Category Archives: Marketing

Articles about marketing your business

Do customer loyalty programs work?

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

Do loyalty programs work? Air Miles is one of the most effective in Canada. Aeroplan? Shoppers Drug Mart’s Optimum card? Canadian Tire money or gas cards? Some grocery chains have their own points programs redeemable for merchandise.

But does any of it really matter?

Loyalty programsForbes in a weighty opinion says that low-margin retailers often argue they can’t afford customer loyalty programs, but questions whether that’s true? Two business professors make the case that such programs are profit-enhancing differentiators. You can read their paper – Six Myths About Customer Loyalty Programs.

loyalty can tireI am less convinced.  I look for product quality and customer service first. That’s my major differentiator. If they happen to offer Air Miles, that’s a bonus.

Consumers are more selective and they have more options. If you are all about price, it’s easy to do comparison shopping online and even make the purchase from the comfort of your kitchen table. Want express delivery. No problem.

But if it’s your car mechanic, then you likely want someone you trust, someone who caters to your needs and won’t overcharge you. Same for a hairdresser/barber.

Ask yourself a simple question. Are you loyal to the product, the brand or the service?

Do customer loyalty programs work for you?

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Filed under Marketing, Uncategorized

Paralysis by analysis

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

Over the years I have preached (sorry) about how important it is to measure success. All plans need measurable goals or how will you know if the are working. There are lots of tools available to help measure how your communication/marketing strategy is working online, or even in the traditional media world.

And there is always the opportunity to actually talk to customers to get their feedback.

It’s important to analyze the data to know what’s working and whether you are spending to achieve the best results. It can also help identify opportunities that may not have been part of your original plan.


It takes time to wade through the analysis, particularly with the array of tools available.

Adjustments mid-course can be risky and it’s unlikely you are ready to quickly pull the plug on a plan that just a few months ago was the future of your company. But doing nothing is not an option. You’ll probably overthink it, and come up with several reasons why now isn’t good time to tinker. You will rationalize that you have plausible reasons, and not just excuses.

Push past the paralysis of fear and take a leap of faith, and even if you fail, you’ll farther ahead than if you did nothing.

Measuring your business activity is important. Analyzing the results equally so. Make sure you act on them.

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Filed under Communications, Marketing, Strategic Planning

Insanity is a root cause of business failures

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

A friend of mine reminded me recently that Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Yet we often  think that doing what we always do will yield better results. If you feel yourself descending into the abyss consider these few suggestions.

1.Is what you are doing to market and promote your business really working? Measure the return on your marketing investment. What works and what doesn’t? Don’t be afraid to change approaches, even midstream.

insanity2.  Survey, measure results What? Was number one a challenge because you don’t measure the success of your marketing  program.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you need to understand what is working and what isn’t, so track sales related to a specific campaign and compare those results to the cost of running the campaign. If it costs more to run the campaign than …I think you get the idea.

3. Talk with your customers Don’t be afraid to talk with your customers, that would be face to face or even on a telephone.  Or use Social Media to create dialogue. Consider a blog. Share your expertise.  Talking to your customers is a good thing.

4. Find other experts in your industry You are not alone. There are experts everywhere online and you can subscribe to any number of blogs that could be useful to your business. Go to Google blog search ( ) and search for your areas of interest.

5. Check the pulse regularly Don’t wait until it is too late to discover your business is under-performing. Set out a plan and check monthly to ensure you are on target.  If you have three months of under-performance, you need to make a change. Be nimble, monitor your business and adjust accordingly.

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Filed under Managing, Marketing, social media, Uncategorized

Attitude will make the difference

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

Here’s a thought.

tea byWhat skill, attribute or approach best enables a small business owner to succeed?

Businesses have to plan, which means they need to set goals, develop strategy and tactics and to the best of their ability deliver that plan.

PoutineLots of businesses do this stuff and not all of them succeed. Why?

The larger question is why are you in this business? What is your driving force? What happens when the plan doesn’t work or your competitors jump all over you? What keeps your head in the game.


We all look for it when we hire, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the most successful business people have it in spades.

I have great admiration for two Brampton business people who have the attitude. Don’t try and tell Daniel at Tea by Daniel or Graham at Poutine Dare to be Fresh  that they can’t succeed.

These guys don’t know what that means.


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Filed under Marketing

Emoticons to explain what you really mean

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

Last week I said word of mouth is still the best marketing tool available and how Social Media made it exponentially easier to engage customers in the conversation.

Have you ever had a weird response, sometimes nasty, to an email and on re-reading understood how someone might misinterpret your intent?

IMG_0058Enter the emoticon.

Thirty-three years ago Sunday , a professor at Carnegie Mellon University invented the emoticon. Scott E. Fahlman, along with other members of CMU’s computer science community, used online “bulletin boards” to share information, make announcements, and chat, Fahlman recalled in a post on Carnegie Mellon’s website.

There were also a bunch of posts trying to be funny, Fahlman writes. But the members of Carnegie Mellon’s computer science community had a hard time deciphering sarcasm from more serious posts.

“If someone made a sarcastic remark, a few readers would fail to get the joke, and each of them would post a lengthy diatribe in response,” Fahlman writes. “That would stir up more people with more responses, and soon the original thread of the discussion was buried. In at least one case, a humorous remark was interpreted by someone as a serious safety warning.”

To keep this from happening, some of the group’s members decided they needed a way to mark jokes separately from more serious posts.

“After all, when using text-based online communication, we lack the body language or tone-of-voice cues that convey this information when we talk in person or on the phone,” Fahlman writes.

His solution: using 🙂 to indicate jokes and 😦 to demarcate serious posts.

Of course, it has arguably evolved since then with an emoticon or emoji for every possible sentiment.

Sometimes it’s just easier to pick up the phone. More productive too.

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Filed under Communications, Marketing, social media, Uncategorized