USA business. I have removed the business name from the email:

From: Mark Wang [mailto:mark.wang@dingscom.org.cn]
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 12:52 AM
Subject: [!! SPAM] IMPORTANT XXCOMPANYNAMEXX Brand Registration Confirmation
Importance: High

(Letter to Head of Brand Business or CEO, thanks)
Dear Sir or Madam,
This is a formal email. We are the department of Asian Domain Registration Service in China. Here I have something to confirm with you. We formally received an application on November 23, 2012 that a company claimed “Jep Industrial Co. Ltd” were applying to register “XXCOMPANYNAMEXX” as their Net Brand and some XXCOMPANYNAMEXX Asian countries top-level domain names through our firm.
Now we are handling this registration, and after our initial checking, we found the name were similar to your company’s, so we need to check with you whether your company has authorized that company to register these names. If you authorized this, we would finish the registration at once. If you did not authorize, please let us know within 7 workdays, so that we could handle this issue better. After the deadline we will unconditionally finish the registration for “Jep Industrial Co. Ltd”. Looking forward to your prompt reply.
Best Regards,

Mark Wang

Senior Auditor
Address:No.188 Huangshan Road,Hefei 230001,Anhui,China
Tel: (+86) 739-5266069
Fax:(+86) 739-5266169

This is nothing but a scam. I would NOT respond to their emails. There is no company named “Jep Industrial Co. Ltd” who tried to register your company’s name or domain.

Here is my advice:

- If you have a physical location in a country outside the USA and you are a USA business, then you probably already have (or should have) a web site with a CCTLD domain name in that country.
- If you are a USA company only doing business in the USA then you do not need a domain name in another country or another CCTLD.
- Still, if you are worried that someone might be trying to register your name, you can go register it yourself–do not use some company who sent you an email out of the blue.
- If you find that someone else has registered your trademarked name after you obtained the trademark (this is very important, see my article on Reverse Domain Name Hijacking), you can file a UDRP domain dispute and potentially recover that domain name.

How did this company get your email address? These unsolicited commercial emails (UCE SPAM) are usually sent to email addresses that this Asian scammer company finds from press releases. So, if your email is on your company’s recent press release, most likely that’s how they found you.

Microsoft Registers Outlook Domain Names: A Lesson In Protecting Your Brand

Microsoft recently launched Outlook.com as a new online email service, to rival Google’s Gmail. Hotmail.com will be replaced by Outlook.com. On the same day that Microsoft rebooted Outlook.com, they registered a whole slew of similar domain names–in a move that looks like it’s mainly to protect the Outlook brand.

By looking at the list of domain names that Microsoft recently registered, we can learn their domain name strategy to protect the Outlook.com brand. We can also speculate on some of their future plans regarding Skype and Outlook and the possible future relationship between the two.

Here is the list of domain names that Microsoft registered, related to the new Outlook.com:
1outlook.com
adminoutlook.com
hotmailoutlook.com
messengeroutlook.com
newmicrosoftoutlook.com
outlookhotmail.com
outlookj.com
outlookm.com
outlookn.com
outlooku.com
readoutlook.com
skydriveoutlook.com
skypeoutlook.com
theoutlookmail.com
thoutlook.com
wwoutlook.com

To protect your brand online, and your main domain name, you would want to own the typos of your domain name. So, I would expect that Microsoft would own the domains that people might typically mistype when trying to go to Outlook.com. They registered the domain that includes letters that are next to the letter K on the keyboard–outlookj.com, outlookm.com, outlookn.com, and outlooku.com. If you want to protect your brand, you may consider looking at your domain name and registering domains that include the characters that are found close to the name on the keyboard.

Another typical “typo” of a domain name includes the www subdomain of your domain name. So, wwwoutlook.com is a good move by Microsoft.

By looking at the list of Outlook domain names registered by Microsoft, we can speculate on future plans–like including Microsoft’s Skydrive and Skype as a part of the new Outlook.com.

Is The Era of Loyalty To Consumer Brands Over?

Darlene Quinn knows what it’s like to be loyal to a brand name.

Quinn, a former senior executive with the Bullocks Wilshire department store chain understands the inner workings of the fashion retail industry as well as she does consumer trends, and her conclusion based on what she’s seeing in the marketplace aren’t encouraging for some of America’s oldest brands.

“Some of our most recognized and best-loved brands are falling victim to an economy in which price is the paramount concern for consumers,” said Quinn, author of Webs of Fate, a novel about the retail fashion industry from Greenleaf Book Group (www.darlenequinn.net). “We’ve ended the era of the brand-loyal consumer, and entered the age of low prices.”

Quinn’s argument is that major national brands and some regional brands will soon watch their final sunsets as the hunt for low prices currently outweighs old-fashioned consumer brand loyalty.

“Brand loyalty used to mean something in the retail business,” Quinn said. “We are now hardwired to look at paying less than full price. The status symbol has become ‘how much did you save?’ Although there are many of us who are less than happy with the outcome and who are willing to pay more for quality and service, it will take a long time, if ever, for a reversal. I would love to see the return of brand loyalty, but with the economic outlook starting to dim again, I don’t see it happening.”

Brands recently targeted by the Wall Street Web site 24/7 for fading away include two great American traditions:

• A&W Grills – A&W Restaurants is owned by Yum! Brands, a fast food holding company that also owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s. A&W was originally founded in 1919, and the company helped introduce the “drive-in” fast food concept. It was so successful that they started selling their sodas in cans in 1971, a side of the business that was sold to Dr. Pepper/Snapple a decade later. After World War II, the chain had 450 franchised locations, which has since dwindled to 312 US stores by last year. In the era of the mega franchises, like Subway and McDonalds with about 35,000 locations each, A&W can’t survive. The brand has been for sale since January, and if a buyer isn’t found soon, the drive-in could be closed forever.

• Sears – Sears, officially named Sears, Roebuck and Co., is an American chain of department stores which was founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck in the late 19th century. As Wal-Mart became the dominant department store during the 1990s and 2000s, Sears began to struggle, so the company merged with Kmart in early 2005, creating the Sears Holdings Corporation. The problem is that joining forces strengthened market share, but not revenues. Two dying giants who merge only create one larger dying giant. The competition between the two brands continued, simply under the same roof, with Sears losing the battle. Kmart reported a 1.6 percent decline in sales in the first quarter of 2011, while Sears dipped 5.2 percent. The end result? Look for New CEO Lou D’Ambrosio to shutter the lesser performing brand, Sears, and use the additional resources to bolster Kmart.

Darlene Quinn is an author and journalist from Long Beach, California. Her novel, Webs of Fate is set in the mid-eighties before the greatest onset of LBO’s which ended up bring Wall Street to its knees. A time when the greatest completion for department stores was other department store merchants who drastic dropped the price on merchandise which just hit the sales floor in order to gain market share. A time when we still had regional department stores which were not named Macy’s and before the status symbol became how much did you save.

As part of a nine-member management team for the Bullocks Wilshire Specialty Department stores, Quinn has the insider’s perspective on the rise and fall of major department stores. She is currently embroiled in the battle for Macy’s to restore the Marshall Fields store brand stores that they purchased and turned into Macy’s locations in Chicago.

Why Do Customers Tattoo Themselves with the Brands They Love?

By BJ Bueno, guest author

Harley-Davidson, Nike, Playboy, Coca-Cola, VW, and Apple logos have been permanently etched into the skins of customers worldwide. Why do they do it? Why do these raving fans, or Brand Lovers, scorch their bodies with a company’s mark? And what can marketers and brand managers learn from them?

Most acts of unabashed brand loyalty are a genuine mystery to marketers: Why do customers anxiously camp outside IKEA grand openings? Why do bikers brand Harley’s flaming eagle onto their arms?

From our research into the nature of cult brands and brand lovers, we understand that a brand’s outliers—their most outrageous fans and radical customers—are the people with whom marketers should engage, talk, and most importantly, listen.

Although tattooing brand logos and imagery may seem too extreme to marketers, these outliers represent a brand’s choir. These radical customers understand your business on a deeper, more meaningful level than marketers.

Tattoos, when understood, can teach marketers about consumer motivation. Tattoos were once considered counter-cultural in America. People branded themselves with tattoos to mark themselves as different and to challenge the societal status quo. Today, body art is a part of mainstream American culture.

Why Do People Get Tattoos of Brands?
Think about what the term “branding” really means and you’ll have a better appreciation for the importance of the psychology of tattoos. We have a biological instinct to mark ourselves. While body art may scar the body, its meaning is branded into our souls. [Read more...]

AOL to Change Name to TMZ

AOL   TMZ

First, it was “America Online”. Then, in 2006, “America Online” changed its name to “AOL”. Now AOL will reportedly change its name, yet again, to TMZ.

In April, 2006, America Online announced that after 15 years it was “retiring the name America Online and will now officially be known simply as AOL.” At that time, the legal structure of AOL also changed, from a corporation to a limited liability company.

According to Brian Alvey, the co-founder of the Weblogs, Inc. Network (AOL acquired Weblogs, Inc. around October 2005), AOl has been making changes to parts of the AOl site, putting additional emphasis on TMZ:

Reading all of this news about how Facebook is the new AOL Buddy List and seeing how many people can only understand what I did in blogging when I tell them that my platform is what TMZ runs on, I am now convinced that AOL will be undergoing another name change by the end of the year.

Many users have been flocking to Facebook lately, and there’s even an AOL/Facebook partnership, which kind of got mixed reviews.

If you look at the graph below (courtesy Alexa.com), you’ll see that the AOL traffic (shown in red) has been steadily going down over the past few years while the TMZ traffic has been going up:

AOL TMZ

I have to admit that yes, it’s probably time for a change. AOL has been known as a dialup service that “caters to newbies”, and a lot of “techies” in the internet world tend to look at someone differently if the have an “AOL email address”. It may be time for AOL to rebrand itself to TMZ. Look for AOL to start the rebranding efforts in a few months, perhaps sooner.

AOL LLC, and its subsidiaries, operate a network of internet brands and the largest Internet access subscription service in the United States. The AOL LLC brands include the AOL.com(R) website, AIM(R), MapQuest(R) and Netscape(R). AOL also has operations in Europe and in Canada. AOL, which is based in Dulles, Virginia, is a subsidiary of Time Warner.

Bill Hartzer’s note:At this point, this name change from AOL to TMZ is being reported as a rumor. If anything changes, I’ll keep you posted. Feel free to subscribe to my RSS feed for updates as they happen.

100 Best Global Brands; Google, Zara, Apple, and Nintendo Top Gainers

Businessweek Interbrand

According to the BusinessWeek/Interbrand annual ranking of the top 100 best global brands released today, Google, Zara, Apple, and Nintendo are among this year’s top gainers. Google ranks 20th in the list. Yahoo! ranks 55th in the list.

This is the seventh year that BusinessWeek has teamed up with Interbrand, to publish the ranking of the top 100 global brands, ranked by the brand’s overall value.

What’s interesting to note is that Ford and Gap lost 19% and 15% of their brand value, respectively, in this year’s annual rankings.

Coca-Cola (listed as the top global brand) may be having trouble boosting their brand, though. Coca-Cola is at the top of the list for the seventh consecutive year, reportedly because it is big and the brand is everywhere–but Coca-Cola failed to grow its reputation because “its move into healthier drinks has yet to resonate” according to the BusinessWeek/Interbrand folks.

BusinessWeek chose Interbrand’s methodology for the annual rankings because Interbrand evaluates brand value in the same way any other corporate asset is valued–on the basis of how much it is likely to earn for the company in the future. According to a press release today, “Interbrand uses a combination of analysts’ projections, company financial documents, and its own qualitative and quantitative analysis to arrive at a net present value of those earnings. Interbrand takes many ingredients into account when ranking the value of the Best Global Brands. Even to qualify for the list, each brand must derive at least a third of its earnings outside its home country, be recognizable outside of its base of customers, and have publicly available marketing and financial data.”

BusinessWeek/Interbrand's Annual Ranking of
The Best Global Brands For 2007

Rank   Company            2007         Percent
                          Brand         Change    Country of
                          Value      (over 2006)  Ownership

                          $MILLIONS
1      Coca-Cola          65,324         -3 %        U.S.
2      Microsoft          58,709          3 %        U.S.
3      IBM                57,091          2 %        U.S.
4      GE                 51,569          5 %        U.S.
5      Nokia              33,696         12 %      Finland
6      Toyota             32,070         15 %       Japan
7      Intel              30,954         -4 %        U.S.
8      McDonald's         29,398          7 %        U.S.
9      Disney             29,210          5 %        U.S.
10     Mercedes-Benz      23,568          8 %      Germany
11     Citi               23,443          9 %        U.S.
12     Hewlett-Packard    22,197          9 %        U.S.
13     BMW                21,612         10 %      Germany
14     Marlboro           21,283          0 %        U.S.
15     American Express   20,827          6 %        U.S.
16     Gillette           20,415          4 %       France
17     Louis Vuitton      20,321         15 %        U.S.
18     Cisco              19,099          9 %        U.S.
19     Honda              17,998          6 %       Japan
20     Google             17,837         44 %        U.S.

[Read more...]

Search Engine Marketing Helps Boost Your Brand

By Guest Writer Steve Waganer

Success and failure of a particular business depends upon the kind of publicity done. This is true in the case of online and other businesses also. There are different methods that can be used for the promotion of any goods or services, but the key lies in identifying the one method which will be able to put your business to the top without too much of an effort. Advertising on the web is the most widely undertaken promotional methods about any product or service. The news about the existence of your business must reach out to a large number of audiences and only then will you be able to attract customers to do business with you.

The method of promotion on the web is known as SEO or search engine optimization. Search engine is not just one method, but is in fact a combination of different methods for promotion. Online business owners undertake search engine optimization so that their sites can rank high in all of the major search engines. Ranking high in all popular and major search engines is one of the surest means to attracting huge traffics to your online site. Search engine optimization, if done in the proper manner, is sure to give immense benefits to your business.

It said that only a professional knows what work he has to do and it is not at all different in the case of search engine optimization also. If you are an online business owner, you will do wonders to your business if you hand over the search engine optimization work to a professional firm. Evaluating the existing competition in the market and finding out the methods that has been used for optimization is a good way of going about doing things related to search engine optimization.

This is your business and you have worked really hard to put this up. So do not just sit back and relax once you hand over the search engine optimization work to a firm that has trained professional. You must keep a constant track of the work which is being done and see if this is bringing results for your business or not. You are best judge to know if your business is benefiting from the search engine marketing strategy or not. If the strategy is not working out for you, sit and talk to the professional and try to find out what is wrong. It may be that the strategies adopted for search engine optimization may not be suitable to your business.

[Read more...]