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Posts Tagged ‘MarComm’

Time to call a lawyer

Posted by Vicki Moulton on April 26, 2011

As a freelance communications professional, I’ve signed a lot of contracts with clients over the years for provision of services. It’s something I have to do in order to protect myself from potentially unscrupulous companies that could effectively steal my work and not pay me.

Sometimes the contract is enforceable, and sometimes not. There can be times when the contract language is so convoluted that I just want to rip my hair out and scream. (Been there, right?) But before we all start yelling, repeat after me: check with a lawyer before signing ANYthing! The last thing you want is to be stuck in a bad contract AFTER you’ve signed away your rights.

Movick Marketing has permission from the Maryland-based small business lawyer Phil Marcus to repost the following newsletter article on the subject. Thanks, Phil! (Copyright 2011 Philip L. Marcus. All rights reserved. Visit www.smallbizlawyer.us for more information and a huge archive of great articles.)

Check with your lawyer BEFORE you sign a contract.

When you are trying to get out of a bad deal, or to enforce an unenforceable contract, it is too late.

Often someone comes to see me with a contract a retailer had them sign, or they will cobble something together for their own use from bits and pieces off the Web. They either want to force the other side to fulfill their promises, or they are sorry they signed and want to get out. Either way, it is probably too late. What they cobbled up is unenforceable. And a lawyer who knew what they were doing wrote what the retailer had them sign, and it is virtually unbreakable.

“But it was a standard contract.” With a few exceptions, there is no such thing. (The law regulates most contracts of insurance, and Retail Installment Sales Agreements, but little else.) It may be standard for that retailer, but no government regulator has vetted it. Contract signer beware.

There are some legal limits on sales contracts to sell a house, but still plenty of room to favor the buyer or the seller, depending who drafts the contract. I used to almost cry when someone would call and ask me to come with them to settlement to make sure it all goes right. There is little a lawyer can do at that point but hold your hand. The right time was when you as buyer made a written offer, or you as seller got the written offer to buy.

Employment contracts can have all kinds of stuff in them, and when there are significant dollars at stake both employer and employee should have a lawyer involved. Same for a contract, for example, to buy or sell a business, or engage a company to take over maintaining your computer system.

My son got an offer from a big New York company to publish his book. It was thirty pages. He, his agent and I spent three months back and forth with the publisher on the detailed language before he signed. However, many authors sign whatever a publisher hands them, happy to get anything, unhappy in a couple years when the publisher screws them (for example, on the e-book version). The agent, of course, is happy to nail down a commission.

When it comes to contracts, it doesn’t pay to do it yourself. Reality is “Let the buyer and seller beware.” And in a deal of any real importance both of them should get their lawyer involved before they sign.

Posted in communications, MarComm | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Making it right

Posted by Vicki Moulton on January 19, 2011

Most of us could whip out a story about a bad customer service experience at a moment’s notice. But when was the last time you told a friend about a company that provided really good customer service?

Here’s my happy-ending story about customer service.

A cute top I ordered online for my daughter arrived in the mail last week. She wore it for a few hours, and then I noticed that two of the five unique flower appliques that made the shirt so fashionable had fallen off. They were ironed on rather than sewn on, and the idea that something so flimsy had been passed off as great workmanship made me want to give the company a piece of my mind.

So I went to the website, searching for some kind of complaint forum, maybe an online comment form or something. I found the name, email address, and direct phone number for the customer service manager (and thought, wow, that’s unusual). I sent a message detailing what happened; this was during a three-day weekend.

Within a couple of days, I got a return email with an apology and a request for a photo of the shirt to see whether it was still in stock. (The photo I sent is included in this post.) Another email included a request for my address (I had purchased it through a third-party website). I replied with an email asking whether it would be safe to put this replacement shirt with the iron-on appliques in the washing machine. The reply I got stunned me: the replacement shirt we would receive, free of charge, no merchandise return required, would be specially prepared for me to avoid this problem happening again (hello needle and thread!).

Not only did this manager provide the right kind of customer service–solving my problem without making it seem like I did something wrong–she also went above and beyond my expectations by doing something special just for my circumstance, without my even asking for it.

This got me thinking… How often we forget that our clients are people too. Nobody likes to be treated like their problems don’t matter. If you’re the one who caused the problem, making it right is your responsibility. And if you can go that extra mile to ensure complete customer satisfaction, you’ll safeguard your company brand for the next client. That’s just smart business.

Posted in marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

In praise of clever slogans

Posted by Vicki Moulton on September 28, 2010

You see them everywhere, those little taglines designed to bring a company’s purpose to life. Some have even been set to music (remember “plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is”?).

If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably been through the exercise of creating your own slogan. But have you ever stopped to think why some slogans stick with you, even after just one viewing?

The slogan’s job is to raise a question, touch a nerve, or identify a need. The slogan is not your only marketing tool, and therefore it does not need to be all things to everyone.

The slogan IS…

  • memorable
  • an enhancement to the overall brand
  • focused on the customer benefit and/or key differentiator between you and the competition

The slogan IS NOT…

  • a definition/explanation of the company name
  • an explanation of the logo design
  • a literal statement about how the company functions

Think about some memorable brand slogans and how they say a lot with very few words (and remember that all of these companies hired big ad agencies to create these slogans–all trademarked and used here for illustration purposes only):

  • Nike: Just do it
  • Kaiser Permanente: Thrive
  • Avis: We try harder
  • MasterCard: Priceless
  • GE: Imagination at work
  • Allstate: You’re in good hands
  • ING: What’s your number?
  • Weight Watchers: Watch yourself change
  • Capital One: What’s in your wallet?
  • Taco Bell: Think outside the bun

I particularly like that last one. There’s something clever about how it takes an overused business term and turns it on its head while slamming the competition. (Or maybe it’s just time for lunch.)

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Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing, messaging | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Open for discussion

Posted by Vicki Moulton on June 20, 2010

I’ve posted a couple of discussion starters on the Movick Marketing FB fan page discussion board, in the hopes that readers would offer an opinion and get a dialogue going.

Topics:

These are hot topics among the marketing communications folks I know, especially one-person shops and small businesses. I’d love to know what you think, so please share your two cents. Thanks!

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Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Coping with changes

Posted by Vicki Moulton on April 16, 2010

What’s the difference between an excuse and an explanation? The answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you need to buy more time, maybe build up a little sympathy for your situation, then that’s an excuse. If you need to clarify misinformation with a matter-of-fact statement, then that’s an explanation.

My excuse for not blogging recently has to do with a whole host of changes happening in my life, which have turned my attention away from the blog as a business marketing tool… but only temporarily. (Fear not: I’m still here, ready to work!)

When changes started happening about a month ago, I originally intended to take just a few days off from blogging, Facebook, and Twitter. A few days turned into a week. One week turned into two. And now here it is, mid-April already, and I’ve let myself fall out of the loop entirely. My good intentions were completely dashed to hell. Clearly I wasn’t coping well with the changes happening around me. And while all of this was going on, I had two computers crash and burn, culminating in the loss of three weeks’ worth of data and email. (Insert angry, frustrated expletives here.)

Sprinkled throughout these weeks filled with challenges were emails and phone calls with potential clients, meetings with colleagues and collaborators, and successfully completed projects for steady clients. So actually the work didn’t stop–just my means of communicating with the wider world.

Where does that leave me on this warm Friday afternoon? Feeling motivated to get back into the groove, glad to have posted something new here and on Twitter before the weekend, and intending to embrace those life changes instead of letting them derail me. Change is good. (Yes, it is.)

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Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing, networking | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Breaking down the wall

Posted by Vicki Moulton on August 18, 2009

wall

What was the last marketing campaign that got your attention?

Maybe it had a great “hook,” a catchy slogan, or a jaw-dropping image. Or maybe it just followed the basic guidelines for breaking down the wall between the messenger and the audience.

1. Define your message.
What are you really trying to say? The heart of your campaign should be one simple message. Make it easy to find, not buried underneath clever headlines or hidden behind slick images.

2. Get to the point.
The average reader’s attention span is much shorter than you think. If someone is quickly scanning your ad, they need to see your main point immediately, or you’ll lose that potential client’s interest altogether.

3. Keep it clean.
Give the piece some breathing room (i.e., white space). Find one image, instead of three, that captures the essence of your campaign. Don’t fill up the page with endless paragraphs. Fewer, more carefully chosen words will communicate your message more effectively.

4. Know your audience.
Who are you trying to woo with your campaign? What is their main concern? How can you help? Your message should reflect an understanding of your audience’s core business.

5. Always be closing.
The old sales mantra also applies to marketing. The “call to action” must be prominent. Go to this website. Call this number. Get your coupon here. The goal is to bring in more business, to close the deal. Make it easy to find, and the new business will follow.

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Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing, messaging | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Choosing words more carefully

Posted by Vicki Moulton on August 4, 2009

prThis TechCrunch article by Robin Wauters about overused, trite, and ultimately meaningless jargon in press releases is right on the money:
10 Words I Would Love To See Banned From Press Releases.

I had a lot of these same terms on my “never ever use” list when I used to edit government proposals. This stuff would always come up in the company’s rah-rah-we’re-the-best-contractor-ever section, usually called Capabilities.

The advice here also applies to marketing communications. Why use the same meaningless, fluffy terminology that everyone else uses? Be different: make your case without all the jargon.

Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Making lemonade

Posted by Vicki Moulton on August 3, 2009

yellowRemember your grandmother’s advice about what to do when life hands you a bunch of sour lemons? This classic lesson about turning a negative into a positive can be applied quite handily to any sticky business situation.

SCENARIO: Your client assumes you are skilled in anything that’s remotely related to your actual line of business. The line between what you know how to do and what you pretend to know how to do is getting blurrier by the minute. You like this client and don’t wish to lose potential business by revealing the pretense.

DIAGNOSIS: Your professional brand is not well-defined, and you’re straying from your core mission.

SOLUTION: Take this opportunity to define who you are and what you have to offer. Make a list of your capabilities, and include everything that you’re confident you know how to do well. Make a separate list of things you could do with a bit more time/training/networking help. Leave off items in which you simply don’t have any expertise or would find yourself in over your head.

Next, write a short descriptive statement about the kind of work you want to be doing. You can take elements of this statement to become your mission and your slogan. This should include only the work you want to be known for, and be as specific as you can. If you have a web presence, you can turn all of this into your personal brand.

Then, any areas that go beyond your mission/slogan could go under a “consulting” umbrella, meaning you can always find someone else to help your clients with specific needs beyond your bailiwick. (Hey, I’m connected… I can get you someone for that project. Just tell me what you need!) Definitely keep your relationship with the client, and make sure you stay involved as a “project manager,” even charging a consulting fee (while you learn new skills from the other individual). You might consider partnering with that other expert on future projects.

Once you’ve defined your business, client requests for work beyond your core capabilities won’t cause you angst. To paraphrase Grandma, life may hand you lemons, but you’ve already mastered the recipe for lemonade.

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Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing, messaging | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chatting up the inbox

Posted by Vicki Moulton on July 20, 2009

audience of oneTo drum up business from an increasingly demanding and belt-tightening clientele means finding new and innovative ways to keep the lines of communication open. Sending a one-size-fits-all eblast to everyone in your prospects list used to be a great way to get at least a 1% response (or higher), which meant serious business if you had a huge list.

But in the fast-paced, Twitterfied world of instant media we live in today, this old email marketing standby just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Making things personal by crafting specific messages for small groups or individuals will result in more click-throughs to your website–and more money in your wallet.

I found some great ideas about email marketing from this July 16 post at BtoB Magazine: Conversational Email Marketing Techniques

Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing, messaging | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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