Posts in Just for Fun
Confronting Perceived Realities

I recently stumbled across a heartwarming headline in my Facebook newsfeed...

I was compelled to click through, and the story starts out like this…

 
The London restaurant’s offer started with a simple note, handwritten on a sheet of white paper.

“No one eats alone on Christmas Day!” it read, with the exclamation point modified so that it included a heart. “We are here to sit with you. . . . Any homeless or elderly are welcomed.”

The note went on to outline the three-course meal the Turkish restaurant would serve from noon to 6 p.m. on Christmas (“FREE OF CHARGE,” double-underlined): soup and cacik, a Turkish herb-and-yogurt dip, to start; the choice of chicken casserole, vegetarian casserole or chicken shish for the main course; and rice pudding for dessert.
— WashingtonPost.com
 

There’s a lot of nonsense on the internet these days. Most content has adopted a tone of moral outrage, righteous indignation or impending doom. This story restores my hope in humanity. A Muslim man spreading Christmas cheer… That’s a refreshing perspective on what it means to live in community with one another. I hope you’ll take a moment to read the full article for yourself.

Personally, I appreciate this story for what it is—a decent man helping when, where and how he can. Professionally, I can’t help but to see this through a marketing lens. It’s a habit. Lessons in effective communication are everywhere, and isn’t that what marketing all boils down to? Sending the right message? At any rate, I do want to preface the following analysis with this… I think the restaurant owner behind “no one eats alone” is a nice man with pure intentions. His generosity is not motivated by commercial gain, and I sincerely hope that he wouldn’t mind my using his story as a teachable moment.

Perceived Realities

Our consultation services touch on perceived realities quite a bit. So what is a perceived reality exactly? And why is it important? The truth may not be subjective, but your reputation as a business certainly is. Consumers make decisions based on what they believe to be true, and sometimes what they believe isn’t true at all. As a business owner, you shouldn’t dwell on false assumptions, but you absolutely need to acknowledge them if you are going to communicate with consumers effectively.

Exceeding Expectations

“No one eats alone” leaves me with two questions…

  1. How can I be more generous with my time and talents?
  2. Why are so many people sharing this story?

I’m still working on that first one, but I have some sneaking suspicions about the second. At first glance, “no one eats alone” is a timely story about holiday generosity. Under closer examination, it’s a timely story about political and cultural tensions. But those things aren't enough to garner international attention. We share this story because we are surprised by it. We expect a certain type of person, with certain beliefs, in a certain situation to behave a certain type of way. Some people would expect a Muslim business owner to be resistant to Western culture and Christian traditions. Others might expect a Muslim business owner to feel victimized in the face of adversity. Tensions in London are, after all, extremely high. But this story isn’t about an enemy of Western civilization or an oppressed victim. This story is about a holiday hero, and we share it because it defies perceived realities on all sides.

As business owners and human beings, both professionally and personally, I challenge you to confront perceived realities in a positive way. It takes some work, and you may not always get it right… But the world is a nicer place when we do our best to pleasantly surprise one another. 

Just for FunKendall Flock
Super Bowl #Marketing

For most of us, the Super Bowl is already a distant memory (one that Seahawks fans everywhere are intentionally repressing)… But we’re not here to talk about game highlights.

Last week we encouraged you to keep your eyes peeled for hashtags. Hashtag use wasn’t quite as prevalent this year (down to 50% of ads from 57% last year), but more users than ever took to social media to comment on Super Bowl advertising.  

Here are just a few hashtags that got major attention last Sunday:

  • Budweiser - #bestbuds
  • Coca-Cola - #makeithappy
  • Dove - #realstrength
  • Nissan - #withdad

There has definitely been a shift in the way major brands approach Super Bowl ads. The tone is slightly more serious, with many brands advocating for social/societal change… 

BIG WINNERS: MICROSOFT AND ALWAYS

Microsoft’s #empowering ads were a big hit in my book. They may not have been the most memorable spots, but they contained positive messages in which Microsoft was positioned as a solutions provider. 

The Always #likeagirl ad was arguably one of the most memorable and touching ads of the night. I’ll have to admit that I may like the Microsoft spot more (since it links Microsoft to solutions), but #likeagirl received an overwhelmingly positive response on social media. 

THE BIG LOSER: NATIONWIDE

Social media exploded after #makesafehappen aired. I hate to jump on the critical bandwagon, but the campaign was way too dark for Super Bowl Sunday. It was also (in my mind) ineffective marketing. The melancholy nature of the ad affiliates Nationwide with a huge problem (childhood death by preventable accident)… More effective advertising affiliates the advertiser with solutions. 

I love marketing that makes an impact, but I’m not sure how I feel about ultra-serious Super Bowl advertising. I understand the shift… Personally I have become immune to advertising that is over-the-top silly, but Super Bowl Sunday has traditionally been a light-hearted event. I would love to see more brands use marketing messages that are thoughtful AND fun. Consumers are multidimensional. Brands should be too. 

STAY TUNED FOR HASHTAG HOW-TOS 

Want to harness some hashtag power for your small business? Check back in with us next week for some simple tips.

A Marketing Guide to Super Bowl Sunday

Our office is comprised of Panthers, Falcons and Saints fans, but it’s time to face the music. The NFC South just didn’t produce any Super Bowl contenders this year. 

Oh well, we plan to enjoy the big game anyway!  Your favorite small business marketers love Super Bowl Sunday for two reasons...

1. IT'S A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

We talk about Super Bowl marketing every year, which may leave some small business owners scratching their heads. Local businesses may not have $4 million to spend on advertising, but there is a lot we can learn from big brands. Pay attention to ad themes:

  • What is appealing? 
  • What isn’t?
  • What gets the most attention (shares and media mentions) after the game is over?  

TV ad spots are king on Super Bowl Sunday, but the marketing doesn’t stop there. Pay close attention to social media channels too:

  • How do big brands encourage engagement and content sharing? 
  • How do they use hashtags? 

2. FOOTBALL FOOD

As far as I’m concerned, there is one thing that is better than the game and ads combined… THE FOOD. The following are a few of our favorites. Feel free to share yours in the comments section below!

Avoiding the Kitchen

Natalie, Saints fan, and Bailey, Panther fan, prefer to take it easy on game day. Bailey recommends calling Wild Wings. But speaking of wings...

Photo from DamnDelicious.net

Photo from DamnDelicious.net

Kendall’s Pick – Honey Sriracha Wings

I’m a proud Panther fan. A lover of both Cam Newton and puns, my 2014 Fantasy teams were affectionately named “Cam Do Attitude” and “Catch Me if You Cam.”

Ingredients: 

2 pounds chicken wings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Sesame seeds, for garnish

For the glaze:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup Sriracha

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Juice of 1 lime

Directions: Visit DamnDelicious.net for the full recipe. 

Jennifer’s Pick - Corn Dip

Jennifer prefers college ball, but she roots for the Falcons on Sundays.

Ingredients:

1 block of cream cheese

1 can of yellow whole kernel corn

1 can of white niblet corn

1 jar of jalapenos

Directions: Soften a block of cream cheese over low heat. When softened, add both cans of corn(drained). Continue stirring over low heat. Add 1/2 jar or so of chopped jalapenos (drained). Add more or less jalapenos based on how much heat you can take. Continue stirring, then transfer to a small casserole dish. Serve with Tostitos Scoops. It's sure to be a big hit, and you can throw it together in less than 10 minutes!

Kaelyn’s Pick - Black Eyed Pea Hummus

Kaelyn is a Georgia native and Falcons fan. Wonder how her Panther loving boyfriend feels about that?

Ingredients:

Frieda's Blackeyed Peas1 (11-ounce) container Frieda’s fresh Blackeyed Peas (found in the produce section)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional

1 large shallot, peeled and finely minced

4 fat garlic cloves, divided use

2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

3 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For dipping: Toasted pita bread wedges, tortilla chips, or vegetables (beet slices, radish slices, broccoli florets, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes)

Directions: Visit ShockinglyDelicious.com for the full recipe.

Cheers to learning lots and eating tons!

Ugly Christmas Sweaters and eCommerce Success

If you’re a Shark Tank enthusiast (or lover of Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties), this story may sound familiar. In December of 2013, the founders of Tipsy Elves, Evan Mendelsohn and Nick Morton, made their national television debut and pitched a tacky Christmas sweater business to the Sharks. 2013 sales prior to that appearance were $750,000. The company received a $100,000 investment from Robert Herjavec in exchange for 10% equity, and Herjavec describes the transaction as his best Shark Tank investment to date. Earlier this year, Tipsy Elves projected to hit $6 million in sales before the close of 2014. 

RECIPE FOR ECOMMERCE SUCCESS

At first glance, the success of Tipsy Elves seems to be purely based on a funny idea or dumb luck, but online stores can be a dangerous business. It’s difficult to sustain interest in novelties, and ecommerce success is difficult to obtain. 

Understanding eCommerce: Common Misconceptions

  • Running an online store is easy.
  • I won’t need to employ any staff.
  • The overhead for an online store is super low.
  • I won’t need to spend much to promote an online business. People will just find it.

The truth is that online stores require active management, and the SEO game (increasing website visibility) can be expensive.

Capitalizing on Opportunities

The founders of Tipsy Elves understood ecommerce challenges and made strategic decisions to gain a competitive advantage over other online retailers. Mendelsohn, who has a background in SEO, noticed an extremely high search volume for Christmas sweaters. Once the SEO opportunity was identified, the partners developed a unique product in order to differentiate their business from the competition. 

Can a seasonal business based on novelty products sustain this kind of success? The jury is still out on that one, but feel free to comment below with your thoughts and/or favorite ugly sweater designs. 

Halloween Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Halloween is just around the corner, and my family is gearing up for a long list of festivities! We have a few trunk-or-treats on the list this year… For those of you who aren’t familiar with “trunk-or-treat,” it’s basically a convenient alternative to trick-or-treating that takes place in a parking lot (or similar space). Participants decorate cars, trucks or suvs and hand out candy to kids who go car-to-car instead of door-to-door. 

My son’s daycare is hosting their second annual trunk-or-treat this year, and while it’s intended to be tons of fun for the kids, it’s also an excellent marketing opportunity! Participants are encouraged to bring friends (potential daycare customers), and the event is sure to attract some attention from passing traffic. School staff will be in attendance taking photos for email newsletters and social media pages… And why not? Costumed kids make excellent marketing content!

Trunk-or-treating events are a great way to gain exposure and make a positive impression upon the community. If it sounds like too much work, consider teaming up with neighboring businesses or strategic partners. 

Holiday marketing definitely isn’t one-size-fits-all. Trunk-or-treat events are best suited for B2C businesses, especially those that are targeting children and/or families.

A Few Other Halloween Marketing Ideas

  • Parties (adult or family friendly)
  • Contests (pumpkin carving, costumes, etc.)
  • Seasonal gifts, offers or promotions
  • Festive window displays or decorations
  • Seasonal content for newsletters, social media pages, blogs and/or ads 

Need help crafting effective seasonal marketing strategies for your small business? Getting to know one another is a great place to start! Email Kendall@RootedID.com to schedule a complimentary call.

Thank a Small Business Owner. Shop Local.

The Rooted ID team has tons to be thankful for this year! Professionally speaking, we are MOST grateful for local business owners. We have the opportunity to do what we love because of you! More importantly, small businesses enrich the Charleston economy in a variety of ways; they create jobs, inspire marketplace innovation, build strong community ties and enhance local character. Small business truly is a big deal!

Small Business Saturday

Most of you are probably familiar with Small Business Saturday – a day founded by American Express in support of post-Thanksgiving small business patronage. 

Let’s foster a message of gratitude by thanking business owners for all that they contribute to our community, and kick off the holiday shopping season in a meaningful way! Support a small business owner, and shop local this Saturday. 

Celebrating the Small Stuff

My son’s third birthday was this week, and needless to say, I went a little overboard planning a Blue’s Clues themed picnic… believe it or not, kids still love that show if you can get your hands on it. 

Birthday parties are a lot of work. Child rearing in general is a lot of work, but like most parents, I’m willing to invest some serious sweat equity.  My three year old does not care if baked goods are store bought or handmade, and he has no clue if the decorations and tableware coordinate… So why do I get caught up in that stuff? It’s a labor of love. You may not handcraft Handy Dandy Notebooks for your kids, but I’m sure you have some crazy methods of your own.

Owning a business is kind of like that. It requires sweat equity and a vested interest that borderlines obsession. 

The Big Payoff 

How can we measure our success? In the early years (of parenting or small business ownership) the rewards are not always tangible. My goal as a parent is to raise a kind and productive member of society. Your goal as a business owner is to produce a sustainable profit. The jury may still be out on both of those things… So what gets us through in the meantime?  

Small Wins 

The party wasn’t perfect, but fun was had... and I’m pretty proud of those Handy Dandy Notebooks. As a business owner, take time to step back and admire your good work (a creative concept, a fantastic logo, professional signage, a beautiful storefront, etc.).  Small wins are still wins. 

Celebrate with your Support System

Only a few children attended my son’s party. Most of the party-goers were friends of the adult variety (college buddies, co-workers, neighbors, etc.), many of whom do not yet have children of their own. Each of them took time out of their busy lives to watch kids eat cupcakes at the park, and even though it was a VERY silly day, not one of them made me feel silly about it. Thanks guys! 

Like new parents, new business owners need encouragement from friends, family and the community. Celebrate with your support system. No win is too small (or silly). 

You may be in need of some guidance, or you may just want someone to eat cake with at the park… either way the Rooted ID team would love to get to know your business and be a part of your support system! Email Kendall@RootedID.com to learn more.

Put Yourself on the Calendar

Like so many people this time of year, I have a renewed interest in my health. I generally eat right and make efforts to keep my body functioning as it should anyways. But as my business has grown, I have found it increasingly difficult to fit exercise into my weekly routine. This time last year, I was playing tennis several days a week and walking about 5 miles with a friend one day a week.

My desire to really get serious about building Rooted ID last March has really paid off. I justified letting the exercise go because of my business goals. Now, here I am almost a year later with a business that is growing and a body that is longing for activity.

So, I made the decision in the New Year that I was going to put myself on the calendar! I have scheduled at-home exercise on Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.  My husband is pitching in even more with the kids to help me make this happen. And, I intend on getting back into the swing of tennis (pun intended!) as soon as it warms up a little. I have decided that it is okay to come into the office a little late on Friday mornings to make this happen.

While my little plan sounds great, life happens. So, what should I do when a scheduling conflict inevitably happens? Keep myself on the calendar!  It is tempting to just delete that appointment knowing that I had good intentions. But, I wouldn’t just cancel an appointment with one of my clients without re-scheduling. So, why would I do that to myself? 

So far, this is paying off for me and my business! Since it is Thursday, I had a great workout this morning before I ever came into the office. I feel good physically and emotionally. On the surface, it seems like you are taking away from your business when you come in late to do things like play tennis or go to the gym. But, I challenge you to think differently. Putting yourself on the calendar is actually giving something wonderful to your business that no one can do but you!

Just for FunJennifer Morrow
A Time for Business and Personal Preparation

I don't know about your office, but it has been super quiet around here this week. Everyone seems to be traveling and taking time off. It can actually be a little concerning when you want to end the year with a bang, but it seems like your clients are focused on everything but your business.  

"Many entrepreneurs don't plan for slower periods, this adds a huge amount of stress over the holiday season and often has the entrepreneur living a life of anxiety and fear rather than one of enjoyment with family and friends," says Colin Sprake, a motivational business speaker.

An article on entrepreneur.com yesterday gave some tips on how to make use of your holiday downtime.  I have actually been doing almost everything on the list, so that makes me feel like I have struck a decent balance between my personal and business life this week.

The one thing that I haven't done is #6 on the list. I love the idea of a gratitude dinner for my family! I definitely couldn't run a business without their support.

We would love to hear how your are using this holiday downtime to propel your business into the new year or simply recharge your batteries in preparation of things to come.  Please comment below.

Just for FunJennifer Morrow
School of Hard Knocks

I have never had the desire to go to graduate school, but I love to learn. Being an entrepreneur for over 10 years now, I have often said that I attend the School of Hard Knocks.

The article that I will reference in this blog post quotes an entrepreneur that says, "My grandfather referred to me as having an MBA from the School of Hard Knocks, whose official colors are black and blue."  I love that, and I am sure that many of the small business owners who I work with can relate!

When you own your own business, you are constantly learning things that can't possibly be taught in the classroom.  Sure, they may teach you certain business concepts, but the real learning comes through the application and problem-solving.

Many entrepreneurs who got a MBA don't recommend that to other entrepreneurs.  "Start the business first," says business owner Tom Castelloe. "Jump in the water and try to swim."

I agree with this philosophy.  Do you?  I would love to know your thoughts on the value of graduate school (specifcally MBAs) for small business owners.

Just for FunJennifer Morrow
Cliff Notes for Business Owners

I am not particularly proud of this fact, but I was the Cliffs Notes queen in high school.  You remember Cliffs Notes... those handy little yellow and black books that were promoted as study guides BUT actually enabled you to know the main characters, themes, etc. of a book without even reading it cover to cover (or at all).

Somewhere along the way, I picked up a box of used Cliffs Notes at a garage sale and literally owned almost every Cliffs Notes ever published.  They sure did come in handy when it came time to write papers or answer questions in class.  I know, I know... that's horrible.  I cheated myself by not reading the Classics word by word and drawing those same conclusions myself.  But, it worked for me in high school, and I have found a similar product for the grown up me that's now a small business owner.

This may surprise you given my characterization above, but reading books (especially books about business) is actually one of my favorite pastimes.  I am the nerd who reads business books for pleasure while sitting on the beach.  The problem is that I, like you, am not sitting on the beach too much these days.  I am busy building a company.  And, I am so tired at night that I am out like a light one paragraph into a book.

So, what's this solution that I have found to quench my thirst for knowledge?  It's getAbstract - a compressed knowledge service.  Compressed knowledge?  Kind of sounds like Cliffs Notes, huh?  According to their website, their "solutions include a library of thousands of business book summaries. 20% of the Fortune 500 companies avail of getAbstract to drive performance, providetailored corporate learning solutions and help employees becomeknowledgeable leaders."

I am so excited about this service!  Yes, it is quite a bit more expensive than my box of used Cliffs Notes, but I am seriously considering a subscription.  The full subscription is $299 for 12 months (ouch!), but if I make a point to listen to/read these summaries in my car, at the office and maybe on my iPhone at times, the argument could definitely be made that I will make my money back by filling my head with valuable business knowledge.  And, my customers will benefit quite a bit when I am even more on my game in the world of marketing.

So, the question remains if I am going to bite the bullet and get this service.  Would you?  Why or why not?

Just for FunJennifer Morrow