Great advertising can do amazing things for a company. The size of the ad spend has nothing to do with results if you understand this. In fact, if you have to spend millions to get the word out, you are probably putting your budget in the wrong place.
While we are an ad agency, our name is The Next Wave Marketing Innovation for good reason. Marketing encompasses the entire brand strategy to connect with customers, and advertising is only a small part of that. Innovation is making you different from your competition, a better mousetrap so to speak. Because we’re students of the craft of advertising, we can pull stories and ads that showcase when Marketing Innovation triumphs over big ad budgets to help illustrate this point. Because we’re also consumers, we can share experiences where companies don’t have a clue on how to keep customers happy- which will undo all hard earned brand equity in seconds.
There is the old adage that a happy customer will tell 3 people, an unhappy one will tell hundreds? That’s kind of changed with the advent of the internet, everyone can tell everyone anything- even if it’s not true. That’s why from the beginning of the rise of Google as the database of human intentions, the algorithm scored results by credibility, which was built by links from those with more links (hopefully from credible sources). So, every customer interaction counts, every response by your customer service people is a test, how you treat your customers is more important than what you advertise. Actions, speak louder than words.
To start off with a positive example, Mike Dubin had an innovative idea- to become “the netflix of razor blades” when he started Dollar Shave Club in 2012. A single, low budget TV spot, that he starred in, went viral. Overnight, Dollar Shave Club was overwhelmed with orders and when he sold out to Unilever in less than a decade for a billion dollars, he was still laughing all the way to the bank. The ad was brilliant, the products passable, and the customer service exemplary (once they got over the initial slam of viral popularity).
Sometimes an ad agency can come up with brilliant ideas for their client to build a buzz. Between 2000 and 2010 Alex Bogusky and his renegade firm out of Miami did it over and over. But, the most noted campaign ideas were for Burger King, a client that had a history of switching agencies every 2 years before going a whole 7 with CP+B. For a case study on their successes see our “Bogusky Freakout” site post on their milestones. They generated more buzz worthy campaigns than any agency known to man, but, when it came right down to the true marketing problem for Burger King- service, cleanliness and consistency, BK could never compete with McDonald’s or even Chic-fil-a. One of our first hires was a customer service evangelist of epic proportions who beat this into our culture at The Next Wave. She went on to a career that took her all over the globe with Starbucks and now as VP of Operations at Shake Shack. You build businesses through positive customer touches- not just sales. It’s “My Pleasure” did more for Chic-fil-a than the cows campaign telling you to “eat mor chickn.”
It doesn’t matter what your business is, you are being measured every time a customer interacts with your brand- from watching an ad, to visiting your site, to mentions on social media to seeing trash with your logo on it. So, when an existing customer contacts you, this is your chance to shine.
Florida Tile makes ceramic tile. It’s a commodity. Most people looking at a wall of tile have no idea what brand of tile it is, it doesn’t have your brand on it, and when they go to the tile store, more than likely, they don’t have a preference for your brand over another- even if they saw an ad with Florida Tile in it. Unless the tile style isn’t like any other on the market (innovation) the tile ad you spent so much money on, could actually prompt them into a store, where they buy a competitors product. Not so when you have an existing customer calling for replacement for their shower tile cove base- that customer wants Florida Tile- to match their bath. This is the moment where your brand has an opportunity to shine. Unfortunately, Florida Tile failed miserably in helping me locate a piece of plain white cove base to match my 30 year old shower install. Last I checked square white tile is always in style, but, their unique size 4.125″ square, their white- and their cove curve- is now going for $15 a piece if someone has it on Ebay (they don’t right now).
Let’s contrast that with Lego, the children’s toy with millions of little unique pieces. A call to Lego gets a totally different response from a company that has decided that making customers happy is their most important marketing tool.
“We have something that we call freaky,” Lütke-Daldrup told me. “Freaky stands for FRKE, which is short for
And those four words are something we’ve built our customer service on for probably more than 15 years.”
It isn’t just that Lego Group believes strongly in each of those four words. The reason the company is able to consistently delight customers, even when they’re having a bad day because they just opened a new Lego set to discover it is missing pieces, is that the company keeps these words in balance.
Hannah Quill, the company’s head of writing and tone of voice (which, by the way, is an amazing job title that alone tells you what the company thinks about engaging with customers) explains it this way: “One of the reasons that it works so well is that, yes, it’s fun and engaging, and we encourage people to be creative and have fun when they’re writing, but it’s also reliable and knowledgeable. It’s very important that you’re giving the customer the correct information, and that any promise that you’re making, you are committing to deliver that customer service. Freaky doesn’t solely mean fun and engaging, it also means following through, reliable, customer service.”
The proof is in the results. For example, the company’s net promoter score (NPS), a measure of customer loyalty and satisfaction, is 77 — one of the highest of any company. That means that being good to your customers is good for business. That should be obvious, but sadly, it too often isn’t.
“It’s essential that no matter the inquiry, the team provides the best possible answer and service while also reflecting our core values — and in doing that, they play a very important part to how people feel about our brand,” Christiansen says.
While Net Promoter Scores are nice metrics, they can only really be calculated for mega-brands, not necessarily small business. But, rest assured, the echo chamber of social media, where unhappy customers tell their friends about how crappy your service was, or how great you are, will have real bottom line results. Lego isn’t a huge advertising power in the toy space, however they have a product that has no direct competition- like the Burger giants, or lodging options.
AirBnB is a category disrupter in the lodging space. Hotels, resorts, destinations are now competing with individual “Hosts” who have a technology to level the playing field. I’m an AirBnB superhost and until recently- an evangelist to other hosts. Now, any recommendations to host come with a caveat- the brands vaunted “AirCover” host insurance plan with up to $1M in coverage, isn’t insurance at all, it’s marketing babble and a hoax. I had a guest who needed a place for 4 days while they were waiting for their new house to be ready. Turns out- the new house wasn’t for the guest- but for his friends- at which point I should have kicked them out- but the family was polite- and they were African- and I didn’t want to be caught in the middle of being called a racist. When they left- late, the house was more messy than normal. They also had more people in and out than the 1 bedroom cottage was built for. They cooked extensively- which is a rarity among my guests who stay less than a week.
About 8 weeks later a guest tried to turn on the oven. The knob just spun. It had been jerryrigged in place with superglue and paper wadding. I filed a claim for the $400 for parts and labor to replace the control and order new knobs. Airbnb told me I had to blame a guest- and had to do it within 2 weeks. This isn’t insurance, this is a guest blaming service. Had the guests just told me they’d broken it- it probably would have been covered, or at least the problem would be between AirBnB and them. Now, according to AirBnB it’s all my problem. Yet, here they are spending millions to attract new hosts to the platform.
Word to the wise, take care of your stakeholder partners first, advertise second. The cost of reimbursing a superhost for minor repairs is way less than the revenue you earn from their being on the platform.
I reached out to support twice and was rebuffed. I reached out on Twitter- and was ignored. Maybe this post will wake them up. Next up, a video, that could go viral, about the failings of their “AirCover” false advertising- oh wait- here’s Nightline with 8M views. Your ad on Youtube only has 52K views.
Size of the claim is irrelevant to the promise of coverage, it’s how you treat your partner. No matter how much you advertise, word of mouth will negate your expensive commercial message.
If you are trying to decide on how much to budget on your advertising each year, the first thing to do is to go out and look at your customer reviews. Make sure you’re delivering happiness first, then, work on delivering a message.
If you need help delivering marketing innovation for your brand, you’re in the right place. We help our clients create lust and evoke trust, the keys to happy customers.
On the front page of our site it asks why are you here? Either to do great advertising and make a lot of money, or, because you work for the competition and want to figure out how we do it.
The funny thing is, we’ll tell you how to do it, but most of you will still fail. Because, we’ll make you uncomfortable. You’ll ask, “has anyone done this before” or “show us a case study” to somehow soothe your rankled idea of what works. And by the time you are able to rationalize, to knit pick, to quiet that little demon on your shoulder saying “are you willing to bet your career on this idea”- that idea has sailed. It’s done. It’s too late.
Lee Clow has disrupted the ad world and done some of the most iconic advertising ever. He’s also failed spectacularly- but, after bringing Apple back from near death to be one of the most valuable companies on the planet- maybe, you can trust him just a bit. At TBWA\Chiat\Day they call that discomfort “Disruption” and here’s their little manifesto:
People couldn’t stop complaining about the tagline “Think Different” for not being grammatically correct, while they showed a whole rogues gallery of people who were told that they were trying to do the impossible. They made those people, or the idea of rising to their level, to be associated with Apple. Never mind that Mohamed Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Picasso, Einstein never touched an Apple product on their rise to fame.
That this video isn’t on an Apple official YouTube channel is proof that even with the best advertising agency and smart people, some companies still don’t get how to do this right.
So when CP+B suggested to Domino’s to tell the world their pizza sucked- and that they were going to change it with “Pizza Turnaround”- was the only reason they allowed it- because Domino’s were either at rock bottom- or the people selling the idea rock stars? You decide.
The crazy part is everyone thinks they know the secret to great advertising, because they can identify it when they see it, but, even when they see it- sometimes, they still don’t understand it. Ryan Reynolds isn’t an ad guy- but his Superbowl worthy ad for Match.com is great advertising- even if it breaks all the supposed taboo’s of dating site ads- suggesting you may end up with a sociopath for a date- or worse- Satan.
If it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably going to make you remember it, share it, think about it, have some kind of emotional response. If it’s just funny, snarky, or cute- it probably doesn’t have a real basis to convert thoughts into an action. The real question is if Match knows how to make this more than a one hit wonder- will it keep doing what it’s supposed to do- after the 2020 dumpster fire is over?
The true skill in advertising is finding an insight, a universal truth, a way to connect your product or service to something the customer already believes, or knows, and wants more of- and getting the client to trust your skills enough to be brave, to disrupt, to evoke trust and create lust. To do this- you start with truth. It’s authenticity that’s the currency, not the size of your budget.
On the last day of 2020 I sat down with my favorite former intern, who left us to get a masters at BIC, and went to work in a NYC agency. He was a bit disillusioned with the business- because so many people are too timid to greenlight work that will work. And that’s a part of the business too. You come up with great ideas- and then the client kills them. Over and over. He was in the first meeting we had with the following client- there’s a funny story that had us both wondering if we were going to get shot on the spot to the answer I gave to a question, but, that’s a story for another time. Instead, the client tortured a big idea to a slow death soon after we started on the account.
At the beginning of 2016 we had a client who made a light that was optimized for old people who loved to read- and we had a new president who was elderly and proud of his not-reading. We quickly put together an ad for the Washington Post- that the president supposedly did read.
To the brave, can go the spoils. Unless you pick it apart
By the time, 4 months later, the client was done picking it apart and re-writing it, Trump had started to perfect his “Squirrel!” strategy of distracting people daily. The days to contemplate the idea of actually reading his daily brief was long gone- and the client stripped out the address line. And, then, it only ran once, as a remaining space ad. C’est la vie. BTW- the “Get illuminated” line was contributed by the one and only Alex Bogusky. Yes, I ran it past the Creative Director of the Decade for suggestions and he liked it.
A Public health anti-covid campaign that doesn’t suck
Star power, a big idea, digital activation and talk value
Just before the second spike of Covid in the fall of 2020- we responded to a public health RFP to reach out to minority communities to get them to be smart about Covid- to warn them of the dangers of not wearing a mask, not washing your hands, not gathering. It had a fixed budget. The RFP was written by people who had no idea of how to write a brief or an RFP (see this post). They asked for the moon- on a shoestring budget. As part of our activism, we’d uncovered them as crooks 6 months before- handing out a no-bid contract for even more money to the agency that would do a county officials political campaign. Needless to say- we knew we wouldn’t get the contract- but, with good ideas and good connections- we decided to pitch them the moon. We came in dead last on the score sheet. Why? Maybe because we’d embarrassed them- or maybe because they have no idea or tolerance for a great idea. Here it is:
Strapline: Don’t bet your life.
Idea: Groucho Marx used to host TV show- You Bet Your Life. We will have Dave Chappelle talking to people about betting their life on Covid- in a very Dave way.
Action: We’ll have scratch off lottery like tickets to win in a sweepstakes. The scratch offs will be distributed in gas stations, corner stores, minority businesses, churches. They will be supported by a poster by Shepard Fairey and Studio No 1.If you don’t think you know Shepards work- you missed the whole Obama Hope and Change poster thing.
First round prizes- 1 in 4 chance is to win a deck of washable playing cards. 56 chances to share messaging- and lots of room for sponsorship. You can play solitaire with yourself- and take no chances- or you can play cards with friends and engage in risky behavior.
By filling out an online form- and allowing us to continue to message you via text or email- you can register to win a top of the line phone and service for a year- from T-Mobile who was signed on to sponsor. 10 prizes available
To get pastors into the act- they were to do short video sermons against gambling- either *wink* lotteries and scratch off- or with the virus. The top ten in shares and views would be randomly eligible to win a complete video streaming system.
And- the grand prize- sponsored by a local funeral home- for if you gamble and lose, a complete pre-paid funeral. Because if you bet your life with Covid- you stand the chance of needing one.
The last part- well, it made the “evaluators” nervous. Talk about death, oh, no. As if it’s not something everyone will face?
We pitched it to the State as well. The former newspaper reporter who runs public health communications, and knows nothing about advertising said “At first glance, I don’t think it strikes the right tone that we are trying to convey.”
And there you have the death of a big idea that would have made a difference.
A US Army recruiting campaign- for your mom and dad
Here’s one more. The US Army is a huge marketeer, it’s hard to get people to sign up to risk dying for their country. The account, worth $4B over 10 years recently went to DDB. They had some brilliant insight in their pitch to the Army and their new tagline, “Tomorrow takes an Army” was a huge departure from the gung-ho video gamer campaign the Army was running- “Warriors Wanted.” As a former soldier and disabled veteran, I understand the dilemma of teens on deciding to join the service- and their expectations, better than most people in advertising (very few minorities and very few veterans in the field). Unable to get in at the last agency or current one- we went to Ft. Knox in November of 2019 to pitch our idea based on a key piece of insight: a higher percentage of recruits come from families that have veterans in them.
We pitched a reality TV show called “Back to Basic” where old veterans went back through basic training to finally dispel the eternal myth of “It was harder back in the day” and compare the experiences- and the wisdom gained by serving. We had hoped to get parents with their kids at the same time. We had the perfect host- a celebrity MMA star who had served- and we knew it would do blockbuster ratings.
The Army rejected us- saying “We’ve done reality TV” and it didn’t work. Hate to tell you, Mark Burnett has done a lot of reality tv- and some has worked out just fine, others have bombed, but that doesn’t stop him from continuing to try.
Well, last month we found the vindication for our pitch. AARP posted a video about a 59 year old veteran who had to go back through basic training so he could serve with his kid. In less than a month it had 750K views, it’s at 847,411 in 50 days. That far exceeds the views, shares and discussion of anything the Army is producing right now.
If an idea doesn’t make you uncomfortable, it’s probably not big enough.
And, the size of your agency, the size of your budget, has nothing to do with the size of your agencies ideas.
We at The Next Wave consider ourselves students of the craft of advertising. We continuously seek out and study the best thinking in the business and then, share it.
Two of the greats in advertising recently were interviewed in podcasts; Alex Bogusky and Lee Clow. Lee gets his own show- which is a bunch of shorts. Alex gets a longer interview than most in the series of one hour interviews that you may find informative and enjoyable. We’ve included links to Apple iTunes for these free podcasts, but they are widely available on other platforms.
The first podcast is called Talking to Ourselves which is produced by Omid Farhang who is now Chief Creative Officer at Momentum. It’s a bi-monthly podcast that he calls his “selfish excuse to get the marketing industry’s most admired leaders to share advice, reveal process and routines, maybe tell a few stories, hopefully uplift a few cynics, and divulge secrets to a fulfilling career.” It’s produced in partnership with The One Club, and JSM Music.
While there are a bunch of episodes, the one that got us started was the 75 minute interview of Alex Bogusky. The best gem was that he tried leaving his own firm a few times when he grew exasperated with Chuck Porter. Things were lining up for him with Wieden + Kennedy to run the Amsterdam office until supposedly Dan Wieden saw his book and put the kibosh on it. Bogusky also is a recurring theme through many of the interviews- because Omid keeps sharing the story of when Bogusky asks him if he had seen the Dudley Moore movie “Crazy People” where Moore is an ad exec in a psych ward who gets the patients to work up ad campaigns that are brutally honest. His takeaway- working in advertising should be a lot like that movie.
He’s just wrapped up season 1- and the list of advertising superstars is impressive including David Lubars, Gerry Graf, David Droga, Rob Reilly, Andrew Keller- note, the list is heavy on Crispin Porter + Bogusky alumni.
One of his favorite things to say is how creative work ages in dog years- what was fresh 5 years ago- often feels ancient, especially after everyone has copied the big idea. Almost every episode he ends with the same two questions:
What was the most horrific response you’ve ever had from a client at a presentation?
“What was the one big idea that you loved- that never got made.”
The answers are varied and insightful.
Almost every guest has worked at one of these five hot shops:Fallon, Wieden + Kennedy, Chiat\Day, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Goodby Silverstein at one point in their career.
Andrew Keller talks about his being in a band as the thing that most prepared him for being in advertising. Working together in a small group and putting things together so that they are interesting.
John Norman, partner and Chief Creative Officer at Translation (They parted ways after this podcast was recorded and before we posted).makes a unique distinction between design and advertising: Design is to make something worth keeping, beautiful, useful – and advertising is what slos it down on the way to the trash can. Not an exact quote- but- it stuck- so it must at least be advertising…
David Lubars tells the story of how his father worked in advertising and he caught the advertising bug when his father solved the business problem Listerine was facing once Scope came out, with the line “The taste you hate twice a day” which he called a smart way to say that what made the stuff taste bad is what made it work well. That’s what great advertising does.
John Mescall, global ECD at McCann Worldgroup tells the story of the birth of one of the most awarded campaigns ever: Dumb Ways to Die. Considering it was a PSA client that nobody every heard of, the way they arrived at the strategy, the execution, is an amazing story. Mescall also shows his respect for the work of CP+B talking about how it changed the game, and it wasn’t necessarily with perfect craft- but driven by a great idea.
The discussion with Gerry Graf of Barton F. Graf, turns to awards shows and CMO’s and if any of the work that wins actually sells stuff. Makes Graf a hero in our book. Graf also gets a lot of mentions in “The A List” podcast- because he was a teacher at AdHouse NYC and- he also worked with a bunch of the people who make it onto these shows. Put him at the top of my list of folks I want to sit down with at some point.
Jaime Robinson, co-founder of Joan, may win an award for the foulest mouth, yet, since her agency is the newest, you get a sense of wonderment at some of the questions about time allocation and following your gut, even as far as to go with something that comes up right during a client meeting. They are so new, they don’t even have a site up as of this writing.
Rob Reilly talks about how a term “delusional positivity” as a phrase from his Crispin Porter + Bogusky days has made it over to McCann. He believes that they can do anything- which is how incredible work gets done.
Susan Credle, CCO of FCB talks about work life balance. Her answer was to quote something she’d written- and was one of the best I’ve heard for people who might be defined as workaholics: “I’m writing for you, Huffington Post, on a Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining and I want to take a walk in Riverside Park. But as I sit typing and reflecting on these questions, I realize that my work is my life. When I separate them, I resent the work. When I adjust my thinking and realize that this work fulfills me, being asked to answer questions about work on a day off isn’t a frustration but a privilege.”
The Chief Creative Officer of Anomaly, Mike Byrne is almost too self-deprecating. He seems to put a lot more effort into relationships- within the agency, than outside of it. His discussion of his daily journaling and having lunch with someone somewhere other than the office as highpoints of his day are poignant, as are his gritty truth-telling about the fact that his daughter is shooting video and editing it right on her iPhone- and timelines have compressed. He says he’s not as talented as others- but willing to work twice as hard. Anomaly is a different kind of super agency- probably because his DNA is a bit different than other folks.
Susan Hoffman at W+K started out horribly, making a really bad joke about her parents profession and sounding very uncomfortable, but quickly redeemed herself with stories about how the Beatles/Revolution spot got made and the bullets they sweated when the agency was sued for it. The key insight she shared was that hiring people with “a voice” got them honesty, reality and truth. Which is critical to advertising. The Nike campaign for women (If you let me play(- was Charlotte Moore, Janet Champ and Stacy Wall- talking, not just ad people trying to sell you something. It’s not just the mantra “Fail Harder” that makes W+K great- it’s that the people have passion for their craft.
Jeff Kling shares his insight on W+K: “Dan and David believed and still believe in the power of the individual voice to do something special. It’s because they have a real philosophy and approach that believes in that. They’re essentially renting individual voices, visual and verbal voices, they’re renting those voices to brands, and in the process letting people do wildly special, unique and individual things, and making the brands on whose behalf of those people who express themselves, very human, very relatable. That’s why Wieden creates brands.”
One of the most interesting interviews for young creatives looking for career advice comes from Justin Gignac, the co-founder of Working Not Working. In a gig economy, building a body of work requires some investment in real, long-term relationships, and the long term growth potential in a real job vs a gig job is exponential.
The second podcast we’ve been enjoying is “Lee Clow will only say this once” which comes with the following description: “Listen up. Lee Clow is only going to say this once. For the 50th anniversary of storied advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, legendary advertising savant Lee Clow answers 50 questions from colleagues, industry leaders and industry newcomers. Talking with Clio editor-in-chief Tim Nudd, Lee shares his wealth of knowledge and experience, discussing topics both personal and professional. From from his early years at Chiat\Day, to the agency’s celebrated partnership with Apple, his personal creative process, the industry’s future, and even his favorite Twitter account, there’s no shortage of wise words from an even wiser man.”
One Clow gem is what he thinks makes someone good at advertising: arrogance and insecurity. Arrogance in that you believe you can change the world and insecurity that you may be fooling yourself. He also talks about having to lead clients through the idiot forest- ain’t that the truth. That phrase is also talked about in several episodes of “Talking to ourselves.”
We’re always looking for resources to expand our knowledge of advertising. It’s part of the reason we’ve always had our Booklist on this site. If you have some recommendations for podcasts, video channels or other resources, we’re all ears. Leave your suggestions in comments.
(a few months later) Another podcast we’ve since started listening to is “The A-List” (link to iTunes) which comes from our friends at DiMassimo Goldstein. It’s their Executive Creative Officer, Tom Christmann. It’s much more raw, unedited and sometimes the sound quality is so bad it’s painful. If I had a dollar for every stutter, uh, ah, or time he said “the kids” I’d be buying the Washington Post and divorcing my wife.
It’s supposed to target young creatives, to introduce them to the old guard, and sponsored by Ad House NYC. Yet, making jokes about how kids won’t understand what paste up is, or pre-internet advertising isn’t really helpful or interesting. Neither is Tom’s habit of talking over his subject, interrupting frequently and name dropping- Dan in Portland, Rich in San Francisco, Lee in LA, uh, yeah, I know who these people are- but don’t assume your target market of young listeners do. (update- many episodes in) Christmann gets much better as he gains experience and slows down.
That said, he also feels it’s very important to talk about where he worked with the person in the past and sometimes wanders off into what could be considered office gossip. A good editor could cut these in half- and still have a lot of good content- except because of his “interview style” of talking over people- it’d be edit hell. He has some of the some people “Talking to Ourselves” has- and between the two, I’d always prefer Omid’s interviews so far, but because he’s so unstructured sometimes he gets lucky and gets a few extra tidbits. He’s also more likely to interview people Omid wouldn’t- so you get to hear from some journeymen instead of just the stars. Calling it “The A-List” may not be truth in adverting, but, if you are looking to expand your horizons or learn more about how folks rose to prominence- this works. Hopefully, Tom will read this, write a brief for his podcast so he stays on point, and works on both audio quality and his interview style and this podcast improves to actually warrant its lofty title. (again- it does improve over time. I think later episodes are really good).
Update: Aug 20, 2021- The A List featured our founder, David Esrati on an episode. Tom’s learned a lot about Podcasting- he no longer interrupts or talks over his subjects- and he’s now the dean of AdHouseNYC – and working freelance. Take a listen.
If nothing else, think of these as a kind of time capsule of the industry- interviews of people who made a difference in Advertising- at the start of the internet era. Much like StoryCorps– but for advertising.
This was our first National Veterans Small Business Engagement conference/trade show. We weren’t alone, there were a lot of people there for the first time and some were overwhelmed. This is a big event, with a ton of opportunities. We thought we’d put together a guide for next years attendees, (in Dallas) and we’re asking the people we met to contribute their tips and tricks as well.
This year, the VA decided to hold the SAME conference at the same time. This caused a little bit of confusion since each show was run under different contracts and had different ways to access data. The SAME folks had a smart phone app, the NVSBE team had a mobile friendly website. As developers, we think that the proper way to do this is with a mobile friendly site, but then again, we’re not the ones billing the government- apps cost more 🙂
We’re assuming your business is a going concern, and that you’ve done the normal dance of registering with the government and Dun & Bradstreet. If you need a checklist,:
Obtain a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) Number from Dun & Bradstreet at https://www.dnb.com which is required for registration in SAM (see next item).
Register on the System for Award Management (SAM)https://sam.gov/SAM, if your firm is registered keep the registration current by updating yearly. The FAR (see below) requires that a firm be registered on the SAM to receive a contract award.
We’re not against you registering for a Gravatar, which attaches a photo to your email address online for CRM systems and guest posting, like on this site.
Check your website to make sure that it is both secure (https) and mobile friendly (look at it on your phone, if it looks like your desktop view and you can’t read it- it’s not). This is Google’s advice since 2014 and not only will it help you get better search results, it’s just good web practice. If you don’t see the little green lock or HTTPS at the beginning of your site, you can call us- we help build websites that work.
Search for your business on Google and find your Google local/Google my business listing. It will be on the right of the search results on desktop- and make sure that you’ve claimed your listing. Put your hours in, your business description, photos of your office, etc. Manage any reviews- and most certainly ask your clients for reviews. This mostly applies to businesses that aren’t global in scale- but, is still a critical practice. You want people to be able to find you on Google maps etc.
Click to download a reduced resolution PDF of our introduction brochure
Have some collateral materials, eg. brochure, flyer, handout. Something that someone can have in their hand that sums up everything they need to know about your business in a glance. Yes, your website can do this, however, people are going to meet so many folks their heads will be spinning. Something that’s unique, branded, clear, and preferably a good filing size is highly recommended. We can help you with design and printing. Depending on your business, these can be hard to craft, we highly recommend that you don’t create a laundry list of bullet points. Tell a story, make people feel good about working with your company, explain your successes. No one wants to read a checklist.
Click image to download David Esrati, DBA The Next Wave Marketing Innovation capabilities statement as a PDF
The government types want a “capabilities statement” and they want it in a very specific format. We’re including a link to a Word Doc checklist from the Department of the Interior, and a copy of ours, which has hyperlinks. The key is to have your critical government info in the top right corner- ie CAGE Code, DUNS number, what socio-economic programs that your business holds, and contact info. If you are a SDVOSB- make sure the logo is on it at the top, it’s like a bullseye for contracting officers. There is no logo for HUBzone, but there is for 8(a) and may be for others. We made ours a pdf (we never recommend sending word docs) and it has links built in. You should have printed copies of this, with your business card stapled to it so they don’t lose them (this from a contracting officer).
If you are going to go to a conference as an exhibitor, you’ll need to plan for a way to meaningfully capture potential customer information. The drop your business card in a fishbowl approach is one way, but, for conferences of this size you want to use the badge scanner to collect data of your booths visitors. And while promotional items are nice, most conference attendees have limited luggage space to haul your bounty back. Our advice is always to offer things that can be shipped to the “winner” and be valuable enough to make it interesting. Sure, that little spray bottle of hand sanitizer may be handy at a conference, but, do I need it once I’m back in my office? How many pens, bottle openers, small USB drives, pop-sockets (yeah, that’s an actual thing) do I need? Even the one useful item I brought back- a USB charging cable that had 3 different types of charge plugs, isn’t going to be among my favorite memories of a conference. Give me a trip to Hawaii- I’ll be forever grateful. Think about the value of customer acquisition- and make the prize equal to the cost of a major contract lead. Remember, these things aren’t last minute, and need real lead time to plan.
I saw a multitude of trade show displays at NVSBE. There were three hard hat dive helmets on display- I’m guessing each company did underwater construction work, but, what do I really remember about their organization? There was only one truly creative booth- where a group of businesses representing “The Space Coast” got together to create “Bourbon Street” as an area to interact with potential clients- without having a table in front of them. If you are doing banner stands, our prices can’t be beat, and if you want a more extensive booth, we can help with that too- but, remember the most important thing: your booth isn’t a brochure- it’s more like a stage set. Don’t put laundry lists of services on it. No one wants to read your capabilities statement in the middle of a busy trade show aisle. If you have video- have closed captions, because no one wants to listen to your 3 minute video repeating all day long. Even though the show started on Halloween, the days of trade show candy as a way to pull people in are over. We’re already eating too many rich foods thanks to the event catering. Unless you make or sell food- giving it away isn’t going to bring the kind of customers you want. However, one exhibitor had a keg of craft beer- which got them a great line, but, probably not great interactions.
2. Pre-conference planning
Visit websites of federal agencies that your firm is interested in doing business with to learn about what kinds of projects are needed by the agencies.
Look for their Forecast of Procurement opportunities and identify which opportunities best match your capabilities.
Attend agency Small Business Outreach events and agency sponsored Matchmaking sessions. Individual agencies Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) websites will have a listing of the time and location of the events. Some of this is as simple as the conference registration software matching NAICS codes. This is why early registration is important- so you have time to pre-plan and research each agency you are going to meet with.
Visit FedBizOpps, https://www.fbo.gov/ , the Government’s single point of entry portal for contracting opportunities regularly. It will also send you alerts for opportunities matching your NAICS codes. However, the reality is, that most of the time, by the time an RFP hits FBO, there are people already in line for the contract and you probably are late to the party. Remember, contracting officers are usually turning to FBO after they can’t find a firm with a GSA schedule to do the work.
Pursue Subcontracting opportunities. There are various subcontracting opportunities that are available. There is not a single point of entry for subcontracting. SBA’s SUB-Net, is a resource for information on subcontracting opportunities. Warning:the SBA login functions are horrendous. Many small businesses come to these conferences not looking to land a federal contract, but to become part of a bid with a large prime contractor. When you’re a small business, almost every company there could be a customer, partner, or vendor to you. Make sure you come to the conference with an open mind and open arms. If you are an SDVOB or HUBZone business- large contractors have subcontracting goals. They can sometimes be very welcoming.
Look closely at the list of attendees, learn about other companies that you think you can work with. I had 2 meetings the day before the conference with CEO’s of companies with a lot more experience than me in the area of federal procurement
3. At the conference
If you go with a group of co-workers, don’t go to the same sessions, don’t sit at the same tables, and don’t talk to the same people unless you need to. The idea is to make as many contacts as possible. Introduce yourself at every opportunity, and if you stand up in a session to ask a question, state your name, business name and really fast elevator pitch- you have the microphone, use it.
When you sit down with Government personnel emphasize that your firm is able to respond quickly to solicitations and that your firm is ready to perform the work when and if you are awarded a contract. It helps if you know what they are in looking for in advance.
Build a positive working relationship with the Small Business Program Office of the agency you would like to do business with. This means try to sit at their table at a lunch, not just at the one-on-ones.
If you are in a session that’s not very good, get up and find another. Always try to have a plan B. You only have so many hours at the conference.
Many times large companies host evening events at nearby hotels. Try to wrangle your way into them. If you want to look like a large company- host one. Just be aware, this isn’t where business is first on the agenda.
Take notes on everyone you meet. If you have a CRM, this is the time to use it. Enter in the details of your conversations, and notes to help you build the budding relationship.
Be a connector. Try to bring people together that you think can benefit from working together. Karma is your best friend at trade events.
4. Post Conference
While you can start connecting on LinkedIn at the conference, it helps if you add some details to your invites about how you can help your best targets in your note with your invite.
Put together a package to email to your prospective contacts. For me, an invite to read and contribute to this post, and watch the video we put together is part of the way of building relationships. For you, rely on your notes to make things as relevant as possible.
Determine which agencies are the best fit for your company, and try to arrange follow-up meetings when you’re not part of a cast of thousands.
Write your own after-action report to help plan for the next year.
If you found this post valuable, please, take the time to comment, and add any other suggestions you may have for other first time NVSBE attendees.
How did Michael Jordan meet Mars Blackmon (aka Spike Lee)? Borrowed interest. Did Nike or MJ have a hand in the movie “Do the right thing”– the breakthrough film for Spike Lee? Nope. Did their ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy create the character for the movie- nope. They saw a cultural phenomena and tied the two together. That’s using borrowed interest successfully. Two things that seem to go together- but, wouldn’t happen without help.
The king of borrowed interest may be Weird Al Yankovic, who borrows the familiarity of famous songs and just re-writes the lyrics, turning Michael Jackson’s mega-hit “Beat it” into “Eat it.” Familiarity opens doors for your message to get through.
Almost any and every celebrity endorser for a product is borrowed interest. Do we pay more attention to Lincoln ads because Matthew McConaughey is in them. Is Lincoln really his brand- or was he bought? Bets are the big paycheck makes the difference.
Remember the annoying guy for Verizon- “Can you hear me now?” Why do you think he’s now pitching Sprint? Borrowed interest.
And while Google’s new Snippets feature places this definition on top:
“Borrowed interest is the intentional association of an unrelated theme, event or image with a product, service or subject being presented, to attract attention otherwise not anticipated.
which it pulled from some previously unknown self-proclaimed guru Susan Finch, borrowed interest is a key tool for brands that aren’t that well known and looking for some connection to something bigger than them. Which brings us to our little fun experiment.
Youtube Vlogger Peter McKinnon has hit the photography/videography community like a lightening bolt, going from zero to a million and a half (and counting) subscribers in a little over a year. We enjoy his tutorials, even though almost every single one could be shorter by about a third. Do I need to know about his favorite coffee to make a better video, of course not- but, it’s his thing and he almost uses it as a prop- as in let’s meet over coffee- but, I digress.
Everyone wants to know what McKinnon’s secret is to growing a community so quickly. We even watched an annoying video explainer (with the writing hand) that got over 287,000 views, by a guy that only has a few over 20,000 subscribers.
He’s making money on the pre-roll ad, using shared interest. His analysis isn’t rocket science, but, it’s quickly become one of his most popular videos, and all that in 2 months.
So, we thought, what could we do to attract Peter McKinnon’s fan base to take a look at a video we made? How can we introduce our agency to people who may need help with advertising, marketing, building a better website- or are interested in creating a borrowed interest campaign of their own. And, how can we have fun?
We think the main reason we watch Peter is because, well, all those crazy noises he makes. Remember all those late night infomercials trying to sell you hits of some past generation? Well, we decided to make an infomercial to sell the fictional “Peter McKinnon SFX library” guaranteed to get your video channel to grow subscribers like a rocket- and to introduce his viewers to us. We’ve also bid a large contract that we’re hoping to win and collaborate with Pete on, but we have to win it first.
So, order yours before midnight tonight, the complete, completely fake, Peter McKinnon SFX library, yours for only four easy payments of $24.95, get it before these custom, exclusive, McKinnon SFX become as tired and old as the old standbys of breaking glass, doors slamming and sirens wailing- all served up with a heaping portion of good old borrowed interest.